Monday, November 19, 2007

AP Pulitzer-Winning Photographer Bilal Hussein to be Charged

The AP reports that one of it's photographers may be formally accused, possibly of cooperating with insurgents.

The U.S. military plans to seek a criminal case in an Iraqi court against an award-winning Associated Press photographer but is refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented.

An AP attorney on Monday strongly protested the decision, calling the U.S. military plans a "sham of due process." The journalist, Bilal Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19 months.

A public affairs officer notified the AP on Sunday that the military intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29. Under Iraqi codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006.



Dave Tomlin, associate general counsel for the AP, said the defense for Hussein is being forced to work "totally in the dark."

The military has not yet defined the specific charges against Hussein. Previously, the military has pointed to a range of suspicions that attempt to link him to insurgent activity.

This trial is likely to be about more than Bilal Hussein. The two un-indicted defendants in this case are the Associated Press and the US Armed Forces. The AP has no choice but to turn the Hussein trial into the story of a witch-hunt. If it does not succeed in convicting the US Armed Forces by publicity and Hussein is found guilty according to proceedings perceived to be fair, then the news service will essentially stand condemned of fronting for the insurgents, and perhaps, for al-Qaeda.

The poor performance of government lawyers so far probably means that Bilal Hussein will have better defense lawyers than the prosecution. On the other hand, the plethora of captured insurgent documents and the number of former insurgents who have switched to the coalition side may mean that the government case, if Hussein is guilty, may be unstoppable.

The expression "to the victors go the spoils" is true in more than the military sense. The winners get to write history because theirs is by definition the winning narrative. Bilal Hussein will get his day in court, but the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- which the press is only now and very reluctantly beginning to admit -- has probably changed the atmosphere. Seeing the way things are tending it's natural that some are, consciously or unconsciously, finding ways to "nuance" their legacy. It's not inconceivable that some may even be looking for ways to claim credit for the defeating the "freedom fighters" and "Minutemen" they once so admired. How far will they stick up for Hussein now? This should be interesting to watch.

25 Comments:

Blogger Krontekag said...

Spot on Wretchard. The AP is an implied defendant - as in fact is the entire practice of using stringers for "unbiased" reporting. So this goes beyond the AP and touches any organisation using that methodology.

The one thing the AP has going for it is the fact that they, and their MSM partners in crime, control how this will be spun. You can bet they will do all they can to drag the US military down with them into the sucking mire that awaits.

11/19/2007 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

AP's record is Spotless!
This can't be true!

11/19/2007 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Thursday, April 13, 2006
Corrupting our sight 2

Michelle Malkin has a long report which is an extended indictment of the stringer system in Iraq. She begins by reporting that an AP photographer who was part of the photographic team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for taking, among others, the photo of an election worker being murdered on Baghdad's Haifa Street was arrested in Ramadi.

11/19/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

It's ironic to see journalists deploy knee-jerk leftist rhetoric objecting to the government's outsourcing of security to firms like Blackwater.

It's ironic because all the problems these journalists would like to point to seem actually to have been occurring as a result of their own outsourcing program: the use of 'stringers' in Iraq, on the West Bank and who knows where else.

11/19/2007 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Good post Doug.

I wonder if media organizations such as the AP knowingly or unknowingly fund terrorism?

It’s clear that Bilal Hussein is being paid for this work. The AP is paying for his lawyer. The AP may have even supplied him with expensive cameras and communication equipment.

One could interpret that as providing material aid to terrorists. It would be interesting to follow the cash trail.

One final thought. The stringer’s name sound familiar. Was not there a Jilal Hussein (or something similar) that did essential that same thing Lebanon? Could they be related?

11/19/2007 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

It would be nice if some light was shed on the incident on Haifa Street in the course of the trial. Of course the AP says that Bilal Hussein's rights have already been trammeled and no fair trial is possible.

So the first thing we will have to see is if this goes to court or Hussein gets a "get out of jail" pass. Do they do plea bargains in Iraq?

11/19/2007 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I'm confused. Is this case being adjudicted in the Iraqi legal system using Iraqi lawyers and judges, or the military system using JAG, or the American system using the same courts and juries as freed OJ Simpson and Phil Specter?

Reading the release(s), I had assumed it was going to be in the Iraqi system, which at least was strong enough to send Saddam to meet his maker.

Note, too, that the NY Times has at least as egregariously awful a track record of hiring terrorist stringers and photographers as AP, so it'll be interesting to watch them try to figure out how to play this case. I wouldn't be surprised if they just banned it from their "paper of record" entirely and ignore it until it goes away.

11/19/2007 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

What was the name of the Iraqi "policeman" who was so extensively quoted about various things until both the Iraqi government and the US military got together and said not only did those things never happen but there was no such policeman?

11/19/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...


Doug Ross @ Journal: All Six of CNN's "Undecided Voters" Were Democratic
Operatives

---

American Spectator: CNN's "Undecided Voters," aka Democrat Activists

11/19/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

It would be nice if some light was shed on the incident on Haifa Street in the course of the trial. –Wretchard

Yes, it sure would. I believe Bilal Hussein is has blood on his hand regarding that incident – and the murder of the Salvatore Santoro.

What was the name of the Iraqi "policeman" who was so extensively quoted about various things until both the Iraqi government and the US military got together and said not only did those things never happen but there was no such policeman? –NahnCee

I think you are correct. I recall that he worked for the AP. People became suspicious of this policeman being in several places at one time. They think he was just a fake made up by the AP stringer.

I think Michelle Malkin traveled to Iraq to interview him but the AP said “unavailable for and interview.” Which is par for the AP. She was unable to locate him even though she went to the police station where he was supposed to be working.

11/19/2007 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

The Washington Post claims Bilal Hussein had nothing to with Haifa Street, quoting AP.

Another accusation _ that Hussein had taken a picture of election workers being executed on a Baghdad street _ was also false, the AP said. Hussein never took photos for the AP in Baghdad, and the AP photographer who took that picture was on the scene because of other events when the shooting unfolded in front of him.

Bilal "was certainly not present, as far as we can determine, at any execution," Lyon said.


Previously the AP refused to identify the stringers who shot the Haifa photo. Here they categorically deny Hussein was the photographer.

Personally I think the AP's claim that their photographer was there "because of other events when the shooting unfolded in front of him" is incredible. I've previously explained why this is so unlikely: the enormous length of Haifa Street, the camera angles, the AP's own report that everyone was fleeing for their lives from the huge operation whose participants were supposedly shooting and lastly, the insignificance of the victim. The victim was just a common electoral worker. It was too big an operation, involving literally dozens of men, to have been mounted to kill a man who meant nothing except to his own family. The idea that the AP should be coincidentally present to snap their Pulitzer Prize winning photo beggars belief. If the man wasn't killed for the photo he was killed for nothing that makes sense.

11/19/2007 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

Weren't a few of these guys found to be moonlighting from their "day jobs" at Al Jazeera?

11/19/2007 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

We're accustomed to thinking of stringers as working for a bureau chief or some such. But in reality maybe the AP was being jerked around by the stringers.

In fact the whole question will boil down to one point: who was Bilal Hussein working for? The verdict will probably depend on the answer to that single question.

If Hussein was taking direction from the AP; "seeking the truth" as they put it, then he can validly claim to be a journalist. If on the other hand it is shown that he was using the AP to market the information ops of the insurgents or al-Qaeda then his claim to journalistic protection collapses.

A subsidiary question, one that will be harder to answer -- if Hussein was a shill for the insurgents -- is whether the AP knew their stringer was on a double assignment. I doubt they ever explicitly knew, though maybe they did. But I suspect the probable answer is that they may have suspected the relationship but turned a blind eye to it for access, reasoning that if they couldn't prove a relationship, then technically it didn't exist.

If Hussein is convicted with solid evidence, the AP can subsequently say, 'well OK, now we know and won't employ him again, but we didn't know it then and couldn't assume a man guilty until proven. One swallow does not a summer make, anyone can make a mistake, yada yada yada.'. And technically they might be correct.

In the end everybody walks except maybe Hussein, who will be left holding the bag and the poor unfortunates who were used as a live props for those sick photo ops. One hopes that will nag at someone's conscience. One hopes. One hopes.

11/19/2007 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

The fictitious source named was Captain Jamil Hussein, my thoughts on reading this ran the same way.

If the man was working for AQI, then the possibility is great that this stringer and the fictitious Captain are one and the same.

But that is probably a non-issue in this case, unless evidence were to arise. This will be worth following.

Any clue as to why the "US Armed Forces" is listed as an "un-indicted defendant"?

11/20/2007 02:14:00 AM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Wadeusaf,

Because there'll be two trials. One will be a trial by publicity, which has started already, whose theme is "look how the Bush administration/military is jailing journalists". The other trial will be Bilal Hussein's. The real defendant in the first trial will be the US Armed Forces. The real defendant in the second trial will be the AP.

11/20/2007 02:20:00 AM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

I wrote:

the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- which the press is only now and very reluctantly beginning to admit -- has probably changed the atmosphere. Seeing the way things are tending it's natural that some are, consciously or unconsciously, finding ways to "nuance" their legacy.

Anne Applebaum, for example has a piece in the Washington Post which manages to simultaneously admit that Iraq might come out well while blaming it for America's "diminished stature" in the world.

A lot of blame for events can be laid at the feet of the administration. But surely some of the alleged damage to America is consequent to the continuous drumbeat of negative coverage sometimes amounting to outright slander by the press. The corrosive effect of that on "image" was direct and unambiguous. But what if it was at least partially unjust? Even now some can't help beating the drum out of habit, even though the drumskin has been poked through by events and they are out of cadence.

That is why Bilal Hussein's trial is so interesting. If Hussein represents of some of the worst journalistic coverage of Iraq then it necessarily raises questions about whether the press can really point a blameless finger at others. That's not to condemn the press as a whole, simply the fact that there's room for improvement, as in every other institution.

11/20/2007 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

What are the chances that Balil Hussein and Jamil Hussein are one and the same entity, doing the exact same job of pushing propaganda for Al-Queda.

Hypothesis would be: Under the name of Balil, he's a photographer, with access to AP, on their payroll. Under Jamil he's an "Iraqi policeman" pushing stories about 20 beheaded bodies, presumably also with access to AP and through them to the NY Times.

11/20/2007 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

On "diminished stature":

There is only one way in which diminished stature can be inevitable - when we believe ourselves defeated.

The Left's idea to propagate that we win the war, but lose the battle (reversal intended) is as old as Vietnam. The question is, why is the Right allowing this to happen? What is the cure for fighting the "self-loathing" disease that the Left has infected us with? Putting reporters on trial? Maybe, but we need more rock-solid proof. If there really is a concerted effort to drive the hegemon down (US), then where is the undercover reporting work being done? The Blogosphere? I'm sorry Wretchard, but the blogosphere is not up to the task. For editorial comment, there is no medium better than the Belmont Club. A fairly good mixture of political thought, with reasoned, educated counter-point does not break a story.

There have been a precious few true reporters of record in the blogosphere. Michael Totten and Michael Yon not withstanding, their efforts have been squelched by the same machine that could give them credibility- the Main-Stream Media. The very source that would expose the effort is the culprit if we are to believe a conspiracy theory, which this news drives to the forefront. When will the blogosphere step up? I assume when there is revenue to support such an effort.

11/20/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

This is an old problem. Andrew Jackson had it with the Bank of the United States.

What is needed is another Jackson, who will yank out deposits from the new Bank of the United States -- withdraw the broadcasting licenses of the major networks and CNN.

11/20/2007 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

heather said...
This makes me feel like an old curmudgeon gathered around the cracker barrel, talking of Old Times. Remember Haifa Street?

I did indeed go to a lot of trouble, writing letters with photos and analysis, to each and every member of the AP Board of Directors, and to most of the editors of the newspapers they own. Interesting that the newspapers are mostly from red states that have been sending the most soldiers to Iraq, eh?

Anyway, I received not one reply or reaction from any of these people.

4/13/2006 11:32:00 AM
Doug said...
Ah, yes, I remember a long list of links of Heather's I copied and pasted to various places.
...sucked into the Black Hole.
---
4/13/2006 11:45:00 AM
Buddy Larsen said...
I remember the whole thing, Heather--you did do quite a campaign, bringing out contact addresses for AP execs & directors.

I'm sure you did some good. Not so much to actually 'move' those characters--after all, they're invested deeply in the democratic party, according to the records--but to help let them know their slant was being found out.

I recall those two murdered campaign workers both had young children at home. Hope they are doing as well as possible. Their daddies, in addition to dying for an AP Pulitzer, also contributed another fact that AP probably didn't want to convey--that there are Iraqi patriots willing to die for their country, and that the terrorists want them dead.

11/20/2007 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Civilian Irregular Cyber Scout Helps ID Bilal Hussein

11/20/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Because there'll be two trials. One will be a trial by publicity, which has started already, whose theme is "look how the Bush administration/military is jailing journalists". The other trial will be Bilal Hussein's. The real defendant in the first trial will be the US Armed Forces. The real defendant in the second trial will be the AP.
11/20/2007 02:20:00 AM
Okay, I was thinking faster than I was reading, thanks for clarifying. The first trial, a hearing to show merit enough to proceed with the second trial, on criminal charges. Bilal was collared in Ramadi. Far enough distance from both Haifa street and the day of the photo, that his presence there can be disconnected from the event. Depending on how solid a case the government has, AP may determine it best to claim that the photographer switched to aiding insurgents after the fact of the Pulitzer, retaining credibility and at the same time avoiding a confrontation with the Military. If the AP chooses the tact you suggest then they run the risk of loosing press credentials, being passed over in favor of more coverage by independent journalism, not to mention loosing the trust of their readers, which while at an all time low is still enough to pay the light bill. Access is the key to success in that business, access which if denied , or restricted hurts their ability to gather news. With the success of the Surge almost certainly undeniable, I can only wonder at a decision to make waves about how the military handled the either the arrest or the incarceration prior to knowing what the facts supporting the merits are. The labeling of the process a "sham of due process" cannot help the AP's Attorney at all as it is a slap at the Iraqi and not US justice.

I darkly hope the attorney keeps it up. So to quicken the demise of peddlers of such arrogant nonsense. Somehow, I don't think that will be the case.

I wonder how the DOD bloggers will express the official US line on the matter?

11/20/2007 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Don't you think that AP, the NY Times, the world media, Al-Queda / Al-Jazeera and the US Progressive Left will all say that Iraqi justice *is* American military justice, and that the Iraqi's are just puppets doing what ChimpyMcHalliburtonCheney tells them to do?

You'd think these various factions would take a look around at who their fellow travellers are and what they do and stand for and at least some of them would start saying, "oohh, ick, yuck" and back-peddling their positions. So far the urge to take a slap at Bush has proven irresistable in all circumstances.

11/20/2007 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

"Don't you think that AP, the NY Times, the world media, Al-Queda / Al-Jazeera and the US Progressive Left will all say that Iraqi justice *is* American military justice, and that the Iraqi's are just puppets doing what ChimpyMcHalliburtonCheney tells them to do?"

Yes, but then they would have to explain how the surge was not working and how all this would have happened anyway with or without the Americans. Though I don't think that will stop them from the Chimpy Cheney et all screed.

11/20/2007 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

This isn't a sophisticated analysis but, shouldn't hiring an Iraqi with the last name "Husssein" raise red flags all by itself about his political affiliation?

Wasn't there another Iraqi by that name who did something bad? Sadsack, Sallam, Sadan, something like that...

What next, a NY Times editorialist named Carl Marcks? A WaPo photog named Benedict Arnault?

11/21/2007 05:11:00 AM  

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