FBI verifies Newsweek abuse story

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    By Noelle Nicolai

    FBI records verify the Newsweek report that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay prison abused inmates and desecrated the Quran.

    According to declassified records from as early as July 2002, inmates reported that they had been abused and guards repeatedly mishandled the Islamic holy book.

    ?Their behavior is bad,? one of the detainees told an FBI special agent, according to The Associated Press. ?About five months ago the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Quran in the toilet.?

    The recently released FBI records do not indicate whether or not the allegations have been investigated or substantiated. The documents were made public by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Under the Freedom of Information Act, a federal court order directed the FBI to comply with the ACLU?s requests to obtain documents.

    ?The United States government continues to turn a blind eye to mounting evidence of widespread abuse of detainees held in custody,? ACLU?s Executive Director, Anthony Romero told The Associated Press.

    The allegations surfaced publicly when Michael Iskoff and John Barry co-wrote an article for Newsweek citing a confidential source earlier this month.

    The source was reportedly a knowledgeable U.S. government contact. The unnamed-insider said interrogators placed copies of the Quran, the sacred text of Islaam, in washrooms and flushed one down the toilet to coax inmates to talk.

    The controversy of confidential sources reached a head when the Newsweek report lead to violent riots, protests and subsequent deaths in the Middle East. In the city of Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, anti-U.S. protest left four dead and over 70 wounded.

    ?Other countries do not understand that system of free press,? said Dr. Sherry Baker, a communications professor at BYU. ?They take our press to be official statements of our government rather than independent expression. In an international setting [American press] can be misconstrued.?

    Desecration of the Quran is punishable by death in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In January of 2003 the military issued written guidelines for handling a detainee?s Quran. The three page instructional guide stated the Quran should be handled ?as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art,? and it should not be placed on the floor, near a toilet or sink, or near dirty areas.

    Approximately 540 men are held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on suspicion of links to the Taliban government and the al-Qaida terror network. Amnesty International has urged America to close the prison. In an annual report, Amnesty accused the U.S. of failing to live up to its responsibility to set a standard for human rights protection. They stated that America was the biggest disappointment in violations against the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

    ?If we are to truly repair America?s standing in the world, the Bush administration must hold accountable high-ranking officials who allow the continuing abuse and torture of detainees,? Romero said.

    Newsweek has maintained plans to limit the use of anonymous sources. Two of the magazine?s editors will be assigned the responsibility of approving the use of such sources.

    ?The public is generally not well served by using confidential sources,? Baker said. ?Journalists have a responsibility to think of the consequences of their actions.?

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