NY Times Admits Mis-identifying Hooded Detainee

The story so far: On March 11, the New York Times identified Ali Shalal Qaissi as the hooded detainee in this photograph and wrote a long article on how Qaissi became a prison rights' activist after his release from Abu Ghraib. (synopsis here.) Salon then challenged the identification.

Today the New York Timess issued a correction: Salon was right, it was wrong.

The Times did not adequately research Mr. Qaissi's insistence that he was the man in the photograph. Mr. Qaissi's account had already been broadcast and printed by other outlets, including PBS and Vanity Fair, without challenge. Lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib vouched for him. Human rights workers seemed to support his account. The Pentagon, asked for verification, declined to confirm or deny it.

Despite the previous reports, The Times should have been more persistent in seeking comment from the military. A more thorough examination of previous articles in The Times and other newspapers would have shown that in 2004 military investigators named another man as the one on the box, raising suspicions about Mr. Qaissi's claim.

The Times also overstated the conviction with which representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International expressed their view of whether Mr. Qaissi was the man in the photograph. While they said he could well be that man, they did not say they believed he was.

Howie Kurtz writes Qaissi is sticking by his story.

In a story published in today's editions, Qaissi is quoted as saying in a tearful telephone interview that he was photographed in a similar position. "I know one thing," Qaissi told the Times. "I wore that blanket, I stood on that box, and I was wired up and electrocuted."

The Army, however, says that only one man was mistreated that way, a prisoner whom guards nicknamed "The Claw," according to the Times report. Further undercutting Qaissi's account, the Times reported, is that he never claimed to have been the man under the hood in the first months after his release from Abu Ghraib or in a July 2004 lawsuit that he joined.

Salon Editor Joan Walsh responds:

Walsh credited the Times for its response to Salon. "As a Times subscriber, I was happy they moved to at least try to correct the record so quickly," she said.

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  • Re: NY Times Admits Mis-identifying Hooded Detaine (none / 0) (#1)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Mar 18, 2006 at 10:21:22 AM EST
    The NYT has made a mistake? I am shocked. Yesm shocked.

    Re: NY Times Admits Mis-identifying Hooded Detaine (none / 0) (#2)
    by Bill Arnett on Sat Mar 18, 2006 at 12:05:49 PM EST
    NYT new motto: "All the News We're Told to Print" and: "Official Stenographers of the White House" WaPo: "A Pale Imitation of the NY Times" and "Official Suck-ups to the President" Why does anyone lend any credence whatever to the two worst newspapers in the world? They are nothing but propaganda arms for Bushco.