The two grisly corpse photos from Afghanistan that the Los Angeles Times published today were the least gruesome of the 18 that the paper received from a solider in the 82nd Airborne, reporter David Zucchino said. The others, he says, "are just awful." Controversy broke out Wednesday over the Times using the photos — showing American soldiers posing offensively with dead Afghans and body parts — in defiance of requests from the military. A New York Times story says the LAT discussed the photos with military officials for weeks and debated internally whether to use them. Once the decision to publish was made, the paper held off a few days so American officials could increase security of their forces in Afghanistan. "Lives have been lost as the result of the publication of similar photos,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said at a Wednesday news conference.
"We considered this very carefully,” the [LAT's] editor, Davan Maharaj, said in a Web chat with readers. “At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions. We have a particular duty to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan...." [Read more]
The article was by David Zucchino, a longtime war correspondent for the paper, who got an unsolicited e-mail two months ago from a soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division. The soldier said that he had “some information” that might interest Mr. Zucchino. The information included the photographs. Mr. Zucchino later met three times with the soldier, to whom The Times granted anonymity. “He said he was very, very concerned about what he said was a breakdown in security, discipline and professionalism,” Mr. Zucchino said.
Mr. Zucchino contacted military officials weeks ago and showed them some of the images. Within the newsroom, he said, there was “a vigorous debate about whether to publish; and if we publish, what to publish; and what to say in the story.”
Zucchino later talked about the story on today's To the Point on KCRW.