Sunday, September 12, 2004

They Knew

From the New York Times:

Senior military and national security officials in the Bush administration were repeatedly warned by subordinates in 2002 and 2003 that prisoners in military custody were being abused, according to a new book by a prominent journalist.

Seymour M. Hersh, a writer for The New Yorker who earlier this year was among the first to disclose details of the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, makes the charges in his book “Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib” (HarperCollins), which is being released Monday. The book draws on the articles he has written about the campaign against terrorism and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Hersh asserts that a Central Intelligence Agency analyst who visited the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in the late summer of 2002 filed a report of abuses there that drew the attention of Gen. John A. Gordon, a deputy to Condoleezza Rice, the White House national security adviser.

But when General Gordon called the matter to her attention and she discussed it with other senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, no significant change resulted. Mr. Hersh’s account is based on anonymous sources, some of them secondhand, and could not be independently verified.

[…]

In a statement posted on its Web site, the Pentagon said: “Based on media inquiries, it appears that Mr. Seymour Hersh’s upcoming book apparently contains many of the numerous unsubstantiated allegations and inaccuracies which he has made in the past based upon unnamed sources.”

The statement added that several investigations so far “have determined that no responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have authorized or condoned the abuses seen at Abu Ghraib.”

That is essentially the same reaction issued by the Pentagon when Mr. Hersh first reported, in May, that Mr. Rumsfeld, with White House approval, established a secret program under which commandos would capture and interrogate suspected terrorists with few if any constraints, and that eventually that program’s reach extended into the Abu Ghraib prison.

The Pentagon is making Seymour Hersh out to be the next Kitty Kelley. Nice try. Hersh’s record is one of the best in investigative journalism. He’s the guy who broke the My Lai massacre story, just to name one, and it got him the Pulitzer Prize. So if the Pentagon wants to keep insisting that no one knew about Abu Ghraib, they had better find another way to tell their side of the story.