Prison Abuse: The Media (5/28)

A picture of the White House, Feb. 8, 2010
CBS/Mark Knoller
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 28:


  • The Los Angeles Times reports on suspicions about the death of an Iraqi scientist, Mohammed Abdelmonaem Mahmoud Hamdi Alazmirli, after nine months in U.S. custody. The U.S. said he died of "natural causes," but his family authorized a private autopsy that found bruises, cuts and a fractured skull and blamed blunt force for the death.
  • The Times also reports that the General Services Administration is probing one of the companies whose workers served as civilian interrogators at Abu Ghraib, CACI International, with an eye to possibly banning it from future federal contracts.
  • USA Today says determining who ordered the Abu Ghraib mistreatment might be difficult because "military intelligence officials, covert U.S. agents and civilian contractors obscured their identities." Some removed their name tags and failed to wear rank and other insignia. One accused soldiers has told his lawyer that when he asked interrogators for their names, they would say, "'I'm Special Agent John Doe,' or 'I'm Special Agent in Charge James Bond.'"
  • The New York Times writes that interrogations at Abu Ghraib took on an urgency in the fall as violence increased, and accelerated more after Saddam Hussein was captured, leading to untrained personnel serving as interrogators. Accounts quoted by the Times also "identified Lt. Col. Steve Jordan, the director of the interrogation center, as an officer who gave military intelligence officers and the military police a great deal of latitude."
  • The Guardian looks at the comic elements of the report into Abu Ghraib abuse by Army Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba – namely, those depicting bare incompetence by U.S. troops – and compares it to Joseph Heller's classic novel Catch-22.
  • In the latest on the brewing political controversy down under, the Australian Broadcasting Company reports Prime Minister John Howard as saying the Australian Defense Department "was aware of complaints about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners in October last year but the concerns were not passed to the government."
  • The Washington Post reports on GOP anger towards Sen. John Warner for his conduct of the Senate Armed Services committee's abuse hearings. The newspaper also goes in-depth on public opinion about the ethics of interrogation: While almost two-thirds of Americans say "torture" is wrong, only about half oppose other, "less extreme forms of physical abuse to compel suspects to reveal potentially lifesaving information to investigators."
  • The Christian Science Monitor depicts the social stigma attached to victims seen in pictures of abuse, even if those pictures are fakes. Adding to the suffering of families, the Monitor writes, is their inability to know for sure what has gone on behind prison walls.
  • Chinese State Media picks up the recurring story comparing the photos of former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch and accused abuser Lynddie England. "Between the time Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital in April 2003 and England was revealed posing in pictures of prison abuse at Abu Ghraib this spring, public opinion has traveled a parallel path from hopeful to skeptical over the American role in Iraq."