Military Personnel: Don’t Read This!
How a Pentagon email sought to contain the prison abuse scandal
by VIVIENNE WALT / BAGHDAD
It’s not exactly every day that the Pentagon warns military personnel to stay away from Fox News. But that’s exactly what some hopeful soul at the Department of Defense instructed, in a memo intended to forbid Pentagon staff reading a copy of the Taguba report detailing abuse of detainees at prisons in Iraq that had been posted at the Fox News web site.
An email to Pentagon staff marked “URGENT IT (Information Technology) BULLETIN: Taguba Report” orders employees not to read or download the Taguba report at Fox News, on the grounds that the document is classified. It also orders them not to discuss the matter with friends or family members. The emailed memo was leaked to TIME by a senior U.S. civilian official in Baghdad, who did not hide his disdain for the “factotums” in the Pentagon. “I do wonder how incredibly stupid some people in the Pentagon are,” he emailed TIME. “Not only are they drawing everyone’s attention to the report — and where it can be seen — but attempting to muzzle people never works.”
Perhaps realizing that, the email’s author in “Information Services Customer Liaison” said: “This leakage will be investigated for criminal prosecution. If you don’t have the document and have never had legitimate access, please do not complicate the investigative processes by seeking information.” As the type-face switched to high-alarm red, the 180-word email continues: “THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS REPORT IS CLASSIFIED; DO NOT GO TO FOX NEWS TO READ OR OBTAIN A COPY.”
The memo also contained four tips on how to plug the leaks of explosive prison-abuse tales. The first is “NOT to go to Fox News to read or obtain a copy” of the Taguba report. The American official in Baghdad received the email on Friday from the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Policy team, marked to “MAL POL ALL POLICY,” with a note telling employees that those who have read the Taguba report on the web should “CALL POLICY IT SECURITY IMMEDIATELY!”