December 11, 2006
Perception or Deception?
According to AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein is a well-known source that they have had a relationship with for two years.
According to Curt at Flopping Aces, Hussein was cited in Associated Press reports by name 61 times between April 24th and November 26th of this year. No other news organization other than the Associated Press seems to have evern been in contact with Jamil Hussein. It is not known if Hussein may have been cited as an anonymous source, if at all, in addition to the 61 times he was cited as an official source by AP.
During the first months (April and May) he was used as a source, Hussein was cited 24 times in stories by no fewer than 7 different AP reporters (Thomas Wagner, Lee Keath, Robert H. Reid, Sinan Salaheddin, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Tarek El-Tablawy, and Patrick Quinn).
In June and July, Hussein was cited as a source 19 times by at least 9 AP reporters (Sinan Salaheddin, Ryan Lenz, Steven R. Hurst, Bassem Mroue, Qais al-Bashir, Sameer N. Yacoub, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Bushra Juhi, and Kim Gamel), eight of which had not written using Hussein in the months before (only Sinan Salaheddin carried over from the previous months).
In August and September Hussein was uncharacteristically quiet, being used as a source just nine times in total, and five of those stories coming on a single day (September 20). Sinan Salaheddin, Robert H. Reid, Bushra Juhi, and Qais al-Bashir used Hussein again, Rawya Rageh used him for the first time, and David Rising used him as a source for four stories on the first and only day he cited Hussein.
In October Hussein was only cited twice, in a Sinan Salaheddin story and in another by Sameer N. Yacoub.
Police Captain Jamil Hussein was then silent for 28 days until November 24, when he was cited five times describing the now familiar series of claims that Shia militamen immolated six Sunni men. Those claims have been disputed by the Iraqi Police, Interior Ministry, Iraqi Army, and even the responding unit of the Baghdad Fire Department which put out the one minor mosque fire that actually existed of the four that the Associated Press claimed were attacked.
According to the document compiled by Flopping Aces and cited above, AP provided no bylines for four of these reports, but the fifth was sourced to Qais al-Bashir. Hussein was cited twice more, on November 25 (including once in a story by Steven R. Hurst).
Hussein was cited for a final time on November 26 by the man who first used his name on April 24, Thomas Wagner.
In just eight months, Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein was cited as a source in stories by 17 named AP reporters, and also appeared in several stories where no byline was given. To the best we can determine, he has never been cited by another news organization, at any time.
Since his authenticity was thrown in doubt, the fabled Iraqi Police Captain has completely disappeared from AP reporting, except for the AP's denials that he is the fraud that the Iraqi interior ministry says he is. The captain, if he is real, would have likely come forward by now to clear his name. He has not.
At the current level of controversy, it might be prudent for these 17 Associated Press reporters, AP international editor John Daniszewski, and AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll to each go on the record and establish the details, dates and locations of their relationship with alleged Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein that they have so vigorously defended.
Daniszewski and Carroll should also explain why, when there is so much suspicion that the Associated Press has been duped by a series of false witnesses tied to a flawed stringer-based news gathering methodology, that the AP promoted two of the reporters involved in this controversy.
Kim Gamel, who issued stories using Hussein as a source on June 1, June 5 and twice on June 6, has now been promoted to the newly-created position of Baghdad News Editor.
Patrick Quinn, who wrote a story using Hussein as a source on May 30, has been promoted to the newly-created position of Assistant Chief of Middle East News.
In most any line of work, discovering that two actors were promoted after it was revealed they were in some way involved in a scandal, would create a scandal of its own. Many people might assume that their superiors might be trying to buy their silence. That suspicion would only grow if those people were promoted to positions that didn't previously exist.
At the very best, the Associated Press is guilty of creating the perception that their reporters' silence in the Jamil Hussein affair may have been bought. While there is no evidence that such a thing did occur, I shudder to think what it may mean to the future of the Associated Press if it is more than just a perception.
Update: fixed a glitch above, where I meant "stringer-based" reporting, not "string-based," which is reputedly how AP handles telecommunications. Sorry for the confusion.