A spokesman for the military said that Mr. Hussein had been detained as “an imperative security threat” and that he has persistently been “treated fairly, humanely and in accordance with all applicable law.”
In a lengthy e-mail message, the spokesman said that Mr. Hussein had been named by “sources” as having “possessed foreknowledge of an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) attack” on American and Iraqi forces, “that he was standing next to the I.E.D. triggerman at the time of the attempted attack, and that he conspired with the I.E.D. triggerman to synchronize his photograph with the explosion.”
Much of the NYT story describes the sad circumstances which underly the media's "reliance on Iraqi journalists". Joel Campagna, Middle Eastern coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists describes Iraq as "the most dangerous conflict we’ve seen at C.P.J. in our 26 years," but added, "News organizations know how to vet and scrutinize information." How exactly is the screening process accomplished? The details are provided elsewhere in the article.
Several editors and reporters overseeing Iraqi coverage for Western news organizations said they worked hard to vet their local hires for sectarian and political ties that could slant their coverage, and offered extensive training in the rules of Western journalism. But there are no official background checks that can be conducted, as American and European companies routinely do when making domestic hires. Rather, news organizations try to get to know their prospective Iraqi hires in person and then judge them by the work they produce.
That's how they "vet" their stringers. The article continues with a tantalizing admission. (Italics mine)
The reporters and editors said that they often had to filter out obvious sectarian biases from news copy, and, as a matter of policy, would not run statistics like death counts from the field without official confirmation from the military. But, these journalists emphasized, there is a big difference between bias seeping into news copy and insurgents infiltrating news organizations.
The fact that biased reports from stingers had to be routinely cleaned up by "reporters and editors" was indicative that they were being infiltrated by insurgents and not proof of the contrary. How they could take comfort that only "bias" and not infiltration was being encountered when they had no means of a) running background checks on their stringers; b) nor observing them in the field and c) and constantly needing to correct or corroborate the "facts" they supplied against official military death counts? How? Because they had no choice.
Western news agencies need access. And access to the ground in many countries can only be obtained by hiring stringers, however and under whatever circumstances they may be found. As such this is not a case of "journalistic freedom versus national security", as the NYT puts it, as about the medias willingness to confront that persistent weakness of any intelligence gathering organization, the doubled network playing back faked reports. Tim Weiner in his history of the CIA, The Legacy of Ashes, describes how time and again, with depressing regularity, the CIA would pay for information by networks of agents in places inaccessible to Americans only to find those agent networks were either paper mills producing fiction for the consumption of CIA case officers or worse, cells actively controlled by enemy intelligence agencies feeding disinformation to Langley. And this despite the fact that the CIA attempted to perform background checks on their agents and even questioned them under duress using drugs and other harsh methods to ascertain their loyalty. If you substitute the words "stringers" for "agents" it is not clear how the NYT can be so sure the same type of game is not being played upon them.
I think any reasonable observer would conclude that if the problem does not already exist among the news agency stringers or even staffers in Iraq then it has every likelihood of coming into existence simply because of the circumstances. This is a structural weakness that the media, like the CIA, wishes would simply go away. Because to admit the problem exists, and the extent to which it probably exists, would imply too much change for business as usual.