The recent use of quotes from an anonymous Iraqi in two military news releases was an "egregious error," the Pentagon's top spokesman said in a memo aimed at preventing it from happening again.
Lawrence T. Di Rita also said yesterday that an investigation was underway into how the quotes made their way into the news releases. They were versions of the same quote, modified on its second use.
"This is an egregious error that reflects a lack of rigor in the development of these press statements," Di Rita wrote in the memo, dated Friday and addressed to top military commanders worldwide and senior civilian officials at the Pentagon. Anonymous quotes are prohibited, he wrote. He also laid out rules for who can issue news releases: unit commanders, their deputies or public affairs officers.
Di Rita has said his best information was that the quotes were authentic, not fabricated.
The first quote was used in a news release issued by the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq on July 13. The second appeared on July 24.
The military has since removed the quotes from the news releases posted on its Web site. The originals were unavailable at the Pentagon.
According to CNN.com, which picked up the quotes before they were removed, the military's July 13 release came after an attack. The sentence quoting the Iraqi read:
" 'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the children and all of Iraq,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified. 'They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists.' "
The July 24 release came after a second attack, this one on Iraqi security forces (ISF): " 'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the ISF and all of Iraq. They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified."