The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, according to an email received by Michelle Malkin from Michael B. Dean, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy MNC-I Joint Operations Center, Public Affairs Officer has categorically denied that "Captain Jamil Hussein" a long-time named Associated Press source, is a police officer, as claimed by the news agency. Hussein is a long-time named AP source and has recently been quoted in connection with a story about six Sunni men in Baghdad who were supposedly dragged from a mosque and set aflame. Flopping Aces, after discovering that Hussein was a regular AP source with an even more regular storyline, began to wonder whether he was what he seemed. Then, in a bombshell, a US military source wrote to say that "Jamil Hussein" did not appear on the list of police officers. But final confirmation would have to come from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior itself. That came today.
From CPATT PAO:
BG Abdul-Kareem, the Ministry of Interior Spokesman, went on the record today stating that Capt. Jamil Hussein is not a police officer. He explained the coordinations among MOI, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense in attempting to track down these bodies and their joint conclusion was that this was unsubstantiated rumor.
He went on to name several other false sources that have been used recently and appealed to the media to document their news before reporting. He went into some detail about the impact of the press carrying propaganda for the enemies of Iraq and thanked "the friends" who have brought this to their attention.
AP did attend the press conference.
The AP had earlier insisted that "Captain Jamil Hussein" was genuine and that they had taken extensive steps to verify his bona fides. In a story bylined by Steven R. Hurst, datedline "Nov 28, 6:08 PM (ET) Baghdad, (AP)" the Associated Press explicitly flung down the gauntlet. Not only did "Captain Jamil Hussein" exist, it darkly hinted that the military had no business questioning the veracity of its stories.
The Associated Press first reported on Friday's incident that evening, based on the account of police Capt. Jamil Hussein and Imad al-Hashimi, a Sunni elder in Hurriyah, who told Al-Arabiya television he saw people who were soaked in kerosene, then set afire, burning before his eyes. ...
However, the U.S. military said in a letter to the AP late Monday, three days after the incident, that it had checked with the Iraqi Interior Ministry and was told that no one by the name of Jamil Hussein works for the ministry or as a Baghdad police officer. Lt. Michael B. Dean, a public affairs officer of the U.S. Navy Multi-National Corps-Iraq Joint Operations Center, signed the letter, a text of which was published subsequently on several Internet blogs. The letter also reiterated an earlier statement from the U.S. military that it had been unable to confirm the report of immolation. ....
The dispute comes at a time when the military is taking a more active role in dealing with the media. The AP reported on Sept. 26 that a Washington-based firm, the Lincoln Group, had won a two-year contract to monitor reporting on the Iraq conflict in English-language and Arabic media outlets. That contract succeeded one held by another Washington firm, The Rendon Group. Controversy had arisen around the Lincoln Group in 2005 when it was disclosed that it was part of a U.S. military operation to pay Iraqi newspapers to run positive stories about U.S. military activities.
Seeking further information about Friday's attack, an AP reporter contacted Hussein for a third time about the incident to confirm there was no error. The captain has been a regular source of police information for two years and had been visited by the AP reporter in his office at the police station on several occasions. The captain, who gave his full name as Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, said six people were indeed set on fire. On Tuesday, two AP reporters also went back to the Hurriyah neighborhood around the Mustafa mosque and found three witnesses who independently gave accounts of the attack. ... The witnesses refused to allow the use of their names because they feared retribution either from the original attackers or the police, whose ranks are infiltrated by Mahdi Army members or its associated death squads.
This set up the press conference at which the Ministry of the Interior declared, publicly and before the AP that "Captain Jamil Hussein" was not in fact a police officer in their service. The email sent to Michelle Malkin categorically declares that "Captain Jamil Hussein" is not a police officer, whatever else he may be. One commenter at Blackfive, faced with this development, responds caustically by saying "Yes. If you want the real news in Iraq, one must go to the official spokesmen of the Ministry of the Interior to get it. This would be hilarious, if not so tragic."
But that misses the point. Neither the AP nor any other news agency is being asked to rely on the official spokesman of the Ministry of the Interior. But AP may not make up an "official spokesman of the Ministry of the Interior" to suit their taste. "Captain Jamil Hussein" was presented as a credible AP source precisely because he was "official", that is a police officer, which he apparently is not. And it is improper for the AP to invent a man and then name him as a source. No one is obliged to go solely to the AP for "the real news in Iraq"; but whatever one thinks of the AP, no one should be permitted to invent fictitious AP reporters or bureau chiefs and file stories in the wires under their invented names. The issue isn't freedom of speech, it's fraud.
And that's why the story by Steven R. Hurst is so disturbing. It reduces the possibility that "Captain Jamil Hussein" may simply be a unintentional mistake caused by the pressure of deadlines and inadequate fact-checking by harassed staff. The AP story categorically declares that it has double-checked the existence of "Captain Jamil Hussein", even sent reporters to see him the flesh and that his full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein. And now it turns out that he is not on the roll of cops. Of the remaining alternatives none are pretty. The Press is the intelligence service of the civilian world. Like any other intelligence organization, open or clandestine, they benefit from oversight. Hard questions were asked by Flopping Aces which now apparently have answers. Unless the AP can produce "Captain Jamil Hussein", it should take its lumps in good part and clean up its act.