The US Army is at the centre of a row after Associated Press banned use of official army photos on the grounds that two of them were ?digitally altered? in as many months.

The latest image, which the news agency had distributed to its clients worldwide, shows General Ann E Dunwoody in front of a US flag.

However, it turns out that when her picture was taken she was actually sat at her desk with a bookshelf behind her.

A US newspaper spotted that the image was an amalgamation of an earlier picture of Dunwoody, with the flag background added later. The original, desk-bound, image of her had already appeared on the internet.

?For us there?s a zero-tolerance policy of adding or subtracting actual content from an image,? said the agency?s director of photography Santiago Lyon.

The army released the picture to mark Dunwoody?s recent promotion as the US military?s first woman four-star general.

?In the original photo, the general appears to be sitting at a desk with a? bookshelf behind her. Three stars on her uniform identify her as a lieutenant general, her rank before Friday?s promotion?,’ the agency confirmed to Amateur Photographer.

?The altered photo? shows Dunwoody in fatigues in front of an American flag. Her rank, affixed to the front of a soldier?s tunic, is not visible.?

The US Defense Department denied that it misrepresented the general, telling the agency that the photo did not violate army policy.

Army procedures prohibit the ?cropping or editing of a photo to misrepresent the facts or change the circumstances of an event?.

?The image is still clearly General Dunwoody,? the US Army?s head of media relations told the agency.

Associated Press said it will consider lifting the ban once it has taken steps to prevent similar incidents in future.

The US Defense Department was not available for comment at the time of writing.