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Pentagon and Administration Denial of Explicit Photos Become the Issue

I knew it wouldn’t take long before another aspect of the Telegraph’s reporting would open up to make the yet unreleased torture photos a bigger story than it was. Scott Horton’s got confirmation.

The Daily Beast has confirmed that the photographs of abuses at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, which President Obama, in a reversal, decided not to release, depict sexually explicit acts, including a uniformed soldier receiving oral sex from a female prisoner, a government contractor engaged in an act of sodomy with a male prisoner and scenes of forced masturbation, forced exhibition, and penetration involving phosphorous sticks and brooms.

When the story broke in the London Daily Telegraph there wasn’t much to add to it, especially if you’re in the news vacuum, compliments of Pres. Obama, who reversed himself and decided to bury the photos. But considering it’s Mr. Taguba who’s quoted in the article, upon reading it you get the feeling of its truths.

Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

But this didn’t have to unfold as it now is.

The Obama administration, through Robert Gibbs, joined the Pentagon attacks against the Telegraph, making an awful mistake, unless you think Taguba and Horton’s sources are all lying.

If Gibbs hasn’t seen the photos, but went out and gave the statement he did, this means he’s been horribly ill served by his boss, used, in fact, making a critical error in dealing with the press that is tantamount to lying, either that or being duped. Neither one is pretty. The Pentagon spokesmen, Bryan G. Whitman, stepped in it too, wading so far in that there’s no ratcheting back. But Mr. Whitman, a Rummy Pentagon veteran, is used to getting caught in these types of situations, as Horton described in his post.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Telegraph had shown “an inability to get the facts right.”

“That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images,” he told reporters. “None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs went further.

“I think if you do an even moderate Google search you’re not going to find many of these newspapers and truth within, say, 25 words of each other,” he said.

“Let’s just say if I wanted to read a write-up today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I’m not entirely sure it’d be the first stack of clips I picked up,” Gibbs said.

Mr. Gibbs better be certain of his facts, because otherwise his credibility will lie in shreds on the White House briefing floor.

Scott Horton, whose reporting is always impeccable, provides a convincing first tear:

The Daily Beast has obtained specific corroboration of the British account, which appeared in the London Daily Telegraph, from several reliable sources, including a highly credible senior military officer with firsthand knowledge, who provided even more detail about the graphic photographs that have been withheld from the public by the Obama administration.

A senior military officer familiar with the photos told me that they would likely provoke a storm of outrage if released. The well-informed source confirmed, just as reported in the Telegraph, that many of the photographs are sexually explicit, including those mentioned above. The photographs differ from those already officially released. Some show U.S. personnel engaged in sexual acts with prisoners and each other. 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. …

It was easy to understand Obama not wanting to offer more of the same Abu Ghraid photos (especially as he’s about to hit the Muslim world), which would have been even more acceptable if that had been Obama’s initial decision on this issue. But the reversal simply revealed sloppy lawyering from Greg Craig’s quarters.

Now that situation has been compounded.

Through their active denials, again, unless a lot of people are lying, Pres. Obama has decided to take this debacle on himself, sharing it with George W. Bush, Rumsfeld and the whole Cheney gang. When the Pentagon came out with their blistering denial that the description of the photos offered in the Telegraph were accurate, at the same time Robert Gibbs stepped up too, this sorry spectacle became nothing less than an official, very badly orchestrated Administration cover up. That the initial torture and photos now being withheld by Obama, though leaking across the web, didn’t even happen on his watch makes the handling of this even more explicable.

Pres. Obama and his administration have obviously not learned the most basic lesson from modern history. It’s always the lie that leads to the unraveling.

The only way out is through.

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