The U.S. news magazine, Newsweek, is apologizing for possible errors in a story it ran earlier this month, which included allegations that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Koran. The accusations sparked protests in South Asia that left 17 people dead and many more injured.
Newsweek's Washington Bureau Chief Dan Klaidman told CBS there were factual errors in a story run by his magazine in last week's edition.
"What we are walking away from, where we think we made the mistake, is the allegation that a soldier, a prison guard, took the Koran and tried to flush it down the toilet."
Mr. Klaidman described how the mistake was made, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology.
"We relied on a senior government official, who has been a reliable source for us in the past. We did the vetting that we do in sensitive stories. We ran it by the public affairs people at the Pentagon. We actually showed the story to a senior Pentagon official, and asked if it was accurate, and were told that there was one part of the story that was not. But, not the part that we published, and that turns out, we think, to be not accurate."
In a statement, Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker expressed regret, and extended sympathies to the victims of the violence that ensued after the report was published.
At the White House, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan criticized the response, saying the magazine failed to meet journalistic standards and should retract the story. Mr. McClellan told reporters the report has had serious consequences, and has damaged the image of the United States abroad.
This sentiment was echoed by Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
"Well, unfortunately, you can never retract the damage that has been done - not only to this nation, but to those who were viciously attacked by those false allegations. So, there is much work to do in setting the record straight here."
In a May ninth report, Newsweek said American guards at Guantanamo had flushed the Koran down a toilet to upset Muslim prisoners they were interrogating. That report sparked violent protests in several countries, including Pakistan, India and Afghanistan - where at least 17 people were killed.
Last week, the top U.S. military officer, General Richard Myers, said an examination of the interrogation logs for the period in question turned up no incident to match the Newsweek report.
"They have looked through the logs, the interrogation logs, and they cannot confirm yet that there was ever the case of the toilet, except for one case, a log entry, which they still have to confirm, where a detainee was reported by a guard to be ripping pages out of a Koran and putting them in the toilet to stop it up as a protest. But, not where the U.S. did it."
General Myers said the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Carl Eichenberry, believes the protests in the Afghan city of Jalalabad were sparked by disputes over local politics, not the magazine article.