January 22, 2007

Hurriyah: Where We Go From Here

As you well know by now, thanks to a n investigation launched by Curt of Flopping Aces and followed up on by Michelle Malkin and Bryan Preston's visit to the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad as reported in the NY Post, Michelle's personal blog, and now via video at Hot Air, the Associated Press' reporting of massacres on November 24 were grossly exaggerated, and parts were apparently fabricated by a longtime Associated Press source they still call Jamil Hussein, even though we know otherwise.

The Associated Press released several very graphic versions of what they claimed occurred in Hurriyah on November 24, 2006. I'll now reproduce the relevant portions of two of those Associated Press accounts, so that you will know exactly what they claimed.

On November 24, the day of the attack, the Associated Press ran this version of the story, as captured in the Jerusalem Post:

Revenge-seeking Shi'ite militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near an Iraqi army post. The soldiers did not intervene, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

The savage revenge attack for Thursday's slaughter of 215 people in the Shi'ite Sadr City slum occurred as members of the Mahdi Army militia burned four mosques and several homes while killing 12 other Sunni residents in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighborhood, Hussein said.


Gunmen loyal to radical anti-American Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began taking over the neighborhood this summer and a majority of its Sunni residents already had fled.

The militiamen attacked and burned the Ahbab al-Mustafa, Nidaa Allah, al-Muhaimin and al-Qaqaqa mosques in the rampage that did not end until American forces arrived, Hussein said.

The gunmen attack with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and automatic rifles. Residents said militiamen prevented them from entering burned structures to take away the bodies of victims.

The Shi'ite-dominated police and Iraqi military in the area stood by, both residents and Hussein said.

Later Friday, militiamen raided al-Samarraie Sunni mosque in the el-Amel district and killed two guards, police 1st. Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq said. Two other Sunni mosques in west Baghdad also were attacked, police said.

A day later, on November 25, the Associated Press ran this version of the story, as captured for posterity on

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Revenge-seeking militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left Friday prayers and burned them alive with kerosene in a savage new twist to the brutality shaking the Iraqi capital a day after suspected Sunni insurgents killed 215 people in Baghdad's main Shiite district.

Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene in Friday's assault by suspected members of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia or subsequent attacks that killed at least 19 other Sunnis, including women and children, in the same neighborhood, the volatile Hurriyah district in northwest Baghdad, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein.


But burning victims alive introduced a new method of brutality that was likely to be reciprocated by the other sect as the Shiites and Sunnis continue killing one another in unprecedented numbers. The gruesome attack, which came despite a curfew in Baghdad, capped a day in which at least 87 people were killed or found dead in sectarian violence across Iraq.

In Hurriyah, the rampaging militiamen also burned and blew up four mosques and torched several homes in the district, Hussein said.


President Jalal Talabani emerged from lengthy meetings with other Iraqi leaders late Friday and said the defense minister, Abdul-Qader al-Obaidi, indicated that the Hurriyah neighborhood had been quiet throughout the day.

But Imad al-Hasimi, a Sunni elder in Hurriyah, confirmed Hussein's account of the immolations. He told Al-Arabiya television he saw people who were drenched in kerosene and then set afire, burning to death before his eyes.

Two workers at Kazamiyah Hospital also confirmed that bodies from the clashes and immolation had been taken to the morgue at their facility.

They refused to be identified by name, saying they feared retribution.

And the Association of Muslim Scholars, the most influential Sunni organization in Iraq, said even more victims were burned to death in attacks on the four mosques. It claimed a total of 18 people had died in an inferno at the al-Muhaimin mosque.

For those of you following this story closely, you know that Imad al-Hasimi quickly retracted his claim when asked for details by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, and that the Associated Press was perhaps deceptive in not noting that the Association of Muslim Scholars is "the most influential Sunni organization in Iraq" largely because of their deep suspected ties with both the Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda itself:

The Association of Muslim Scholars ... ...also sometimes called Association of Muslim Clerics or Muslim Scholars Association), are a group of Sunni Muslim religious leaders in Iraq. The Association is believed to have strong links with Al-Qaeda terrorists...

They did not recognize the U.S. appointed government as legitimate and have at times questioned any democratically elected government and democracy itself. They have previously asked for withdrawal of American troops, who they accuse of causing the deaths of over 30 000 Iraqis since the war began. They publicly support Al-Qaeda and support the car bombs and the sectarian violence. The group has negotiated (along side with the Iraqi Islamic Party) the cease-fire for the city of Fallujah and the release of several hostages for money. They have poor relations with nearly all Iraqi groups, most notably Shia groups, including followers of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The Association claims dozens of its members have been killed by US troops, Sunni militants and Shi'ite militias.


It was formed on the 14th of April 2003, only four days after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 by a group of former regime loyalists who oppose any democratic changes and consider democracy as and ant-Islamic concept. They finance their activities through the ransoms they get from the kidnapping activities in Iraq.

Of course, we can't forget "Jamil Hussein," the long-time (two year) source for the Associated Press, who it is turns out, isn't Jamil Hussein at all.

Is it now time to serve AP and their defenders a nice, heaping serving of you know what? Perhaps, but what, precisely, would that accomplish?

I'm not absolving the Associated Press of their faulty response by any means—I still think the manner in which AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll in particular handled this incident requires her organization to ask for her resignation, and perhaps some AP reporters and local editors deserve dismissal—but I am far more interesting in fixing what I first postulated was a terminally-flawed methodology for gathering the news way back on November 30, 2006, when this story was in its infancy:

In short, we aren't questioning all of AP's stories based upon a single story, we are questioning a broken methodology that lead to such a story. There exists in the media’s reporting in Iraq no effective editorial checks at the very root level of reporting, to verify that the most basic elements of the story are indeed factual, much less biased.

This is not just about one questionable story, or even one questionable source.


The flawed methodology that weakens the essential credibility of the news-gathering process effects the overwhelming majority of stories printed and broadcast about Iraq each week. This weakness, this inherent and unchecked instability and inability to verify the core facts and actors in the most basic of stories, points out a methodological flaw in the news gathering efforts common to every major news organization reporting in Iraq.

Am I attempting to say that all AP reporting, or all news media reporting in general coming from Iraq, is fraudulent? Of course not. There is a great deal of violence occurring in the city, a fact buttressed by verified and corroborated news accounts every day.

But what is strongly suggested by Jamilgate is that the media in general, and the Associated Press in this instance, are simply unable to account for how sectarian, tribal and political biases may shape the information passed from source to reporter, from reporter to editor, and editor to publication.

It seems at readily apparent that due to the dangers of reporting in a warzone, and the language barriers that are in place, that it is very difficult for the Associated Press and other news organizations to verify the facts of stories before they are published using their current fact-checking methodologies.

They are, in many instances, apparently reduced to "faith-based reporting, " where sources who have been reliable in the past are taken at their word once they have established a certain degree of credibility. This leads us to a situation where those with biases can entrench themselves as credible sources, and then use their trusted relationship with the media to disseminate agenda-based information after that credibility has been established.

Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll herself based her defense of Jamil Hussein thusly (my bold):

No one – not a single person – raised questions about Hussein’s accuracy or his very existence in all that time. Those questions were raised only after he was quoted by name describing a terrible attack in a neighborhood that U.S. and Iraqi forces have struggled to make safe.

Jamil Gulaim "XX" sold himself to the AP, and Carroll's apparent defense is that no one questioned his reporting before. Of course, not. He was establishing his credibility in the period before AP started using him as a named source, and afterward... well, that is where we stand now.

The current situation, where we know that the overwhelming majority of reporting coming out of Iraq is more than likely accurate, but because of such egregious failures as evidenced by AP's Hurriyah reporting (and perhaps other "Jamil Hussein" stories that I am still following up on) and pattern of denials and ignoring valid criticism to the point of attacking those that dare question their methods and accuracy from top AP officers, we find it difficult to trust even this mostly accurate reporting for fear another Hurriyah is lurking just outside the headline.

It is past time for an independent investigation to determine how AP not only fell for a story with elements both grossly exaggerated and in parts falsified, but to come up with a new and more rigorous methodology to verify the factual accuracy of its reporting.

I begrudge no one their view of what the think of the success or failures of the Iraq War thus far may be, but they have the right to base those opinions upon factual, transparent reporting, something that the Associated Press under Kathleen Carroll's "stonewall and deny" leadership cannot apparently provide.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 22, 2007 11:48 AM | TrackBack

Excellent post, as always, Bob. I added an excerpt and link to my post here.

Posted by: Bill Faith at January 22, 2007 01:34 PM

You're being too soft on them. AP knew this was bunk from the git-go as demonstrated by their unwillingness to offer any actual proof and stonewall denials.

Decertify and boot'em out of the theater until such time as they can demonstrate to the public they're worthy of trust again.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at January 22, 2007 04:16 PM

I agree with PA, ARE in a generous mood today.
"It is past time for an independent investigation to determine how AP not only

fell for a story

with elements both grossly exaggerated and in parts falsified, but to come up with a new and more rigorous methodology

to verify the factual accuracy of its reporting."

I separated out the above quote, because "fell for a story" implies that they were "duped". This is a position that I simply see not the slightest evidence to suggest it. Green Helmet guy wasn't "duping" the people on the scene, they were complicit in his staging of events by reporting it AS IF, it were true.

If...and I do mean ANY time, the AP was "believing" the stories put forth by "Jamil Hussein"...and were FOOLED by him...then all they had to do was come clean, say that the reports on the Hurriya incident were found out to be false, they regret the error and will follow up with actual facts.

They did not do ANY of that. The coverup is what fuels the disbelief that they duped...and ALL their actions suggest they were complicit in the first place...or certainly engaged in a passive acquiescence to the model of using sub-sourced whisper campaigns and urban legend which they blissfully passed off as "facts" and "news".

If "Jamil Hussein" is indeed a composite character made up of several sub-sources...then there is NO other conclusion one can reach, except to say that he is equally unethical as Green Helmet guy. Each is "staging" events in his own way as an "authority figure"...except "Jamil" is implicated in over 60 stories.

"Jamil" is a ruse on a grander scale and on multiple layers and levels. "Jamil" is not his real name, is not the "police source" he was made out to that he had no forensic or personal knowledge of events on the scene. At least Green Helmet guy appeared as himself on the phony scenes he was creating.

It's not that AP needs to come up with "a new and more rigorous methodology"...the AP needs to start adhering to an old methodology of wanting to tell the truth.

Posted by: cfbleachers at January 22, 2007 05:18 PM