Pentagon Tried To Censor
By Robert Fisk
05 July, 2004
team of US military officers acted as censors over all coverage of the
hearings of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen on Thursday, destroying
videotape of Saddam in chains and deleting the entire recorded legal
submissions of 11 senior members of his former regime.
A US network cameraman
who demanded the return of his tapes, which contained audios of the
hearings, said he was told by a US officer: "No. They belong to
us now. And anyway, we don't trust you guys."
According to American
journalists present at the 30-minute hearing of Saddam and 11 former
ministers at Baghdad airport, an American admiral in civilian clothes
told camera crews that the judge had demanded that there should be no
sound recording of the initial hearing. He ordered crews to unplug their
sound wires. Several of the six crews present pretended to obey the
instruction. "We learnt later," one of them said, "that
the judge didn't order us to turn off our sound. The Americans lied--it
was they who wanted no sound. The judge wanted sound and pictures."
were told that a US Department of Defence camera crew would provide
the sound for their silent tapes. But when CNN and CBS crews went to
the former occupation authority headquarters--now the US embassy-- they
found that three US officers ordered the censorship of tape which showed
Saddam being led into the courtroom with a chain round his waist which
was connected to handcuffs round his wrists. The Americans gave no reason
for this censorship.
rude and they didn't care," another American television crew member
said. "They were running the show. The Americans decided what the
world could and could not see of this trial--and it was meant to be
an Iraqi trial. There was a British official in the courtroom whom we
were not allowed to take pictures of. The other men were US troops who
had been ordered to wear ordinary clothes so that they were 'civilians'
in the court."
Three US officers
viewed the tapes taken by two CNN cameras, 'Al-Djezaira' (a local, American-funded
Iraqi channel), and the US government. "Fortunately, they were
lazy and they didn't check all the tapes properly so we got our 'audio'
through in the satellite to London," one of the crew members told
The Independent yesterday. "I had pretended to unplug the sound
from the camera but the man who claimed he was a US admiral didn't understand
cameras and we were able to record sound. The American censors at the
embassy were inattentive--that's how we got the sound out."
The only thing the
Americans managed to censor from most of the tapes was Saddam's comment
that "this is theatre--Bush is the real criminal."
throughout the world were astonished yesterday when the first tapes
of Saddam's trial arrived without sound and have still not been informed
that the Americans censored the material. "What can we do when
an American official tells us the judge doesn't want sound--and then
we find out that they lied and the judge does want the sound?"
an American camera operator asked.
Video showed the
face--and audiotape revealed the voice--of Judge Raid Juhi, whose name
was widely reported in the Arab press yesterday. According to the camera
crews, Judge Juhi wanted the world to hear Saddam's voice. Nevertheless
the Americans erased the entire audiotape of the hearings of the 11
former Saddam ministers, including that of Tariq Aziz, the former deputy
prime minister, and "Chemical" Ali, Saddam's cousin accused
of gassing the Kurds at Halabja. The US Department of Defence tape of
their hearings has been taken by the US authorities so there is now
no technical record of the words of these 11 men, save for the notebooks
of "pool" reporters--four Americans and two Iraqis--who were
Judge Juhi said
not long ago that "I have no secrets--a judge must not be ashamed
of the decisions he takes."
The Americans apparently