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Posted by on May 26, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

FBI Memo: Koran Was Flushed Down The Toilet

The saga of Newsweek’s later retracted-under-fire story about accusations that a Koran was flushed down the toilet at Guantnamo continues to rage — this time fueled on by a news report that an FBI agent made the allegation in a 2002 report.

This continues to raise the possibility that Newsweek was right about the allegation being out there — but did not have the vital confirmation to back its report up. Details:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An FBI agent wrote in a 2002 document made public on Wednesday that a detainee held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had accused American jailers there of flushing the Koran down a toilet.

The Pentagon said the allegation was not credible.

Indeed. Note that it is still an accusation. Even the FBI report apparently says nothing about CONFIRMATION that it took place.

The declassified document’s release came the week after the Bush administration denounced as wrong a May 9 Newsweek article that stated U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo had flushed a Koran down a toilet to try to make detainees talk. The magazine retracted the article, which had triggered protests in Afghanistan in which 16 people died.

The newly released document, dated Aug. 1, 2002, contained a summary of statements made days earlier by a detainee, whose name was redacted, in two interviews with an FBI special agent, whose name also was withheld, at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects.

The American Civil Liberties Union released the memo and other FBI documents it obtained from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

“Personally, he has nothing against the United States. The guards in the detention facility do not treat him well. Their behavior is bad. About five months ago, the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Koran in the toilet,” the FBI agent wrote.

“It’s not credible,” chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said of the allegation regarding a Koran in a toilet.

So what do we know?

  1. There were allegations elsewhere about the Koran being flushed down the toilet.
  2. No evidence has surfaced yet to prove that it happened. You can argue “it can’t be proven because they’re covering it up” but where is the proof of that? It could simply be that it’s an accusation. OR someone said something they heard. OR someone passed along something a guard told them had happened but didn’t (or did but they didn’t see it).
  3. Newsweek still did not follow proper confirmation procedures. A corporate bigwig recently announced that the magazine would tighten up the use of anonymous sources. Why? Because the Periscope item was not rock-solid in confirmation.

So tidbits coming out about allegations about the Koran won’t change Newsweek’s performance on this story. The issue of what happened to the Koran isn’t the same as the journalism issue of how the magazine decided to report it.

UPDATE: Whoaaa…We posted this item and comments immediately appeared. Then we got emails about it. Then we started looking and see that this news report is provoking many many posts from people of varying views. So:


Citizen Smash (who serves in the reserves):”Not only did the latest version not confirm the Newsweek item, the prisoner who made the allegation in the first place wouldn’t corroborate his own story! There is no ongoing SOUTHCOM investigation, because this was checked out two years ago, and shown to be completely without merit.” UPDATE: Smash now gives us a detailed look at the ORIGINAL REPORT so you can judge for yourself. He concludes:”What I see in these interviews, however, is a lot of heresay and unsubtantiated allegations, which appear to be aimed at stirring up public outrage against the U.S. Military.”

Crooks And Liars (which with each day gets to be more fun with not just its videos but its blunt takes on the news) has a nice roundup.
Part of C&L’s take on this issue:

When the right doesn’t like what our media says it attacks, and it attacks vehemently. The story had been reported on for years now, but if you listen to the right wingers Newsweek should be charged with sedition. It all started with the administration’s abandoning of our moral high ground in the treatment of prisioners. Which lead us to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. John McCain spoke out against the use of torture because he was a victim of its practice for many years, yet rags like the NY Post preached its justification. Then when it happens nobody wants to blame the policy makers.

DailyKos:”Turns out Newsweek was wrong about its source, right about the story…Darn it. Now who can the wingers blame for setbacks in Afghanistan and Iraq?”

Jeff Jarvis:”: The Washington Post — appearing to rally ’round its corporate cousin, Newsweek — plays up a story today about allegations of “Koran abuse” (what an amazing piece of newspeak that is) at Guantanamo. As near as I can tell, there’s nothing new in this: the prisoner allegations have been around for sometime; this is a repetition of them through more documents. This will yield another round of political, media, ideological, and ethnic nya-nyas on both sides.”

LaShawn Barber has a roundup plus analysis. A small part:”Watch and listen today as the libs try to turn this FBI report, which merely repeats Newsweek’s claim, into a “See, it’s true!â€? moment. Americans may or may not have flushed a Koran, but I’m certainly not taking a detainee’s word for it.”

The Yellow Line (a centrist blog):”So how do we know if this is just a scurrilous rumor spread by prisoners or if there is some truth here? We don’t. For now, each of us must decide for ourselves whether we want to trust our government or the prisoners, some if not most of whom are members of the Taliban and/or al Qaeda.”

Scrappleface: PENTAGON RECALLS KORAN FLUSHING TOILET (here’s a small part — you MUST READ THE REST):

In response to appeals from consumer advocate Ralph Nader, the Pentagon today recalled thousands of military toilets because they may be powerful enough to flush a copy of the Koran.

“If that toilet generates enough force to take down a book of several hundred pages,” said Mr. Nader, “then it poses a clear and present danger to prisoners at Guantanamo and to our troops worldwide.”

Americablog:”Over to you, Scott McClellan.”

The Sideshow:”Now that everyone’s had to admit that the prison camp guards did flush the Koran, the wingers are still in denial.”

Michelle Malkin has a long analysis with some links that analyze the reports. MUST READ. A small taste of her post (that you must read in full) from her:

It should be obvious to anyone who so much as glances at the documents being cited that the FBI was reporting the statements of detainees rather than endorsing or validating those allegations. Immediately before describing the Koran-in-the-toilet allegation, the FBI notes the detainee’s statement that “God tells Muslims to do a jihad against non-Muslims.” Does Kos expect us to believe the FBI is endorsing that statement too?

–Independent-thinking conservative blogger John Cole has as usual a highly thoughtful take on this. He notes that both sides now are so wrapped up in scoring points that the credibility of the issue at hand almost gets lost. You MUST READ IN FULL his post because any quoting doesn’t fully explain his argument. We’ll just give you a tiny excerpt (but read it all):”People believe what they want to believe, and this isn’t about press bias anymore in my eyes. This is about subjugating the media to nothing more than a propaganda organ of the government.”

Ranting Profs:

So what we’ve got here is proof that detainees who may or may not have complained to their guards — the Post is agnostic — did complain to FBI interrogators during the period before the DOD put a stop to it. So we have yet another unconfirmed, unverified story with no independent verification or confirmation.

This does not, in and of itself, negate the stories told to the Congress. It’s another unevidenced allegation versus thousands of pages of personal and individual reports. So, at the end of the day, with the exception of the fact that agents likely need to speak to the hearing, or tribunal, or whatever it is down there, what’s changed?

–Intel Dump’s always thoughtful Phil Carter has a must-read post. Like John Cole, he says: look at the whole context of what’s beging alleged and what has happened. (Intel Dump is on our blogroll under Center Voices) A small part:

Well now… this certainly undercuts the assertions by the government that there were no reports of such flushings. And it tends to corroborate the Newsweek report that said the forthcoming investigation by Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt might contain such allegations. Even though the Pentagon now stands by its assertion that there were no credible reports, I’m not that still holds water.

It’s possible that this allegation would spread itself and replicate itself throughout the detainee population. But given the totality of abuses alleged at Gitmo and elsewhere, there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence to suggest that these incidents were real. I recommend reading through the FBI records yourself, and coming to a conclusion based on your evaluation of the surrounding facts. When you add all up these allegations, do they seem credible to you?

Tom Tomorrow:”Of course, the Pentagon denies it, and that’ll be the spin (if they even acknowledge the story at all). Because it doesn’t matter how many times the Pentagon lies–they want to believe, and always will. They are Charlie Brown to the Pentagon’s Lucy, but without the anguish. They lay on the field after the football has been snatched away and do not even notice that their clothing is lying in improbable heaps around them, do not realize that they have been played for fools once again.”

–Wizbang’s Kevin Alyward points to his previous posts noting that Newsweek’s allegations have not been proven and writes:”I’ve seen various sites claim that Newsweek is vindicated, nothing could be further from the truth….Nothing has changed.”

Think Progress:”Why didn’t the Bush administration take this detainee’s allegation of abuse and Koran desecration seriously? If they didn’t investigate, how do they know his allegation isn’t credible?”

Steve Soto:”Gee, now that nobody is paying attention anymore, it turns out that there have been repeated allegations as far back as April 2002 from Gitmo detainees about interrogators desecrating the Koran. And these weren’t just the ramblings of one or two detainees, but a pattern of complaints made to the FBI over a period of years.”

USS NEverdock:”These repositories of supposedly brilliant minds also want you to overlook the physical impossibility of flushing the Koran down these high tech toilets. As usual, bloggers are all over MSM’s renewed attempt to attack our troops….How many more people are now going to die because of MSM’s unrelenting attack on our troops?”