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March 19, 2006

Times Misidentifies Iconic Abu Ghraib "Electrocution" Prisoner

Multiple layers of painstaking editorial fact-checking. But they'll take the word of any hustler out for publicity, eh?

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.

He is Ali Shalal Qaissi, the New York Times said last Saturday, and the Iraqi told the paper that his wounds are still raw.

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 Times did not adequately research Mr. Qaissi's insistence that he was the man in the photograph" and "should have been more persistent in seeking comment from the military," the paper said in an editor's note.

Susan Chira, the Times foreign editor, said in an interview earlier this week that Salon had "raised legitimate questions" about the newspaper's story. "Any time you talk to someone like this, you worry: Are they telling you some kind of story?"

In a story published in today's editions, Qaissi is quoted as saying in a tearful telephone interview that he was photographed in a similar position. "I know one thing," Qaissi told the Times. "I wore that blanket, I stood on that box, and I was wired up and electrocuted."

The Army, however, says that only one man was mistreated that way, a prisoner whom guards nicknamed "The Claw," according to the Times report. Further undercutting Qaissi's account, the Times reported, is that he never claimed to have been the man under the hood in the first months after his release from Abu Ghraib or in a July 2004 lawsuit that he joined.

Salon is now a more accurate and reputable source than the New York Times.

How about them apples?

But He Had Proof! The discount buisness card deal at Kinko's is considered the most unimpeachable form of evidence at law:


From Captain's Quarters, who's not happy about the Times' typical "the dog ate my homework" "correction," either:

The correction, quite frankly, stinks. First, it appears in its Saturday edition when the fewest readers will be likely to see it. Second, when reading the actual text of the correction, the Times only takes partial responsibility. It starts out by accepting responsibility for shoddy research, but then blames everyone else for getting suckered. PBS reported it first. Vanity Fair did the same thing. The Times even blames activist attorneys who would have been delighted to get any bad press against the US military on the front page of the Times -- instead of scolding itself for using them as a corroborating source from the beginning.

But the worst part of this correction comes when the paper blames the military for not doing the reporter's research for them. "The Pentagon, asked for verification, declined to confirm or deny it." It then says it should have been "more persistent" in getting an answer from the Pentagon, but in the same paragraph notes that the military named the correct detainee two years ago -- and that the Times reported it!

Is it the Pentagon's fault that the original reporter, Hassan Fattah, is too incompetent to do a search through the archives of his own newspaper?

And wait 'til you see where they put the correction.

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posted by Ace at 12:24 PM

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