The Key Quotes from Last Night’s Charlie Rose on the Abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison (Part 1)

May 4, 2004

As I promised earlier this afternoon on the comments thread for Kevin Drum’s post on the issue at The Washington Monthly, I taped this evening’s rebroadcast of last night’s Charlie Rose which discussed the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and began transcribing the key portions myself since Charlie doesn’t offer free transcripts on his website (though he does offer free RealAudio files of interviews here about 1-2 weeks after they’re first broadcast).

I’ve discovered transcribing is hard work. So this will come in at least two installments.

The first key quote involves Seymour Hersh…

1)… underlining that there’s not only hard documentary evidence of the abuses from the internal report of Major General Antonio Taguba completed in February, but also two other secret Army reports started in late summer 2003, by two other two-star generals

2)… speculating that there was no intention on the part of the Pentagon to act seriously in response to any of these reports until the photographs started leaking out:

SEYMOUR HERSH: They [the abuses] began certainly at least the previous fall [of 2003], and then if you keep on reading [in the 53 page report by Major General Antonio Taguba that he was leaked and writes about here in the New Yorker], you discover that there have been 2 other Army—secret Army—investigations into the prison conditions beginning in late summer [of 2003]. So we have a situation where 3 two-star generals—6 stars in all—were involved in investigating the prison conditions. And the only conclusion you could bring, as the general* did, was that you really had an institutional issue: that the abuses began early, and they stayed. They ran and ran and ran and ran. It wasn’t until, I think, those photographs showed up—one of the GI’s involved in the unit, the military police unit, turned them in—that they took it seriously. I really do believe, Charles, that if there hadn’t been photographs, General Karpinski—the woman Karpinski, the head of the unit— would still be there.

[* Just Major General Taguba? Or was it a slip of the tongue, misusing the singular when the plural was meant? I’m curious what the other 2 secret reports concluded. UPDATE 5/4, 10:35 PM: See next post.]

CHARLIE ROSE: If there had not been photographs?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Right. I think they—just because they had plenty of notice of bad times. They had plenty of notice. The Human Rights Watch is a New York liberal — liberal watch tank, I guess, on issues like that — had been, you know putting out reports regularly. There had been many people, Iraqis, talking about it—talking to the press about abuses. I had heard an awful lot about it from an Iraqi last fall, some things that were going on in the prison. You just couldn’t get a handle on it.

Also, for all you journalism junkies who like the “inside baseball” of how a major media outlet (in this case CBS News’s 60 Minutes II) interacts with the Pentagon as it’s about to break a big scandal, here’s the exchange between Charlie and Mary Mapes, the producer of the 60 Minutes II story that appeared last week.

Ms. Mapes’s key point is her claim that 60 Minutes II sat on the story at the Pentagon’s request for over 2 weeks, showing it only after they discovered the photographs were about to leak in other media outlets and after they informed the Pentagon of this fact and of their intent to air the report finally.

CHARLIE ROSE: Mary, let me just go first to you. Tell me about this story coming to 60 Minutes II because it has gotten such enormous play—how it came to you—and the relationship—because Dan [Rather] said at the end of the broadcast that there had been communication with the military, and you had been sitting on the story for whatever reason.

MARY MAPES: Well, we first got word of this—I think it was in mid-February—and I work with an associate producer Dana Roberson—Dana got the first tip—and we ended up chasing it, chasing it halfway around the world and back again. Trying not just to chase the rumors of it, but—but to find out what the reality of it. And in the beginning, a lot of it was whispered accounts of pictures that existed somewhere, an investigation that was going somewhere against someone, and we were able luckily to narrow that down and get our hands on the pictures which really gave us our first real hard proof that this was real.

CHARLIE ROSE: And what was the conflict within? Tell me about the journalistic decision to go with it. I mean, what did you need before you were willing to go with it? How much pressure was there not to do… to do it? What kind of communication with the Pentagon?

MARY MAPES: Well, we were always going to go with the story. I mean, once we had the facts of the story and the pictures and—and what we felt the context in which we could put the story, we were ready to go with it. When we contacted the Army, and I think this was the—we delayed the story 2 weeks as part of the process and continued to gather information along the way—but—when we first spoke with the Army about providing a spokesperson, which they felt they needed to do, they didn’t have anyone on hand they said who could speak to us at a high enough level about it and ultimately they asked: Please, could you wait until we have a general here or someone who could speak knowledgeably about it. And they also raised concerns about the hostages and Fallujah and the situation in Iraq. And we thought it would be the better part of valor to defer the story for a week, which we did. And then the second week came along and we kind of got the same sort of response from the Pentagon, that they wanted more time for the hostage or Fallujah situation to play itself out, and we got from high levels in the Pentagon a request that we hold it. And then the third week, the week we ran it, we made the decision early on that we were going to run it, in part because—and we had spoken to the Pentagon about this—the pictures were beginning to leak out and the story was beginning to leak out, and it was, um, time to go.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “The Key Quotes from Last Night’s Charlie Rose on the Abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison (Part 1)”

  1. Whiskey Bar Says:

    The Battle For Baghdad

    LeislerNYC reminds me of a highly apropos scene from The Battle for Algiers, in which the French paratroop commander, Colonel Mathieu, responds to a journalist’s question about the use of torture: JOURNALIST: Excuse me, colonel. I have the impression t…

  2. Whiskey Bar Says:

    The Battle For Baghdad

    LeislerNYC reminds me of a highly apropos scene from The Battle for Algiers, in which the French paratroop commander, Colonel Mathieu, responds to a journalist’s question about the use of torture: JOURNALIST: Excuse me, colonel. I have the impression t…

  3. Whiskey Bar Says:

    The Battle For Baghdad

    LeislerNYC reminds me of a highly apropos scene from The Battle for Algiers, in which the French paratroop commander, Colonel Mathieu, responds to a journalist’s question about the use of torture: JOURNALIST: Excuse me, colonel. I have the impression t…

  4. Whiskey Bar Says:

    The Battle For Baghdad

    LeislerNYC reminds me of a highly apropos scene from The Battle for Algiers, in which the French paratroop commander, Colonel Mathieu, responds to a journalist’s question about the use of torture: JOURNALIST: Excuse me, colonel. I have the impression t…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: