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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Investigative Reporting?

Almost all the news about the Iraqi prison abuses (especially Abu Ghraib) has flowed from official investigations and/or the photos taken by the American soldiers/guards.

How about some investigative reporting? If any reporters are reading this blog, I recommend you look into the case of Abu Abbas.

Yesterday, I recalled that the Palestinian terrorist responsible for the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985 -- and the death of American Leon Klinghoffer -- died in an Iraqi prison earlier this year.

So I checked. Abu Abbas, the New York Times reported on March 10, 2004, died "apparently as a result of natural causes."

However, Abbas was only 55 years old, had not complained of ill health in recent letters to his friends, and the Palestinian Liberation Front (he renounced terror in 1993, but was a member of this group) accuses his American military captives of assassination. Abbas's family also raised serious questions at the time of his death . His widow, for example, wondered if he was tortured.

Using google, I could not find out whether Abu Abbas was held at Abu Ghraib. However, the recent reports that the military is investigating 10 or 12 possible homicides among the 25 deaths in Iraqi prisons apparently does not include his case. All the deaths being investigated are from 2003 or before, while Abbas died in March 2004.

There are some interesting obvious questions.

First, would his status as an alleged terrorist have fit the criteria for more rigorous interrogation methods? If so, were they used -- and what were they? Who had to approve them?

Second, consider the date of his death -- Monday, March 8, 2004, according to the news reports. This is weeks after the investigation began and the photos had already surfaced. Indeed, Taguba presented his report on March 12. Were interrogators changing their tactics in response to internal review? Was Abbas interrogated vigorously because his captives knew that all hell was about to break loose?

I do not know the answer to these questions, but if I were an investigative reporter, I'd be asking.

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