Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Man Who Never Was

The NYT recently corrected its account of torture as described by "the man in the hood" at Abu Ghraib. The man it turns out, wasn't the man in the hood at all. One of the interesting things about New York Times retraction is that it is behind the registration firewall. But via Captain's Quarters we have this excerpt:

A front-page article last Saturday profiled Ali Shalal Qaissi, identifying him as the hooded man forced to stand on a box, attached to wires, in a photograph from the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal of 2003 and 2004. He was shown holding such a photograph. As an article on Page A1 today makes clear, Mr. Qaissi was not that man.

The Times did not adequately research Mr. Qaissi's insistence that he was the man in the photograph. Mr. Qaissi's account had already been broadcast and printed by other outlets, including PBS and Vanity Fair, without challenge. Lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib vouched for him. Human rights workers seemed to support his account. The Pentagon, asked for verification, declined to confirm or deny it.

Despite the previous reports, The Times should have been more persistent in seeking comment from the military. A more thorough examination of previous articles in The Times and other newspapers would have shown that in 2004 military investigators named another man as the one on the box, raising suspicions about Mr. Qaissi's claim.

The Times also overstated the conviction with which representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International expressed their view of whether Mr. Qaissi was the man in the photograph. While they said he could well be that man, they did not say they believed he was.

Here's the Washington Post account of the fiasco, which is not behind a registration firewall.

It was a dramatic front-page story to match an infamous photo: the chilling shot of an Abu Ghraib prisoner, hooded, standing on a box, electrical wires attached to his outstretched arms. ... But after questions were raised by the online magazine Salon, the Times acknowledged last night that the story was flat wrong. The prisoner in the photograph was not Qaissi, who has belatedly admitted that to the newspaper.

The Post article suggests that the Army had already told the NYT that their alleged man in the hood wasn't the right one, but the NYT proceeded on the strength of assurances from Amnesty International.

The Army, however, says that only one man was mistreated that way, a prisoner whom guards nicknamed "The Claw," according to the Times report. ... But the paper said government records made available by Amnesty International show that Qaissi was in U.S. custody at the time and that the organization, along with Human Rights Watch and attorneys involved in a class-action suit over the abuses at Abu Ghraib, "believe that he is the man in the photograph."

Only he wasn't the man in the photograph. The media outlet that did get it right was Salon. Their source? The US Army.

Days after the Times story was published, Salon reported that Qaissi was not the man in the picture and that it was actually "another detainee, named Saad, whose full name is being withheld by Salon to protect his identity." The magazine cited Army documents and confirmation by a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.

What actually happened to the man in the hood is described by the International Herald Tribune:

On May 22, 2004, The Times quoted the testimony of a detainee, Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh: "Then a tall black soldier came and put electrical wires on my fingers and toes and on my penis, and I had a bag over my head. Then he was saying, 'Which switch is on for electricity?'" ... But Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, said that the military believed that Mr. Faleh had been the only prisoner subjected to the treatment shown in the photo. "To date, and after a very thorough criminal investigation, we have neither credible information,  nor reason to believe, that more than one incident of this nature occurred," he said. Mr. Qaissi's lawyer, Ms. Burke, countered, "We do not trust the torturers."

Apparently the NYT "man in the hood" had been traveling the world regaling the Arab world with his stories of American atrocity.

With a thick shock of gray hair and melancholy eyes, Mr. Qaissi is today a self-styled activist for prisoners' rights in Iraq. Shortly after being released from Abu Ghraib in 2004, he started the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons with several other men immortalized in the Abu Ghraib pictures. Financed partly by Arab nongovernmental organizations and private donations, the group's aim is to publicize the cases of prisoners still in custody, and to support prisoners and their families with donations of clothing and food. Mr. Qaissi has traveled the Arab world with his computer slideshows and presentations, delivering a message that prisoner abuse by Americans and their Iraqi allies continues. He says that as the public face of his movement, he risks retribution from Shiite militias that have entered the Iraqi police forces and have been implicated in prisoner abuse. But that has not stopped him.

The NYT's man in the hood recently had recollections of what "happened" him. The International Herald Tribune notes:

A lawsuit Mr. Qaissi joined, filed on July 27, 2004, also made no allegation that he was shocked with wires or forced to stand on a box. That allegation appeared only on an amended version of a complaint he later joined, filed last month, which said he had been forced to stand on the box and fell off from the shocks of the electrocution: "They repeated this at least five times."

Mediacrity notes that the NYT "still doesn't acknowledge the distinct possibility -- if not probability -- that nothing this man said was true and, again, obscuring his motive, which was clearly monetary. He is, after all, suing the government."

Commentary

Sheesh.

21 Comments:

Blogger blert said...

You get what you pay for.

Lies.

3/18/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

And of course, Abu Ghraib is the most newsworthy concern of America and the World.

3/18/2006 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Baar said...

I was accussed of crude moral relativism for suggesting the orignal NYT pictures and story appearing on the same day as CPTer Fox's Obituary was an example of the difference between the United States and Terrorists.

The US Army roots out abusers and brings the to trial. The terrorists use it as standard procedure, and even the friends of the the CPTers not inclined to talk about Fox's death when brutality dished out at by terrorists.

I suggested Qaissi was in this for the bucks which contrated with Fox who was plain dead.

Now we find out Qaissi wasn't even the one.

3/18/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Seems like someone should be able to sue the Times for libel or slander or something like that. Maybe a big monetary judgment would finally tip them over the edge into bankruptcy and put them out of their agony.

"In the case of Uncle Sam vs. the New York Times ..."

3/18/2006 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger SeekerBlog.com said...

Wretchard,

Your post stimulated my torture-meme itch "are there any verified cases of torture by Coalition forces in Iraq?". Have you seen an object resource giving the definitive "bottom line" on the torture narrative?

Robert Pollock's op-ed in the WSJ wasn't in any way definitive but was useful for the big picture on the separate prisoner abuse question:

...There have also now been 12 major inquiries--including investigations led by Maj. Gen. George Fay and Vice Adm. Albert Church--into detainee treatment in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. More than 2,800 interviews have been conducted and 16,000 pages of documents produced. And there have been 31 congressional hearings and 45 staff briefings...

In short, all the evidence suggests a low rate of detainee mistreatment, one that compares favorably with U.S. civilian prisons, never mind that of other and earlier militaries...


I aggregated three resources in Guantanamo - what is true?, e.g., For details on actual US military policy (in contrast to media-imagined policy), this DOD bulletin has links to the particulars:

After this deliberate and determinative legal and policy review, the Secretary of Defense approved the use of 24 techniques for use at Guantanamo on April 16, 2003. Seventeen of the techniques approved for use at Guantanamo come from FM 34-52. Four of the techniques require notification to the Secretary before use.

It is the policy and practice of the Department of Defense to treat detainees in the War on Terrorism humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Convention.

No procedures approved for use ordered, authorized, permitted, or tolerated torture. Individuals who have abused the trust and confidence placed in them will be held accountable. There are a number of inquiries that are ongoing to look at specific allegations of abuse, and those investigations will run their courseā€¦

3/18/2006 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger PatCA said...

Gosh o' golly, you think he might have been planted by anti-US forces? Or do all Iraqis have their own multi-media operations on hand for such occasions.

3/18/2006 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Dent said...

Rudderless.

Waiting for something to break
Left [their] heart out to bake
Nothing there in my glass
Wasn't never made to last

Hope in [their, NYT, MSM] past..

It slipped their mind that they could use their brain.

Lemonheads.
http://tinyurl.com/j8uhe

----

3/18/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Hurly said...

Here is the status quo for NYT's reporting:

"Lets not let a few facts get in the way of a good story."

3/18/2006 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Wretch,
Anytime you want to take on the protocols of the elders of zion, i think we're ready to ROCK!

3/18/2006 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Wretchard,
Here in Thailand, the chump Sonti played his hand and forced a snap election. Thinx he's kewl.

Then, supporters of Prime Minister Taksin start flooding into BKK by the hundreds of thousands, AND stoking meeting-venues by the half-millions all over the northeast...

And what do the print media report? Twisted every which way but Taksin's, as they're pulling AGAINST the current government! Written reports under pictures of yellow-clad supporters of Sonti, minimizing the Taksin-masses that television has (inadvertently? been forced?) to show!

The gulf is beginning to be seen for what it is, even here! 'reporters', indeed!

3/18/2006 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger cubanbob said...

There is an adage "when you assume you make an ass out of me and you". The first mistake is to assume the NYT is a newspaper.
The second is to assume front men for terrorist would never lie.

3/18/2006 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

We need a voluntary system of liability for those who would seek to be a "paper of record."

Sign up on your own recognizance, pledge a standard of care to tell the truth, get a government subsidy, and be monetarily liable for negligence in reporting -- and criminally liable for malicious intent.

Don't want the liability? Don't sign up.

3/18/2006 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

OT, but not really. This is WFB at National Review talking about Iran:

What it comes down to is that the United States would be critically affected, but other nations would be more directly affected, and the question repeats itself: Why do they not take on the responsibility of intervening in Iran? ...

Ideally, the initiative would be taken elsewhere, a forceful European or Middle Eastern leader mobilizing continental and Asian concern.


A while back I mused on the possibility of Iraq making the case against Iran, with America singing the chorus line. It may not happen that way, but...

Think about Swarmer. Or Rumsfeld's statement that Iran will look back on their actions in Iraq and conclude they were "most unwise."

I am convinced that the Iraqi government is our ace in the hole. And given Iran's recent efforts at rapprochement with them, I think they've concluded this too.

This is not exclusively an American and Israeli problem. It is a regional thing, and we are going to use it. Call it a hunch.

3/18/2006 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_1 said...

First things first for those who have read my comments before.
NUKE IRAN
Abu Ghrahib the liberals taunt de jour months back begs a huge question.
Why with all our firepower why haven't we killed hundreds of thousands of Muslim combatants. Don't harm the mosque it might make them mad. If they're in the damn mosque level the place and everyone in it.
As a former member of "The Company" trained at their facilities, including Harvey Point, and with the U.S. Special Forces the idea is TO KILL THE ENEMY. You kill them in daylight and darkness. You project unlimited KILLING power over your enemy. In Iraq we didn't do this. We haven't done it since WWII. The world knows we are weak over the long term. We are, and we are getting weaker.
My God, where are the Curtis LeMays and George Pattons? All our generals now go to "Charm School" and have forgotten how to kill unmercifully. We need that now.

3/18/2006 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Another--and pretty wild, and true--mistaken-on-purpose identity story:

Major Martin, Operation Mincemeat.

3/18/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Clioman said...

From time to time, an American masquerading as a former combat veteran is revealed to be a fraud...sometimes after being feted with parades and testimonial dinners. We are disgusted and repelled by his theft of our good will, because we thought that he was one of US, and perhaps BETTER than us, as well. He had manipulated our pride.

Here, another fraud has been feted and celebrated -- not for his presumed bravery, but for his victimhood, and for his symbolism as yet another presumed example of Imperial American Evil. So, when the New York Times literati wined and dined him, was it out of pity, or gratitude? It's unlikely they will admit to feeling any anger or disgust at his theft of their good will: that would violate their belief in the sanctity of victimhood. But he has surely manipulated their pride.

3/19/2006 05:29:00 AM  
Blogger Clioman said...

From time to time, an American masquerading as a former combat veteran is revealed to be a fraud...sometimes after being feted with parades and testimonial dinners. We are disgusted and repelled by his theft of our good will, because we thought that he was one of US, and perhaps BETTER than us, as well. He had manipulated our pride.

Here, another fraud has been feted and celebrated -- not for his presumed bravery, but for his victimhood, and for his symbolism as yet another presumed example of Imperial American Evil. So, when the New York Times literati wined and dined him, was it out of pity, or gratitude? It's unlikely they will admit to feeling any anger or disgust at his theft of their good will: that would violate their belief in the sanctity of victimhood. But he has surely manipulated their pride.

3/19/2006 05:29:00 AM  
Blogger Clioman said...

From time to time, an American masquerading as a former combat veteran is revealed to be a fraud...sometimes after being feted with parades and testimonial dinners. We are disgusted and repelled by his theft of our good will, because we thought that he was one of US, and perhaps BETTER than us, as well. He had manipulated our pride.

Here, another fraud has been feted and celebrated -- not for his presumed bravery, but for his victimhood, and for his symbolism as yet another presumed example of Imperial American Evil. So, when the New York Times literati wined and dined him, was it out of pity, or gratitude? It's unlikely they will admit to feeling any anger or disgust at his theft of their good will: that would violate their belief in the sanctity of victimhood. But he has surely manipulated their pride.

3/19/2006 05:30:00 AM  
Blogger Clioman said...

Oops..sorry for the dupe posts.

3/19/2006 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

Habu_1 said...
First things first for those who have read my comments before.
NUKE IRAN

I don't believe that indiscriminate nuking would accomplish our purpose in the most economical way. We need to take ou their Air Force, ground to Air facilities and anti ship missiles. Following this which would take an unknown (to me) time period, the infrastructure of Iran can be taken out, possibly in a piecmeal fashion. This last to minimize the expense of rebuilding it. Then the people of Iran or more likely their military, will have a choice. Hang all the Mullahs who now run the country to otherwise in-utile lamposts or accept that the West will allow them to live under Sharia law if they prefer to live in the 7th century.

The danger of this procedure is that if they choose the latter option it would cause a more permanent spike ine the price of oil, probably leading to a very widespread depression. This could actually turn out well if the scarcity and high price of oil spurred the investment required to produce usable (high intensity) energy at a price that is comparable to burning fossil fuel today.

Probably never happen, that damn oil is so cheap and easy to get out of the ground, and it is such convenient stuff. With cheap enough solar energy we could make the petroleum products needed for transportation needs. Thing is the raw material is free, so all you have to do is amortize the cost of the facilies to concentrate the energy, if you make enough of it the cost will get pretty low. Exxon should take the lead on this project, if they don't one day they will be one with the buggy whip manufacturers.

3/19/2006 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Cobalt Blue said...

Double sheesh.

3/19/2006 10:25:00 AM  

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