Saturday, June 04, 2005

NYT: "Military Details Koran Incidents at Base in Cuba" (Eric Schmitt)

A military inquiry has found that guards or interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba kicked, stepped on and splashed urine on the Koran, in some cases intentionally but in others by accident, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The splashing of urine was among the cases described as inadvertent. It was said to have occurred when a guard urinated near an air vent and the wind blew his urine through the vent into a detainee's cell. The detainee was given a fresh uniform and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded and assigned to guard duty that kept him from contact with detainees for the remainder of his time at Guantánamo, according to the military inquiry.
The investigation into allegations that the Koran had been mishandled also found that in one instance detainees' Korans were wet because guards on the night shift had thrown water balloons on the cellblock.
In another case, a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Koran, but investigators could not determine whether a guard or detainee had written it.

[. . .]
General Hood said last week that there was no credible evidence to substantiate the claim that a Koran had ever been flushed down a toilet at the prison.
The final report released on Friday said that four of the five incidents took place after January 2003, after written procedures governing the handling of the Koran had been put in place. That contradicted an account provided last Thursday by General Hood, who was asked directly whether all five of the incidents had taken place before January 2003, and replied: "Not all of them. One of them occurred since then."

The above is from Eric Schmitt's "Military Details Koran Incidents at Base in Cuba" in this morning's New York Times. It's worth reading. But I'm going to disagree with a comment that a Newsweek article caused rioting.

OPINION: The article didn't cause anything. The article utilized a source that no longer stands by a remark. Rioting was caused by our actions and a climate we've created. The Operation Happy Talkers (not a slap down at Schmitt, I'm thinking of elected officials and certainly lackies serving under the Bully Boy) have spun so well that attitudes towards the United State are apparently unknown to many (including Fox "News" watchers) in this country. Whether you personally believe a Koran was flushed or wasn't flushed, the report itself didn't cause rioting.
The actions of our government did. Reality is reality. The reality is a source burned Newsweek.
The reality is that we've enflamed tensions. The reality is that Newsweek, though it might wish it were, is not the magazine of the world, eagerly thumbed through and discussed from country to country. Newsweek was sloppy about a story. Not in running the article but in not backing it up with other comments in the public record (chiefly from human rights organizations and reports from others countries). They didn't cause rioting. I disagree with Schmitt's statement (which appears in passing and may not be intended as a slap down -- Schmitt may see it -- without a judgement of "good" or "bad" -- as evidence of the power of the press -- being part of the press, he would be inclined to see that). But since anything that goes up at this site on Newsweek leads to e-mails asking me to weigh in, consider that "weighing in" pre-emptively.

The article's worth reading. Much more so than David Johnston's embarrassing "Behind Deep Throat's Clandestine Ways, a Cloak-and-Dagger Past" which manages to come off across as not only a bad attempt at writing an adventure yarn for young boys, but also manages to avoid the issue of the presidential pardon (by Reagan) for Mark Felt. At this late date, the article's useless.

That's compounded by whomever wrote the headline which would suggest that black bag searches carried out under Felt's leadership would be noted ("clandestine," "cloak-and-dagger").
But it's useless and foolish. Johnston's article reads like it was heavily edited. The ending comes abruptly. So David Johnston may not have embarrased himself, "David Johnston" may have. (To indicate that someone other than reporter Johnston altered and shaped what appears in print.)

But it's a waste of time for the Times to carry such nonsense. Though the mainstream pass has exempted themselves thus far from exploring exactly what actions led Felt to require a presidential pardon, the issue is emerging and it will continue to do so. The closest modern day equivalent to Felt may be John Ashcroft. Whether or not this means "a lot of people are going to have egg on their face" as Lloyd e-mailed about those hailing Felt as a "genuine hero" is something others will have to decide.

Lloyd also noted what he saw as a knee jerk reaction on the part of some of on the left to praise Felt because the right was attacking him. If it is a knee jerk reaction, as Lloyd feels, it's a dangerous reaction and people should examine what they know or think they know. (Lucy also alludes to a knee jerk reaction. Read on.)

If they're coming out in support of secret searches, illegal ones (hence the required presidential pardon by Reagan), then they need to clarify that. Felt is no hero. His actions at the FBI (and John Dean points out that he was running the show in the final days of Hoover as well as when Hoover was replaced) are shameful and embarrassing to the country. (Reminder, John Dean will be a guest on CBS's Face the Nation tomorrow morning.)

Whether for personal reasons or a concern over where the country was headed under Nixon, Felt assisted in some form with Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's Watergate coverage. Regardless of the reason, that doesn't alter the fact that his days at the FBI can best be characterized as abusive and illegal. And that goes beyond merely my opinion, it's also the legal opinion. Being Deep Throat or a part of "Deep Throat" doesn't alter that. Nor did a presidential pardon erase Felt's actions, it merely prevented him from being held legally accountable.

Andrea Elliott writes on an interesting topic in "You Can't Talk to an F.B.I. Agent That Way, or Can You?" (Lucy gave the heads up to this article). From the article:

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the relationship between Muslims and law enforcement agents has been predictably fragile. The two groups have engaged in a delicate dance, balancing self-interest with political calculation.
People on both sides acknowledge a need for meaningful cooperation. But the relationship has frayed - and the voice of dissent among Muslims grown more audible - as a result of a series of criminal cases that have raised questions about the methods used by authorities in their fight against terrorism.
The government's focus on undercover sting operations and the recruitment of a network of Muslim informers has provoked the sharpest criticism. The most recent sting, which produced arrests last week in New York and Florida, has further stirred debate, although many details of the investigation, which led to charges that two American Muslim men conspired to aid Al Qaeda, remain unknown.
But, of late, perhaps no case has caused more ire than that of two teenage Muslim girls who were detained on immigration violations in March after the F.B.I. became concerned that they might be planning to become suicide bombers. After six weeks in detention the girls were quietly released, and officials have declined to comment on the case.
To more distant observers, these cases offer varying degrees of intrigue. But among Arab-Americans, they have become something of local lore, their details endlessly picked over and debated, their impact on public opinion about Muslims a source of dread.

Lucy: What has gone down in all the cases is shameful and far from what we like to think of as what our country is supposed to be about or represent. Searching out details on Felt has meant looking online and to Democracy Now[!] for information. Everything I've read indicates he is undeserving on the shine on. But apparently, Pat Buchanan and others' attacks on Felt means we're supposed to defend Felt. I'm not going to. COINTELPRO is indefensible. My parents are lifelong Democrats and were in college during this period. I spoke to my dad about Felt and he said he's disgusted to hear members of the press congratulate themselves and praise Felt as a hero. He said any lesson learned in the wake of the revelations has been forgotten and that goes along way to explaining how Bully Boy's been able to get away with so much. I agree that your average 'hero' doesn't require a presidential pardon. I also agree that a man who keeps the underwear of a woman, gained through an illegal entry into her residence, is far from a hero and just plain scummy and sleazy.

I'm not interested in hearing Sally Quinn's reflections on Watergate. (The "party reporter" was hardly in the know at the time.) But if anyone can make an interview with Quinn of interest, it's probably Marty Kaplan. Which is said to remind everyone of his program So What Else Is News? which airs later today on Air America Radio (three to five p.m. eastern time):

TODAY'S BIG STORY: Today, an energized and organized group of activists meet on the UCLA campus. Their mission: to draw up a battle plan for unionizing the destroyer of our economy, the biggest corporate welfare queen of them all, Wal-Mart. It’s a fight that goes all the way up into Canada where United Food and Commercial Workers in Sasketchewan have been demonstrating for union rights. Marty talks with Paul Meinema, president of UFCW local 1400, and the organizer of today’s conference, Kent Wong from the UCLA Labor Center.
THE WEEK'S BIG STORY: It was a lazy spring afternoon when Vanity Fair editors announced the contents of their new issue: an exclusive article by John D O’Conner. It wasn’t the first time someone claimed to know the identity of Deep Throat. But this time, something was different. First, O’Conner talked to the man himself – 91 year old W. Mark Felt. Then, other media outlets started to get confirmation and eventually Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee fessed up. For most of us, this is how the week’s – hell, the year’s – biggest story played out. But imagine if you’re the wife of Ben Bradlee and – like the rest of the country - didn’t know the identity of Deep Throat until this week. Marty talks to Washington Post reporter
Sally Quinn. Plus, could Watergate ever happen again? Hear Marty's November 2004 interview with secret keeper Ben Bradlee.
THE "I" WORD: Deep inside the biggest story of the week was a message largely left behind. Could a Watergate-sized scandal help impeach President Bush? And will the damaging
Downing Street Memo be at the center of that effort? While Pat Buchanan is busy blaming Mark Felt for the deaths of millions of Cambodians, more and more regular Americans blame Bush’s lies about WMDs for the deaths of U-S soldiers and thousands of civilian children. Now, that rage could turn into real action thanks to two new grassroots efforts. Here to catch us up is our political insider, Nation columnist John Nichols.
EUROPE'S CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS: French voters fried up the new EU constitution this week.. while the Dutch dipped it in a big ole bowl of mayonnaise. OK, so not even a Pulp Fiction reference could make this story interesting enough for most Americans, but what if we told you that it could be good for your bank account? The Euro took a big hit after this week’s votes, just in time for that summer vacation abroad. And EU leaders predict the overvalued currency will continue to slide until the continent figures out what to do with its Constitutional crisis.
Gerry Ryan is Ireland’s top rated talk show host and closely follows the progress of the “United States of Europe.”
THE WAL-MART REALITY SHOW: There’s nothing like taking the respectable world of higher education and boiling it down into a network reality show sponsored by Wal-Mart. The hunt for college scholarships is stressful enough for parents and their kids, but imagine if you had the constant glare of TV cameras and the thought that if you don’t win, you might end up working for the program’s sponsor. It’s a new ABC show called
The Scholar and our TV insider Melanie McFarland has this preview.
OK GO: OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash literally wrote the guide on how to be a political band. Now,
OK Go is getting ready to release its new album "Oh No." In this premiere episode of a special summer-long series, Damian and bass player Tim Nordwind take us behind the scenes and interview their choreographer.
QUIZ WIZARD: This week, special guest Paul Green, star of the documentary "
Rock School," takes the quiz.

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