Pentagon spokesman lied repeatedly over claim Quran abuse hadn't been confirmed

By John Byrne | RAW STORY

The Pentagon spokesman who savaged Newsweek for reporting a claim that a U.S. military report would reveal investigators had confirmed Quran abuse lied repeatedly to the press about such incidents, RAW STORY has found.

On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita quietly backtracked on his claim that investigators have found abuse, a complete reversal from his previous remarks.

Brigadier General Jay Hood joined DiRita for the press conference Thursday, and confirmed that investigators had not only found credible allegations of Quran abuse—but that the military had recently removed a U.S. servicemember from a security detail as a result.

GEN. HOOD: One of them was, sir. One of them. And it was essentially for -- it would be a lot easier if I could tell you exactly what each of the events were, and you'd probably be a lot happier. But it was an inadvertent action by a member of the security force. And he was removed from his duties on that site and given other duties. And I'll leave it at that. And it did occur recently.

MR. DIRITA: And again, it involves, again, an inadvertent mishandling, but one that was deemed sufficiently -- again, with the caution that the commanders are trying to establish, that it's inadvertent, but move him to another set of duties.

Given the fact that the military had removed a security member from a detail as result of credible military findings, DiRita’s statement during a May 17 press briefing was probably a lie.

“When a specific, credible allegation of this nature were to be received, we would take it quite seriously,” he said. “But we’ve not seen specific, credible allegations.”

DiRita has not been favorable to Newsweek’s coverage: “People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said,” he remarked in response to their story.

This assertion is also an apparent lie. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers told reporters May 12 that he has been told that Afghanistan rioting was related more to the ongoing political “reconciliation” in Afghanistan than anything else.

DiRita lied again Wednesday.

Q Just to be clear. As of this point right now, are you aware of any substantiated incident in which the U.S. military, U.S. personnel, intentionally desecrated a Koran?

MR. DIRITA: For the purposes of interrogation? I mean, in other words, to -- I'm not aware of any. And what he's looking at is log entries that indicate that there may have been mishandling, and then the question is what kind of mishandling was it; was it intentional mishandling or not? And that's -- he'll be able to talk about that.

But as we understand it at the moment, we know that they have been extremely cautious; that the interrogators and the police are trained to know that this is a high sensitivity issue, so don't use it because it's too sensitive. And then what we're trying to determine is, are there people who violated that. And so far, we haven't been able to develop any chain of indications that would suggest that.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman also lied in articles that appeared May 17.

"What we know is that the Newsweek story about a Koran desecration is demonstrably false, and thus far there have not been any credible allegations of willful Koran desecration, and Newsweek hasn't produced any such evidence either," Whitman told reporters.

In a press briefing as late as Wednesday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan repeated the Pentagon’s claims, and sought to place blame on detainees, who he said “are taught to mislead and to provide false reports.”

MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with the Department of Defense on his words, but I know that they have publicly said that they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegations. There have been allegations made by detainees. We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use. And so I think you have to keep that in mind, as well….

Q Are you saying that there is no substantiation of any Koran desecration at all at Bagram or Guantanamo Bay?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you look back, I think the Department of Defense briefed last week, and they talked about the specific allegation that you're bringing up, and they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegation. In terms of the handling of the Koran, that's a different matter, and they have talked about that, so you might want to look back at what they've said.

As Pentagon investigations continue, DiRita may also face heat for a May 20 comment, in which he said, “We just have found no indication that as a matter of interrogation policy, the Koran was used.”

At the briefing Thursday, Hood declined to provide detail on the five confirmed allegations that the Quran was mishandled.

Despite other falsehoods, DiRita has so far been correct in asserting that a Newsweek claim that U.S. investigators found soldiers flushed a Quran down a toilet was false; the Pentagon has not admitted to finding evidence to that effect.