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Independent reporting drew Army coverup, secrecy, delays [View All]

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unhappycamper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-03-07 06:46 PM
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Independent reporting drew Army coverup, secrecy, delays
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Officials in the U.S. military, from the Pentagon on down, tried to thwart reporters for the L.A. Times who uncovered deaths and possible torture of detainees in Afghanistan.

This article will appear in the Spring 2007 issue of Nieman Reports, a quarterly magazine about journalism published by the Nieman Foundation, as part of a collection of articles written by U.S., British, Pakistani and Afghan journalists about their experiences in reporting from Afghanistan. The magazine will be published in late March.

By Craig Pyes

Last year, the Los Angeles Times decided to undertake something quite unusual: The newspaper would conduct a parallel investigation to the one being undertaken by the Armys Criminal Investigation Command (CID) into how a small U.S. Special Forces detachment in Afghanistan could be tied to two detainee deaths and two apparent cover-ups in less than two weeks.

The Armys investigations had been launched initially in September 2004 after the Times and the Crimes of War Project, a Washington-based nonprofit educational organization, had revealed that a young Afghan soldier had died in the custody of the Special Forces team after allegations that he had been tortured. The Pentagon said it had no record of the death.

The Timess disclosures remain one of the rare instances since American troops went to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 in which independent reporting has uncovered potential war crimes by U.S. servicemen that had apparently been covered up, not only from the public, but from the military itself. The Timess 2004 story was published just two months after the Armys inspector general had issued a detailed report on detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its conclusion: that it had found no incidents of abuse that had not been reported through command channels.

And while the Timess story led to the Army launching two criminal probes, human rights organizations at the same time were raising questions about the relatively low number of successful military prosecutions in criminal homicide and prisoner abuse cases and whether the military is capable of policing itself in times of war.

The CID spent more than two years investigating the allegations raised by the initial article that I reported and wrote with Mark Mazzetti, then with the Los Angeles Times. This January, military investigators concluded their probesapparently having spent the better part of the time deconstructing the cases theyd initially assembled. CIDs recommendations to prosecutors cascaded from the most serious charges that could be brought (murder, in one case) to the weakest possible sanctions: recommendations for assault and dereliction charges that brought administrative letters of reprimand, or what a Special Forces officer called a high-level slap on the wrist, against two soldiers on the Special Forces team.


uhc comment: this is a really good read about the current state of affairs.
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