Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sock puppets

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.

12 Comments:

Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

"The Press is the intelligence service of the civilian world."

If that were so we would be in real trouble.

11/30/2006 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

robert schwartz,

We are in trouble. Now to find a way to get out it. The press has had its triumphs, but also its signal failures. It didn't detect the Ukranian holocaust and was largely surprised by the fall of Soviet Union. It's nothing personal, but yes, we need to improve the way news is collected, evaluated, analyzed and disseminated.

11/30/2006 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

"It didn't detect the Ukranian holocaust..."

Actually, they detected it -- they just did not report it (Though Malcolm Mugeridge did, I think). If you didn't read the New York Times there was a chance you might found out.

11/30/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wretchard: It's nothing personal, but yes, we need to improve the way news is collected, evaluated, analyzed and disseminated.

I think Belmont & Tigerhawk deserve a media-savvy sugar daddy. Talkin' "Belmont Broadcasting Corp". :-)

Now, as for those amply-sugared MSM spinners who live seemingly without shame but secretly with much pride, remember that mockery has a powerful effect. So I suggest we serve their sh*t back at 'em. e.g., learn more about the worst media offenders and "report" some over-the-top "stories" that fit the blog "narrative".

Did you know for example that this wayward reporter Steven R. Hurst was bureau chief for the "Moscow news cooperative" '79-'84? That history tingled my blog-commenter antennae, so I called up my old KBG source Captain Tahl Bruschki who confirmed it for me, adding, "Steve, [he calls him "Steve"] "Steve was a lazy Reagan-hating hack. Why else would we let him work here?"

So there you go... Steve.

11/30/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Wretchard,

In those wonderful days of our innocence we thought those two avuncular gentlemen, Huntley and Brinkley, came into our homes with news. Little did we think - propaganda needn't be the stern stuff of newsreels.

11/30/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

tex,

Tahl Bruschki

:-O...;-D

11/30/2006 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

I have it on the highest authority - Dan Rather, himself - that even though Captain Jamil Gholaiem Hussein may not exist, never-the-less what he says is true!

That's good enough for me.

Cheers

11/30/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger summignumi said...

Sadly as I stated before the Left (insert favorite Native Anti American hate group) controls the controllers of what America once was proudest of and the foundation of its creation. With out its exorcism the body flesh will surely die.

11/30/2006 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Can we start shooting yet?

No?

Darn!

Well, let me know when.

11/30/2006 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

Official AP release to Belmont Club:

SHUT THE FUCK UP AND DRINK THE KOOLAID, BUDDY!

Signed,

Captain and Jamil

11/30/2006 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wretchard said, "The press has had its triumphs, but also its signal failures. It didn't detect the Ukranian holocaust and was largely surprised by the fall of Soviet Union."

Then it should be very reassuring to the members of the press that if their newspapers and networks finally go belly up there's an identical job waiting for them in Langley.

11/30/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Fellow Peacekeeper said...

"It didn't detect the Ukranian holocaust..."

Actually, they detected it -- they just did not report it (Though Malcolm Mugeridge did, I think).


Not detect? Not report? How about actively deny?

LARGER CITIES HAVE FOOD

Ukraine, North Caucasus and Lower Volga Regions Suffer From Shortages

KREMLIN'S 'DOOM' DENIED

Russian and Foreign Observers In Country See No Ground for Predications of Disaster

By WALTER DURANTY
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES

MOSCOW, March 30---In the middle of the diplomatic duel between Great Britain and the Soviet Union over the accused British engineers there appears from a British source a big scare story in the American press about famine in the Soviet Union, with "thousands already dead and millions menaced by death and starvation."

... I have made exhaustive inquiries about this alleged famine situation. I have inquired in Soviet commissariats and in foreign embassies with their network of consuls, and I have tabulated information from Britons working as specialists and from my personal connections, Russian and foreign.

Disease Mortality Is High

All of this seems to me to be more trustworthy information than I could get by a brief trip through any one area. The Soviet Union is too big to permit a hasty study, and it is the foreign correspondent's job to present a whole picture, not a part of it. And here are the facts:

There is a serious shortage food shortage throughout the country, with occasional cases of well-managed State or collective farms. The big cities and the army are adequately supplied with food. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.

In short, conditions are definitely bad in certain sections--- the Ukraine, North Caucasus and Lower Volga. The rest of the country is on short rations but nothing worse. These conditions are bad, but there is no famine.
...

RUSSIANS HUNGRY, BUT NOT STARVING
By Walter Duranty, The New York Times, March 31, 1933, Page 13


One of many Duranty articles, some were front page stories. The NYT has never apologised. Duranty still holds the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

http://www.artukraine.com/famineart/duranty43.htm

11/30/2006 08:15:00 PM  

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