Sunday, May 22, 2005

NYT: "Army Faltered in Investigating Detainee Abuse" (Tim Golden)

Despite autopsy findings of homicide and statements by soldiers that two prisoners died after being struck by guards at an American military detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, Army investigators initially recommended closing the case without bringing any criminal charges, documents and interviews show.
Within days after the two deaths in December 2002, military coroners determined that both had been caused by "blunt force trauma" to the legs. Soon after, soldiers and others at Bagram told the investigators that military guards had repeatedly struck both men in the thighs while they were shackled and that one had also been mistreated by military interrogators.
Nonetheless, agents of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command reported to their superiors that they could not clearly determine who was responsible for the detainees' injuries, military officials said. Military lawyers at Bagram took the same position, according to confidential documents from the investigation obtained by The New York Times.

The above is from Tim Golden's "Army Faltered in Investigating Detainee Abuse" which makes the front page of this morning's New York Times. Coming so closely after Golden's reporting in Friday's paper, Lynda writes that she's hopeful the Times might finally be returning to real reporting.

Also on the front page and also receiving praise via e-mails is David S. Cloud and Carlotta Gall's "U.S. Memo Faults Afghan Leader on Heroin Fight:"

United States officials warned this month in an internal memo that an American-financed poppy eradication program aimed at curtailing Afghanistan's huge heroin trade had been ineffective, in part because President Hamid Karzai "has been unwilling to assert strong leadership."
A cable sent on May 13 from the United States Embassy in Kabul, the Afghan capital, said that provincial officials and village elders had impeded destruction of significant poppy acreage and that top Afghan officials, including Mr. Karzai, had done little to overcome that resistance.
"Although President Karzai has been well aware of the difficulty in trying to implement an effective ground eradication program, he has been unwilling to assert strong leadership, even in his own province of Kandahar," said the cable, which was drafted by embassy personnel involved in the anti-drug efforts, two American officials said.

Carl, Maria, Brad, Ben and Lloyd all noted that in this morning's e-mails. (What, may I ask, are you early birds doing up? I'm up because of an all nighter with The Third Estate Sunday Review.)

Susan e-mails to note Laurie Goodstein and David D. Kirkpatrick's "On a Christian Mission to the Top:"

Now a few affluent evangelicals are directing their attention and money at some of the tallest citadels of the secular elite: Ivy League universities. Three years ago a group of evangelical Ivy League alumni formed the Christian Union, an organization intended to "reclaim the Ivy League for Christ," according to its fund-raising materials, and to "shape the hearts and minds of many thousands who graduate from these schools and who become the elites in other American cultural institutions."

Susan: I'm thinking of a Joni Mitchell song. "They are immacutely . . . tax free." Also from the same song "Lord, there's evil in this land/ You get witch hunts and wars/ When church and state hold hands."

"Tax Free" is the name of the song and it appears first on Joni Mitchell's Dog Eat Dog album.

Inside the paper, we'll note Erik Eckholm's "Whistle-Blower Suit May Set Course on Iraq Fraud Cases:"

In a lawsuit now in federal court, two former associates of the company say it bilked the American-led coalition out of millions, turning in hugely inflated invoices from phantom supplier companies among other misdeeds. If successful, the suit, brought under the False Claims Act, could recover triple damages for the government and handsome rewards for the whistle-blowers.
Custer Battles has denied wrongdoing and the accusation remains to be proved. But before a trial can proceed at all - before any company can be sued for fraud in the chaos of occupied Iraq - a federal judge in Virginia must issue another, more basic ruling that is now anxiously awaited by the company, its accusers and the Justice Department.
Lawyers for Custer Battles argue that the False Claims Act - the prime legal tool against contractor fraud - does not apply because the company signed contracts with the Coalition Provisional Authority, not the American government, and was mainly paid with Iraqi money seized or managed by the United States, rather than with money appropriated by Congress.

Lloyd wins the earliest of early bird awards because he's not only read the Times already, he's also been to The Third Estate Sunday Review this morning. As Lloyd notes, they have an editorial on the departure of Daniel Okrent from the Times. I didn't participate in that (and it's noted) but I do agree with their take on Okrent and I think members will as well. So check out
"Editorial: Goodbye and good riddance to Daniel Okrent."

Lastly, we'll note Hassan M. Fattah's "Laura Bush Urges Rights for Women." Not because of the story. She urges rights for women today . . . tomorrow, it was all a joke. (See this entry from yesterday.) Or maybe she goes into one of her deep silences again. Who knows? Who cares? She's part of the charm offensive of the administration. Which is the other reason we note it, check out Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts comic for Laura Bush's charm offensive. It'll go up after this entry and one I'm working on regarding Francisco's e-mail this morning.

And we'll also note that those early birds who've read the main section and have had time to write were pleased to see news on the front page instead of the traditional "lifestyle" Sunday front page.

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