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Prison Abuse: The Media (5/14)

The controversy over the alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees began at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, but its impact has been global. Investigations have been launched in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay. Officials in Washington and in foreign capitals have reacted to the charges. And the role of press — including CBS News — in breaking and covering the affair has become part of the story.

The following are some highlights of worldwide coverage of the scandal on Friday, May 14:

Those media outlets in the United States and abroad that played abuse stories prominently were split over Friday's lead story.

Some (the New York Times, Washington Post) led with the testimony of Spc. Jeremy Sivits, who is facing a special court martial that carried less weight than the general courts martial facing the other soldiers accused in the affair.

Sivits is reported to have described the jocularity of the Abu Ghraib guards as they abused detainees, and asserted that no officers were aware of the abuse.

Others (Al Jazeera, Dallas Morning News, Boston Globe) played highly the admission by Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. Peter Pace and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that the list of approved interrogation tactics in Iraq likely violated the Geneva Convention.

  • Britain's left-wing Guardian and right-wing Daily Telegraph both reported claims by two Danish doctors who say they saw two Iraqi men who were badly beaten by British troops.
  • The BBC picks up the claims of mistreatment made by two of the Britons who were released from Guantanamo Bay earlier this year. "Guards used strobe lights, dogs and loud music - particularly from U.S. rapper Eminem - to extract information, they allege."
  • The Wall Street Journal speaks to Spc. Charles Graner lawyer's Guy Womack about the photographs that are central to Graner's defense.
  • In particular, Womack is highlighting a photo in which Graner and a group of other soldiers are seen apparently abusing a detainee. According to Womack, four of the soldiers are from military intelligence. Another is a civilian contractor. "'Look at that guy, he's too fat to be in the Army,' Mr. Womack says. 'And look at my MP -- he's not giving orders, he's taking them.'"
  • The New York Times profiles Graner's downward descent before joining the Army. "His ex-wife and two children had left after a bitter divorce. He had pleaded guilty to stalking and beating his ex-wife. He had been fired from his job as a state prison guard and was having trouble paying the smallest of bills."
  • USA Today reports that "Pentagon and White House officials missed numerous opportunities to head off abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison" including reports by the Red Cross, phone calls by soldier's families to Rumsfeld's office, complaints by military lawyers and at least one letter from a U.S. senator.
  • The Los Angeles Times reports on a New York lawyer's claim that several military lawyers complained the Pentagon was creating "an atmosphere of legal ambiguity" in the war on terrorism.
  • The images of mistreatment in Iraq are reopening wounds for torture victims living in the United States, the Chicago Tribune reports. "Those who have survived torture" in places like El Salvador, Guatemala and Burma "feel a uniquely intimate sense of hurt."
  • Despite Rumsfeld's feel-good Iraq trip, the Pentagon is increasingly at war with itself over the failure to plan appropriately for the Iraq mission, says the Christian Science Monitor.
  • The State Department's world press roundup finds, among other things, that "editorials reiterated that the U.S.' credibility as the protector of freedom and democracy is 'undermined deeply," but sees split opinion over whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must go.
  • The Boston Globe on Thursday apologized for the art on a story about a city councilman's claims of sexual abuse in Iraq. The Globe ran a photograph containing images the councilman displayed, which appear to have come from a pornographic Web site. On Friday, the Globe editorialized that "the recent actions of Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner were reckless and inflammatory."
  • The Guardian opined that the Globe's approach "is in stark contrast to the Daily Mirror's refusal to back down over its claims that photographs purporting to show British soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner were genuine."
  • British Prime Minister Tony Blair insists despite growing rancor within Labor ranks over his ties to the White House – which have been fueled by the abuse scandal – he is not going to distance himself from President Bush, Britain's Independent reports.
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