The Abu Ghraib Photo Mess: Denials, Clairifications, Media Slapfights

What a mess. The Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday that Major General Antonio Taguba had seen the Abu Ghraib photos Barack Obama's trying to suppress, and that they were really, really bad. Now Salon's reporting that Taguba hadn't actually seen them. This is ugly.

The Thursday report Salon called into question found Taguba - who retired from his military career in 1997 - noting that the Abu Ghraib photos the ACLU's suing to have released show "torture, abuse, rape and every indecency." Last night, Taguba admitted that he hadn't seen the photos the ACLU is suing over:

"The photographs in that lawsuit, I have not seen," Taguba told Salon Friday night. The actual quote in the Telegraph was accurate, Taguba said — but he was referring to the hundreds of images he reviewed as an investigator of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq — not the photos of abuse that Obama is seeking to suppress.

Taguba then went on to mention that he still thinks "no other photographs should be released" because he fears it could generate and incite more violence and retribution against American soldiers.

The Daily Telegraph, now embarrassed at getting the story wrong and trying to find cover, ran their own version of Salon's story earlier this afternoon: their spin is that despite their initial report implying that Taguba had seen the suppressed photos, he had CONFIRMED their story in CLARIFYING that the photos he had seen weren't the ones Obama was trying to suppress. Ohhhhh. Got it. Hate to admit it, but Robert Gibbs was right about one thing: the British Press - kinda stupid, sometimes.

They also cited The Daily Beast: Scott Horton, who wrote yesterday about some of the photos Obama was trying to suppress, also had sources confirming their contents! Exciting!

The photographs differ from those already officially released ... In one, a female prisoner appears to have been forced to expose her breasts to be photographed. In another, a prisoner is suspended naked upside down from the top bunk of a bed in a stress position ... In one withheld photograph, not previously described, Specialist Charles A. Graner, Jr., an Abu Ghraib guard, is shown suturing the face of a prisoner, a reliable source tells The Daily Beast.

Well, guess who else looks stupid, here: yes, The Daily Beast. Salon published those two photos in 2006, and Salon's Alex Koppelman took to the streets (blog) about an hour ago to scream that those photos were so three years ago, they had already been there (First!!11!!) and that none of you morons claiming to actually have some kind of exclusive on these photos or their content do.

So Salon's playing their own horn really loudly - fine. But both The Daily Beast and the Telegraph both look fairly ridiculous, today: they bought a story without trying it on, took it home, and wore it out to the club. And then Salon pointed out the giant skidmark near their collective ass while they were in the middle of doing the "Soulja Boy." They did a great job sussing out what they smelled as a bullshit story, and called out two fairly large media outlets in the process.

Meanwhile, despite what're probably good intentions by Taguba, he definitely screwed this one up, too. Why didn't he just come out as an opponent of the photos' release rather than someone with new information to bring to the table in the first place?

Maybe the photos don't show any of the abuses Taguba noted. But they're definitely being suppressed, and as Salon's made very evident, some pretty bad shit's already out there. One thing's certain: the desire for revealing whatever's actually in those photos - be it motivated politically, emotionally, or just out of the public's sheer masochistic curiosity - keeps growing with each story furthering this news cycle. Hopefully, none of the reporting on it will continue to be as grandstanding, shoddy, and scoop-happy as some of this. It really doesn't help.

Taguba denies he's seen abuse photos suppressed by Obama [Salon]
Telegraph report over Abu Ghraib 'abuse' photos confirmed [Daily Telegraph]
The Bogus Torture Coverup [The Daily Beast]
"New" Abu Ghraib photos aren't new [Salon]