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Newsweek Urged to Do More to Repair Damage

Associated Press | May 17, 2005
By TERENCE HUNT

WASHINGTON - The White House says Newsweek took a "good first step" by retracting its story that U.S. investigators found evidence interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Quran, but it wants the magazine to do more to repair damage caused by the article.

Newsweek on Monday retracted the report in its May 9 issue after officials in the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department criticized its publication and its use of an anonymous source. Protests in Afghanistan, where more than a dozen people died and scores were injured in rioting, and demonstrations elsewhere in the Muslim world were blamed on the article.

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"The report had real consequences," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday. "People have lost their lives. Our image abroad has been damaged. There are some who are opposed to the United States and what we stand for who have sought to exploit this allegation. It will take work to undo what can be undone."

McClellan said a retraction was only "a good first step" and said Newsweek should try to set the record straight by "clearly explaining what happened and how they got it wrong, particularly to the Muslim world, and pointing out the policies and practices of our military."

(AP) Pedestrians walk past the Broadway entrance to the Newsweek building Monday, May 16, 2005 in New...
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Daniel Klaidman, Newsweek's Washington bureau chief, said Tuesday in an interview on CBS'"The Early Show" that the magazine will "continue to look at how we put together this story, learn from mistakes that we've made and make improvements that are appropriate as we go along."

Asked if anyone involved in preparing the article would lose his job, Klaidman said, "We think that people acted responsibly and professionally and ... there was no malice, no institutional bias, just a mistake that was made in good faith." The article was written by Michael Isikoff, an investigative reporter, and John Barry, a national security correspondent for the magazine.

The Pentagon looked into the allegations initially and found nothing to substantiate them. "They continue to look into it," McClellan said.

The administration worried that the Newsweek story - and the idea that interrogators at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tried to make terror suspects talk by desecrating the holy book of Islam - had undercut attempts to demonstrate tolerance and repair the United States' reputation after global criticism over the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, traveling home from Iraq, said, "It's appalling that this story got out there.

(AP) A pedestrian walks past the Broadway entrance to the Newsweek building Monday, May 16, 2005 in New...
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"I do think it's done a lot of harm," Rice said. "Of course, 16 people died but it's also done a lot of harm to America's efforts" to demonstrate tolerance and breed goodwill in the Muslim world.

U.S. officials did not deny the report when it first appeared.

On Capitol Hill, military leaders were questioned about the Newsweek account after testifying about base closings.

"We've not found any wrongdoing on the part of U.S. service members," said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of Joint Chiefs. He said the Pentagon has investigated the claims, but he did not indicate whether the investigation was complete.

Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine decided to publish the short item after hearing from an unnamed U.S. official that a government probe had found evidence a Quran had been flushed down a toilet by interrogators.

But on Friday, a top Pentagon spokesman told the magazine that a review of the military's investigation concluded "it was never meant to look into charges of Quran desecration." The spokesman also said the Pentagon had looked into other charges by detainees that the Quran had been desecrated and found them to be "not credible."

Whitaker said the magazine's original source later said he could not be sure he had read about the alleged Quran incident in the report Newsweek cited and that it might have been in another document.

"Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Quran abuse at Guantanamo Bay," Whitaker said.

The Newsweek report was not the first public airing of allegations about U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay desecrating a Quran. In August and October 2004 there were news reports based on a lawsuit and a written report by British citizens who had been released from the prison in Cuba. They claimed abuse by U.S. guards, including throwing their Qurans into the toilet.

In January, Kristine Huskey, a lawyer representing Kuwaitis detained at Guantanamo, said they claimed to have been abused and in one case a detainee watched a guard throw a Quran into a toilet.

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