Yesterday’s London Times reports on the rioting and deaths triggered by Michael Isikoff’s Periscope item in Newsweek on alleged abuse of the Koran at Guantanamo: “Newsweek sparks global riots with one paragraph on Koran.” The new issue of Newsweek carries an account by assistant managing editor Evan Thomas on Isikoff’s Periscope item: “How a fire broke out.” Thomas appears to concede that Isikoff erred and explains how. Thomas writes:
Late last week Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita told NEWSWEEK that its original story was wrong. The brief periscope item (“SouthCom Showdown”) had reported on the expected results of an upcoming U.S. Southern Command investigation into the abuse of prisoners at Gitmo. According to NEWSWEEK, SouthCom investigators found that Gitmo interrogators had flushed a Qur’an down a toilet in an attempt to rattle detainees. While various released detainees have made allegations about Qur’an desecration, the Pentagon has, according to DiRita, found no credible evidence to support them.
How did NEWSWEEK get its facts wrong? And how did the story feed into serious international unrest? While continuing to report events on the ground, NEWSWEEK interviewed government officials, diplomats and its own staffers, and reconstructed this narrative of events:
At NEWSWEEK, veteran investigative reporter Michael Isikoff’s interest had been sparked by the release late last year of some internal FBI e-mails that painted a stark picture of prisoner abuse at Guant