Posted by Curt on 13 January, 2007 at 1:25 am. 9 comments already!

I decided to step away a bit, but not completely, on the Jamil Hussein story and get back to the crux of the story.  The whole thing has become convoluted and twisted to the point where people are not sure which way is up so I figured a little history on the story would be worth my time to convey with some additional commentary.

If you read through all of my posts on this subject from the beginning you will find that I named my original posts "Getting The News From The Enemy".  I named them that because THAT was the crux of the story.  I put in a lot of work to show that much of what was being reported by the AP should be questioned and appeared to come from stringers.  When I focused on Jamil and my suspicions turned out to be justified the blogosphere went bananas.  But in so doing everyone, including myself, focused on one man, one source, as the crux of the story.  Nothing could be further from the truth.



The story begins with the Burning Six incident and the lack of any evidence to suggest that this event ever happened.  In fact there is much more proof that the incident was just rumors that flew around the neighborhood by people who heard it from someone who heard it from someone.  And then the AP got into the act.

Much of the evidence suggests that they spoke to one man, a police Capt. Jamil Hussein, who reported this to them:

Shiite militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near Iraqi soldiers who did not intervene, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

The savage revenge attack for Thursday’s slaying of 215 people in the Shiite Sadr City slum occurred as members of the Mahdi Army militia burned four mosques, and several homes while killing an unknown number of Sunni residents in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad.

Four mosques burned, unknown number of Sunni’s killed, and six burned alive worshipers. 

But when the troops were sent in they found:

Contrary to recent media reporting that four mosques were burned in Hurriya, an Iraqi Army patrol investigating the area found only one mosque had been burned in the neighborhood.

Soldiers from the 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted a patrol in Hurriya Friday afternoon in response to media reports that four mosques were being burned as retaliation for the VBIED attacks in Sadr City on Thursday.

The Soldiers set up a checkpoint near the Al Muhaimen mosque at approximately 2 p.m. and found the mosque intact with no evidence of any fire at the location.

[…]The patrol was also unable to confirm media reports that six Sunni civilians were allegedly dragged out of Friday prayers and burned to death. Neither Baghdad police nor Coalition forces have reports of any such incident.

Centcom later confirmed for me:

We have no confirmation that this event happened; so it is very likely that this is not a legitimate source. In addition, of the four mosques that were suppose to have been burned/destroyed at that time; we only confirmed one mosque was damaged by a fire that lasted an hour and then was extinguished with no casualties.

But since the AP reported this news as fact the damage had already been done.  The New York Times:

Defying a government curfew, Shiite militiamen stormed Sunni mosques in Baghdad and a nearby city on Friday, shooting guards and burning down buildings in apparent retaliation for the devastating bombings that killed more than 200 people the day before in the capital’s largest Shiite district, residents and police officials said.

One story from one policeman became THE news of death and destruction, people "storming" buildings, setting mosques on fire, and burning people alive.

Oh man Iraq is outta control.

But alas, none of it appears to be true.  There was no outcry from the Sunni citizens of that neighborhood which caused CNN reporters to dismiss the story.  There has not been any pictures or video of the damage done to "four" mosques, or even one mosque.  There has not been any identification of the victims nor the victims families.  The AP first reported that the bodies were taken to a local hospital morgue but quickly changed that story to the bodies being taken to the cemetery immediately. (I wonder if the story was changed because the morgue workers that they initially said helped confirm the story didn’t exist seeing as how the hospital doesn’t have a morgue.)

Why did we focus on Jamil Hussein then?

Well, he was THE source for the AP.  They went back and found three people who would not go on record who said they saw it but their only "on the record" witness recanted his story.  It all came down to Jamil Hussein.

I asked Centcom to verify this guy and found a very helpful lieutenant (Lt. Dean) who asked the Iraqi Ministry of Interior.  They did a search and found no Jamil Hussein and announced this fact.

For weeks on end the AP would not produce this man, Capt. Jamil Hussein, who they insisted was real leading to further suspicion.  Then, more then four weeks after this story broke they announce to the world that the MoI had verified Jamil Hussein works at the very station they said he did. 

Wow!  How did Centcom and the Iraqi police not find this guy right under their nose? 

It didn’t make sense.  For over four weeks the AP couldn’t or wouldn’t produce him nor could the  American civilian liaison for the Iraqi police confirm this fact but all of a sudden he appears as if out of thin air.

That civilian liaison, Bill Costlow, verified that this was the guy that the Iraqi police questioned on December 20th: (via Michelle Malkin)

my CPATT sources informed me today that MOI officials have now questioned Captain Jamil Ghlaim at MOI headquarters. Ghlaim continues to deny speaking to AP or any other media outlet.

Within a few short hours Bill confirms his real name via his personnel record and the fact that the AP and MoI have appeared to come to an understanding in which the MoI will be treated a bit fairer:

There has been some sideline discussion between MOI PA and the AP.  We’re at a point where the MOI needs to look to the future and establish a new relationship with the AP — hopefully it’ll be a friendship that enables them to avoid issues like this in the future.

V/R
Bill

Now why was this guy so important to the story?  Well, because of the 61 other stories where he is mentioned as a source:

In yesterday’s worst violence, the bodies of six handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured men were found in the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein.

Gunmen in three speeding cars also ambushed a patrol in western Baghdad, wounding 10 people, including six policemen, and two other policemen were injured in drive-by shootings in a nearby neighborhood, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

Two explosions struck an Interior Ministry patrol and a market in the Baghdad area on Monday evening, killing at least seven people and wounding 16, police said. The first attack was a car bomb that struck an Interior Ministry patrol in western Baghdad, killing four commandos and wounding six, Capt. Jamil Hussein said. About 30 minutes later, a bomb exploded in a market in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 10.

Gunmen also ambushed a bus in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah in western Baghdad, killing six passengers, including a woman, and the driver, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

How much of these stories were true?  That is just a sampling of the death and destruction told by our good Captain.  The same Captain who now appears to have a totally different name and denies being a source for the AP.

This same Captain was stationed at al-Khadra police station but reported incidents all over Baghdad:

You see that black mark on the map?  That is al-Khadra station.  A full 7 miles from the southern most attacks:

7 miles in a huge city is a eternity.  How is it that this Capt knew about all these incidents and was the go-to guy for the AP?

At this point my belief is the guy is real.  He gave them information they wanted to hear and they printed it as fact.  Did they knowingly use a pseudonym?  The evidence suggests yes, they did, since they stated they had visited him in his office.  It is reasonable to believe that they could very well have verified his name there.

So they used a pseudonym without telling the readers they were doing so and then used this Capt to report on a incident that appears to have never occurred.

Now the question is, how many of the other stories they reported on are made up out of whole cloth?

That is the crux of the matter here.

But bloggers such as Patterico tackle this story like a lawyer would and demands some definitive evidence, as if the AP will be put on the stand under oath and tell it like it is.  That will not happen.

All we can go on is the circumstantial evidence of the case so far and in my mind it proves that the AP has been very derelict in their duty to report the news.  Their duty is to report the news that they can verify or in the cases where it is difficult to verify they tell that fact to the reader. 

It is my belief that the reason why they don’t tell this to the reader is because there is a huge bias in our media where they only want to get one message out.  That message being Iraq is a disaster.  As they did in Vietnam during the Tet offensive.

But Dafydd takes a shot at the question posed by Patterico and goes through a few scenarios at Michelle Malkins blog.  One being the AP was telling the truth all along, three being that the AP made the source up, and number two:

Finally, case 2: AP has a source at Khadra, but his name is not Jamil Hussein

This is the case that Patterico implicitly assumes to be the only plausible alternative to case 1 (though I still haven’t entirely given up on the "Lieutenant Kijé" scenario!) There are two possible "subcases" here, which is the llama on whose horns Patterico sticks:

  1. Steven Hurst and his editors at AP were aware that their source’s name was not Jamil Hussein

If this is the case, then AP was complicit in passing along a false name to the Ministry of the Interior, causing them to erroneously (in this scenario) report that the source did not work at the Khadra police station. At the very least, this is devious practice.

Did AP just forget that "Jamil Hussein" was actually "Mohammed Achmed al-Fruitbat?" Was the purpose to make the MOI look foolish, forcing them to make a statement then correct it later? Or did they not give the real name because there is a problem with the source, and they didn’t want anyone looking too carefully?

If the reason for the pseudonym was entirely honorable — Hurst worried about death threats against the man — then why not simply say "said a souce who would only speak on condition that we not name him, due to fear of reprisals"? That would have been honest. Thus, I think we can rule out this honorable reason; and all remaining reasons are disreputable and dishonorable.

  1. Steven Hurst and his editors at AP were completely unaware that their source had given them a nom de guerre

If anything, this is even worse for AP than sub-scenario (a) above. If Hurst and his editors were blissfully unaware that their source was giving them a false name — then that can only mean they did not even make a minimalist check on his veracity… not even so much as verifying his identity!

What does this mean? Basically, that anyone can call up an AP reporter in Iraq, claim to be a police captain with a story to tell… and that story — propaganda — will wind up in an AP war dispatch without the slightest checking. Rumor central — and a lovely example of the big-box media’s "multiple layers of editing" in action.

And of course, if they couldn’t even bother to verify "Jamil Hussein’s" name, why trouble to verify any other piece of the 62 stories he told them? The source could have said that Dick Cheney personally few to Baghdad and shot some kids, just for fun… and AP would have run with it that evening.

There it is!  As only Dafydd can do he has detailed the crux of this story in a few paragraphs, which  incidently took me a bazillion words for me to detail.  If they couldn’t even be troubled to verify this guy’s name how in the world can they be troubled to verify a story?

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