Prison Abuse: The Media (5/27)

An U.S. soldier walks between cells containing Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, Monday, May 17, 2004. Security concerns and outrage at the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at the jail west of Baghdad, have piled the pressure on coalition forces.
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 Thursday, May 27:

  • The New York Times reports that the interrogations at Abu Ghraib yielded little useful data on the Iraqi resistance, perhaps because "most of the prisoners held in the special cellblock that became the setting for the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib apparently were not linked to the insurgency."
  • The Times also reports that three of the seven soldiers charged so far violated rules repeatedly before the abuse investigation. "Their violations of military rules included entering buildings they had been ordered to avoid, continuing improper sexual relations with one another and being aggressive with detainees."
  • USA Today reports five more soldiers – identified from the Abu Ghraib photos – "are likely to be charged with criminal conduct in the next several weeks."
  • One of the documents in the estimated 2,000 pages of abuse evidence that the Pentagon failed to deliver to Congress was described as a "draft update for the Secretary of Defense" on interrogation rules, The Wall Street Journal reports. Its contents aren't known, and it's not clear if Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ever saw it, but one of the officers key to the probe "Col. Thomas Pappas … has suggested in testimony to Army investigators that it … suggests that military police should 'support interrogations.'"
  • The Washington Post says calls are growing for an independent probe of the abuse affair, since "a close look at what is being investigated, and who is doing the investigating, reveals gaps in the web of probes as well as limitations on the scope, with none of the inquiries designed to yield a complete picture of what went wrong or address suspicions of a possible top-secret intelligence-gathering operation that may have helped set the stage for the misconduct."
  • The Post also reports polls show 63 percent of Americans "say torture is never acceptable, even in cases in which a suspect is believed to have knowledge of an upcoming terrorist attack."
  • The Los Angeles Times reports that Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, the Army's second-in-command in Iraq is telling soldiers to "cooperate fully" and testify "truthfully" on the abuse affair, saying that the investigation of the prison scandal was far from over and that "everyone has a duty" to cooperate. "The memo came after two officers and a civilian contractor claimed their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in one court hearing and after more soldiers began speaking out about how the scandal had lowered their morale."
  • The Washington Times reports the Army inspector general – probing detention operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – has found the policies on prisoners date back to the Cold War and "must be updated."
  • The Christian Science Monitor looks at the history of official U.S. policy on interrogation techniques. "After World War II, personnel pored over the testimony of Hanns Joachim Scharff, a genial German interrogator who questioned every downed US fighter pilot and was famous for his use of props meant to put prisoners at ease. During the Korea and Vietnam conflicts, they weighed the effectiveness of less-savory psychological methods characterized in the press as 'brainwashing.'"
  • Tony Blair isn't the only U.S. ally to get caught up in the abuse scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald challenged assertions by Australian Prime Minister John Howard's government that officials did not know about the abuse reports until very recently. The newspaper says an Australian officer in Iraq heard the allegations last October and passed them on to superior officers. In reaction reported by the Australian Broadcasting Company, Howard said the report that was passed on did not depict the more serious abuse alleged in subsequent reporting.