November 20, 2007

AP Story On Bilal Hussein Doesn't Sound Convincing At The BBC, Either

The AP reported on the charges filed against its Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Bilal Hussein, and attempted to defend itself at the same time. The BBC reports on it this morning as well, but the AP's defense doesn't exactly improve by switching to its competitor (via Michelle Malkin):

The US military says it will recommend criminal charges against an Associated Press photographer detained in 2006 on suspicion of helping Iraqi insurgents. The Pentagon says additional evidence has come to light proving Bilal Hussein is a "terrorist media operative" who infiltrated the news agency.

The case will be passed to Iraqi judges who will decide if he should be tried.

AP says its own investigation has found no evidence that he was anything but an Iraqi journalist working in a war zone. The agency's lawyers say they have been denied access to Mr Hussein and the evidence against him, making it impossible to build a defence. ...

AP says there is no evidence that any of Mr Hussein's images were co-ordinated with insurgents or showed the moment of an attack.

Even other journalists have questioned Hussein's access and credibility. Neil Munro at National Journal sounded a highly skeptical note when it came to Hussein, suggesting that he staged scenes for political purposes -- in other words, created propaganda that the AP then broadcast to the world. His ability to capture terrorists in action on many occasions hinted at some extraordinary access, especially the immediately-post-execution photo of Italian hostage Salvatore Santoro. As Power Line asks, are we to believe that Hussein just happened to run across these terrorists moments after the execution -- or that he had arranged to be their personal photographer and propagandist?

This is where the AP gets very disingenuous. Their defense rests in part on two contentions: that the bulk of Hussein's work doesn't feature insurgent activity, and that he never pictured the "instant of attack" or execution. Neither of these arguments have any relevancy at all. Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw Haw never described the moment of attack, either, but both were traitors nonetheless, and Lord Haw Haw swung from the gallows for it. Asserting that the "bulk" of Hussein's work didn't involve insurgents recognizes that a significant portion of it did -- and those images are what the AP headlined.

The US military says it now has clear and convincing evidence of Hussein's involvement in the insurgencies. It will pass Hussein and the evidence along to the Iraqi court system, where that evidence will be tested -- and then the AP can hire all the lawyers it wants to defend Hussein. However, the irony here is that Hussein will likely get freed before trial, because he worked with native insurgencies, and Nouri al-Maliki has already proposed a general amnesty for all but the actual murderers in those groups. Bilal Hussein is small potatoes compared to the actual gunmen he photographed and lionized through the AP.

In the end, the only real damage done will be to the AP, which can replace its Pulitzer it won with Bilal Hussein with a Walter Duranty award for Best Useful Idiots In Wartime.

UPDATE: Jules Crittenden has a great overview on this story today. Don't miss it.


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