January 11, 2007

AP: Discrediting Jamil's Sources

A wise and well-traveled journalist spoke with me via email yesterday regarding the stupidity of mistakes made by the large and the arrogant Goliaths of our world:

...One thing they ALWAYS do, in my experience, is make MAJOR mistakes in the very beginning. Mistakes that are so major that people say, "Nope, that can't be true. They never would do something that stupid." But they do. And then the big people usually rely on intimidation...and if that doesn't work (and it's not with you on this), those initial huge errors they make become HUGE and inescapable...

And so back to the beginning I went, and indeed, the Associated Press seems to have done an excellent job of discrediting Jamil Huss—excuse me, "Jamil XX" on their own. How much did they discredit him?

To the point most rational people would question why he was ever allowed to continue as an Associated Press source at all.

* * *

Do you remember this JunkYardBlog post, where See Dubya marveled at the ability of Captain Jamil XX to be report incidents of violence from literally all over Baghdad?

See Dubya noted:

I think I may have been the first to notice the significance of the wide variety of Baghdad locations from which "Captain Jamil Hussein" had reported incidents of violence to the AP. On November 26th, I said he was
...reporting chaos and mayhem in Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods all over Baghdad--Sadr City, Dora, Mansour, and others.

In other words, it looks less like Capt. Hussein is an eyewitness to this event, and more like he's just an unofficial spokesman. But a spokesman for whom?

(As it turns out, Sadr City is one of the few places in Baghdad he hasn't reported from.) The problem of the geographical plausibility of Captain Hussein's claims has been commented on several times since then, most recently by Lt. Col. Bob Bateman, who noted that the distance between Hurriyah and Yarmouk made him an odd choice to comment authoritatively on the Hurriyah mosque burning:

In other words, in going to their "normal" source for this story, the AP went to the equivalent of a Brooklyn local police precinct for a story that occurred in northern Yonkers! Hello? What would a cop in Brooklyn know about a crime in Yonkers? That's what doesn't make sense to me. (And why didn't the AP reveal, until challenged, that this source was not from the district where the events allegedly occurred, or even from a neighboring district, but is from a moderately distant part of this 7-million-person city?)

Actually, though, it's worse than that. If I can continue Col. Bateman's analogy, since April, the AP has been relying on that same Brooklyn cop for reports on violence in not just Yonkers, but the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and Jersey City.

To prove that point, See Dubya and and geoff of Uncommon Misconceptions created the following map.


As you can see, Jamil provided information on incidents of violence from neighborhoods all over Baghdad, and the majority of these reports occurred outside of his jurisdiction.

How far outside of his jurisdiction?

I took the map created by See Dubya and geoff, compared it to the detailed NIMA map, and, as best as I could, filled in the Khadra and Yarmouk districts where the Associated Press claimed Jamil had been stationed, and marked a rough outline of those neighborhoods in red. It is quite logical to expect for police officers to be familiar with, and perhaps on rare occasions even be a witness of, violent crimes in the neighborhoods in which they patrol.

It is also plausible that Jamil might "rub shoulders" with officers in surrounding neighborhoods, and thus have access to stories in the neighborhoods of Ma'mun, Mansur, Qadisyiyah, Ummal, Jahid, Hamra, Firdaws, Hayy at Tayran, al 'Adl, and Andalus. These bordering neighborhoods were noted in orange, as they surrounded the two neighborhoods where the Associated Press says Jamil XX served.

This is the result.


In all of the stories plotted on the map by See Dubya and geoff, six took place in surrounding neighborhoods, only one took place in Yarmouk, and none took place in Khadra.

Time and again, reporters for the Associated Press used Captain Jamil as their source for reports of violence in Baghdad far outside of his jurisdiction. It seems highly likely that almost everything Jamil reported to the Associated Press was second-hand information, provided to him by another party or parties. As a legal matter, this kind of evidence would most likely be considered hearsay, and in most instances, would be inadmissible as evidence.

Obviously, the Associated Press has much lower standards of proof than the legal system would require (presumably even in Durham), but just how low are their standards? Are those standards below what we should expect from a professional news organization that claims:

...we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news.

That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise.

It means we always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information – not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable.

As the maps above strongly suggest, Jamil XX was relying upon accounts from people other than himself, and was relaying those accounts to the Associated Press, who consistently cited Jamil Hussein as the source. If Jamil is not the actual source, but is merely relaying these accounts from around Baghdad, can the Associated Press claim that they are acting ethically by citing him as their source?

Shouldn’t they have suspected months ago that he was only serving to forward information from others that the Associated Press should have known were apparently in direct contradiction to it’s own policies of identifying all sources?

The questions that arise are thus:

  • Who was providing Jamil XX with these stories of violence from outside of not only Yarmouk and Khadrah, but even outside nearby neighborhoods?
  • Did the Associated Press ever question him as to why or how he was able to provide reports from all over Baghdad?
  • How could the Associated Press ethically cite Jamil Hussein as source if he was only serving to relay stories from all over Baghdad? Wouldn't that be highly deceptive, and against their own stated ethical guidelines?

As Jamil could not reasonably be expected to provide these dozens of accounts from all over Baghdad through first-hand knowledge, where did he get his information? Did he get it from other police officers around Baghdad?

If so, those are the same police officers and other MOI employees that Associated Press Editor Kathleen Carroll continuously attacked for being suspect and I would posit, unreliable sources:

They felt understandably nervous about bringing their accusations up in an area patrolled by a Shiite-led police force that they suspect is allied with the very militia accused in these killings.

Is Executive Editor Carroll implying that the Baghdad police are untrustworthy killers? It sure seems that way. Just paragraphs later, Carroll states even more damningly:

As careful followers of the Iraq story know well, various militias have been accused of operating within the Interior Ministry, which controls the police and has long worked to suppress news of death-squad activity in its ranks. (This is the same ministry that questioned Capt. Hussein’s existence and last week announced plans to take legal action against journalists who report news that creates the impression that security in Iraq is bad, “when the facts are totally different.”)

It seems highly likely that if Jamil XX did get his accounts through official channels, then he got them through the same police officers and MOI employees that Kathleen Carroll excoriated as belonging to death squads and murderous militias.

In her own words, AP's own executive editor discredits the only possible credible and quasi-official providers of Jamil's information.

Of course, their is a "third way."

Would Carroll prefer to discuss which militias or insurgent factions that would be the next most likely unofficial providers of Jamil XX's information? I didn't think so.

To say so much to discredit the Interior Ministry police, and then argue that Jamil Hussein is a credible source, would seem to stretch the credibility of the Associated Press to (or past) the breaking point.

Kathleen Carroll cannot credibly both attack the Iraqi Interior Ministry, and then defend the accounts of Jamil XX that necessarily rely upon the Interior Ministry to provide the information he used in Associated Press accounts.

But oh, will she try...

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 11, 2007 09:54 PM | TrackBack

Excellent post. Obsess away. I just did an "update and bump" on Part 36 of my Jamilgate series when I added an excerpt and link.

Posted by: Bill Faith at January 11, 2007 10:28 PM

Well...I would posit that even a Captain in Queens might not know all the things happening is his own area of operations. Heck - I live in a smaller town and our Chief of Police has admitted that he does not know the details of all his small force (20+ officers is all) is working on. So it isn't very likely that Cpt. Jamil knows everything going on in his own station, let alone all over the city and beyond.

Posted by: Specter at January 12, 2007 07:23 AM