The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Washington Post has a thousand Abu Ghraib photos...

...and publishes ten.

We get an E&P piece today making the point [1].

The piece's lede reads as immediate, as if it were breaking news. Which naturally forces one to reexamine one's own acquis on the subject.

I'd formed the impression that there were tons of unpublished photos in the hands of the military authorities, and that their future publications was up to them, as chivvied by Congress, the media and others.

That impression had been fed by Donald Rumsfeld's remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee (WaPo May 9):
There are a lot more photographs and videos that exist. If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse.

Is the material mentioned by Rumsfeld right there additional to what the Post has?

In fact, the Post's May 6 piece refers to the
more than 1,000 digital pictures obtained by The Washington Post...

The piece calls them
a new batch of photographs similar to those broadcast a week ago on CBS's "60 Minutes II" and published by the New Yorker magazine.

It does not discuss why certain of the more than 1,000 photos were published by the Post and most were not. It does mention some of the subjects of the snaps:
shots of a cow being skinned and gutted and soldiers posing with its severed head. There are also dozens of pictures of a cat's severed head.

The E&P interviewed Executive Editor Leonard Downie. He's quoted as saying
...we have only published photos in which we knew what was going on in the picture. We have other photos of people with injuries and we did not know what those injuries were. We had no idea if the injuries were from abuse or not, who they are, or how the injury occurred.

One can't help applauding vigorous exercise of the editing function. If there were, say, bodies of men apparently dead from gunshot wounds in circumstances about which no information could be found, there would little more than prurient interest in publishing them.

Downie says the photos that the paper did publish
were first published starting last week, in most cases 24 hours after the paper received them.

Which implies a sort of rolling programme, with the source(s) providing fresh photos daily - does that actually correspond with the timing of publication?

Whose idea was the E&P piece, I wonder? Is it significant that Downie, and not someone a little lower down the hierarchy, provided the quotes?

I get the vague sense of something not quite kosher here.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News has a piece today on the New Yorker end of things, under the hed New Yorker has worse Iraq pix. Specifically, of the detainee who had the dogs set on him.

  1. Strictly speaking, though 10 is the number quoted in the lede, we learn further down the page that
    The paper's Web site,, offers a gallery of 10 abuse photos, but only four are credited to the Post, with the remaining six identified as coming from The New Yorker.
    There may of course be photos additional to the 10 which are from those handed to the Post.


A New York Times piece today on the subject quotes not only Downie but also his Times counterpart, Bill Keller, and a whole bunch of other news media brass.

My finely tuned senses leave me unsure whether that makes it more kosher or less...

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