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January 4, 2007
Oh, You Mean That Jamil Hussein!

I haven't blogged much about this, but it has been quite a cause in the blogosphere over the last few weeks. Bloggers have researched reporting by the Associated Press in Iraq and found 61 single-sourced stories regarding some of the most violent atrocities of the insurgencies in Iraq. When pressed for more information on their named source, the AP proved less than forthcoming, and the game was afoot. Several bloggers accused the AP of manufacturing the source, especially when both the Iraqi interior ministry and the US military could not locate a Jamil Hussein, and the AP has steadfastly insisted that Hussein, supposedly a captain in the Iraqi police, did exist.

Today, after several weeks, someone finally found Jamil Hussein -- and the Iraqis claimed that they would arrest him for speaking to reporters:

The Interior Ministry acknowledged Thursday that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media.

Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who had previously denied there was any such police employee as Capt. Jamil Hussein, said in an interview that Hussein is an officer assigned to the Khadra police station, as had been reported by The Associated Press.

The captain, whose full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, was one of the sources for an AP story in late November about the burning and shooting of six people during a sectarian attack at a Sunni mosque.

The U.S. military and the Iraqi Interior Ministry raised the doubts about Hussein in questioning the veracity of the AP's initial reporting on the incident, and the Iraqi ministry suggested that many news organization were giving a distorted, exaggerated picture of the conflict in Iraq. Some Internet bloggers spread and amplified these doubts, accusing the AP of having made up Hussein's identity in order to disseminate false news about the war.

This certainly tends to discredit the blogospheric attacks on AP if true, as well as the US and Iraqi protestations. However, it doesn't remove all of the questions about Jamil Hussein and the stories he supposedly sourced, and the first problem is the story that started the entire problem. Neither the AP nor any other news source has independently verified the story of the November burning and shooting death of six in the mosque. In fact, no one can confirm that a fire occurred at a mosque that day, other than the elusive Captain Hussein.

And then there's the question about the Iraqi intent to arrest Hussein. Why would they want to arrest him if he told the truth to the AP? Certainly crime is a matter of public record, and if his dozens of tips to the AP accurately describe real incidents, then they should have no real problem with his interaction with journalists. However, if he acted as a disseminator of disinformation for the purpose of undermining the Iraqi government and the American alliance, then they may have grounds for an arrest. Otherwise, simply relating actual incidents to a reporter should garner no more than a termination, and given the need for police in Iraq, it's doubtful it would amount to even that.

Whether Jamil Hussein actually exists is really a secondary issue. The fact that the AP used a single source for dozens of inflammatory stories about atrocities in Iraq that still have yet to find any confirmation is almost as disturbing as making the source up.

UPDATE: Curt from Flopping Aces responds to the AP:

As far as the burning bodies story goes we already know that all we have to prove that this incident happened are three unnamed witnesses. One Imam who quickly retracted the story. And one police officer named Jamil Hussein.

That's it.

No names of the victims. No family members of the victims have been identified. No one know where the bodies are. No photographic evidence of a burning. Nothing other then the word of three unnamed witnesses and a police officer. In fact other residents denied this happened.

He's got a roundup of the other blogospheric reactions. This is Curt's story, so I won't bother to add another roundup -- just go to Curt's and read the whole thing. (via Hot Air)

UPDATE II: Er, it's Curt's and Michelle's. Be sure to read her roundup as well, and her take on this development. Neither Curt nor Michelle plan on cancelling their trip to Iraq; they're going to do some research on the stories that used Jamil Hussein as a single source to either confirm or discredit the reports, which is what the real issue has always been.

UPDATE III: People are saying that I'm applying "American law" to the notion of Captain Hussein's arrest above. Okay, fair enough, but does anyone have any examples of the Iraqis arresting police captains for discussing actual crimes? Even one? And if that's the case, then why did the AP use his name in dozens of these stories when it would have risked his arrest?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 4, 2007 7:26 PM

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