January 26, 2007

Right to the Top

One thing I've learned over the course of my 35 years, is that when you have a customer service issue and the lower level support staff won't help you, it helps to go to their supervisors to get a satisfactory resolution. So what do you do when the person blocking your attempted to remedy the situation is senior management?

You go straight to the Board of Directors.

Julie Inskeep
The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana

David Lord
Pioneer Newspapers, Inc.
Seattle, Washington

R. John Mitchell
Rutland Herald
Rutland, Vermont

Jon Rust
Southeast Missourian
Co-president, Rust Communications
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

William Dean Singleton
Vice Chairman and CEO
MediaNews Group Inc.
Denver, Colorado

Jay R. Smith
Cox Newspapers, Inc.
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Publisher Inskeep, President Lord, Publisher Mitchell, Publisher Rust, CEO Singleton, and President Smith:

I write to you today as members of the Board of Directors for the Associated Press, asking you to write a wrong that Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll has steadfastly refused to address, even after being confronted with the evidence.

On November 24, 2006, a series of stories was published by the Associated Press concerning a series of Shia militia attacks upon Sunni mosques in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq. Two these reports have been attached as PDFs, as they were published by and the Jerusalem Post (gainesville11_25_26.pdf and jeruslampost11_24_06.pdf, respectively).

These reports allege that four Sunni mosques were "burned and blew up" and that 24 Sunni civilians (18 at one mosque, six at another) perished as a result of these attacks as nearby Iraqi Army units looked on. A particularly gruesome detail of the attacks were claims made by a long-time Associated Press source, Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein, that when the al-Mustafa mosque was attacked, six Sunni men were pulled outside by Shia militiamen, doused in kerosene, and immolatedóburned alive.

From that time until today, Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll and International Editor John Daniszewski have officially held the position that these attacks occurred just as they have described.

These claims are:

The Associated Press originally claimed four mosques were "burned and blew up" in Hurriyah according to Police Captain Jamil Hussein, along with several houses.
That 24 people were burned to death. Six were pulled from the Ahbab al-Mustafa as it was attacked, the were doused and set on fire, according to AP source Captain Jamil Hussein. The AP also printed a claim by the Association of Muslim Scholars (a group suspected of strong ties to al Qaeda, a detail the AP left out of their reporting) that 18 more people, including women in children, were burned to death in an "inferno" resulting from a Shiite militia attack at the al-Muhaimin mosque.
The Associated Press initially claimed that Associated Press Television had video showing damage to the Ahbab al-Mustafa mosque where they claim these six men were immolated.
Executive Editor Carroll insists that their long-time source, Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, is exactly who they said he is.
The problem I've written to you to address, as the Board of Directors of the Associated Press, is that every single claim listed above is highly questionable; some have been proven to be exaggerated with photographic and videotaped evidence, and it is quite likely that some of the claims were fabricated entirely.

Once you read the evidence compiled below, I hope that you will consider having the Associated Press run an article correcting the mismanaged Hurriyah coverage issued so far, and perhaps several other issues as well.

To begin with, the Associated Press has never retracted nor corrected the claim that four mosques were "burned and blew up" (see the attached Gainesville article), even though photographic evidence was taken the following day (November 25) shows that all four mosques are still standing. Information about all four mosques are available for your review here:


Pictures from the day after the attacks took place:

Video from two weeks ago:

All four mosques sustained small arms fire. One abandoned mosque was fired upon with a rocket-propelled grenade that damaged its dome and a firebomb did burn two rooms. Another mosque had two rooms damaged by a firebomb. Of the two remaining mosques, neither one suffered any fire damage, though one had exterior damage due to an RPG strike.
In addition to grossly exaggerating the damage inflicted upon these four mosques, the Associated Press accounts of 24 deaths attributed to these attacks may have been entirely fabricated.

The largest number of casualties in the Associated Press accounts of the Hurriyah attacks was a claim sourced by the AP to the "influential"Association of Muslim Scholars, which claimed that 18 people burned to death in an "inferno at the al-Muhiamin mosque."

The Association of Muslim Scholars is a group deeply involved with the Sunni insurgency, including elements of al Qaeda. The Associated Press accounts conveniently skipped over that fact in order to carry their allegation, which is completely fabricated.

I return you once again to the pictures provided by Michelle Malkin in the link to her site above, which shows RPG and rifle fire damage to the exterior of the mosque, but also shows that Sunni worship service in that mosque the very next day. For the Associated Press claim to be true, there must have been a fire; there was none, and this account has conclusively been debunked. Even with this conclusive evidence, Kathleen Carroll stands behind the AP's reporting, and refuses to issue either a correction or a retraction.

In addition to these 18 AP-reported deaths that categorically did not happen, there is exactly zero corroborating evidence to support the AP-run claim of Jamil Hussein that six Sunnis were pulled from the al-Mustafa mosque, doused in kerosene, and burned alive. the AP account hangs squarely upon the word of Jamil Hussein; a "Sunni elder" the AP chose to cite as a secondary witness recanted his statement almost immediately, and AP reporters flatly buried denials made by other areas residents, including two local imams, that these alleged immolations never occurred.

And what of long time AP source Captain Jamil Hussein, the man who broke the story of the immolations, and still the only source saying the immolations occured?

He has been cited as an Associated Press source by name on 61 stories between April and November of 2006, and Editor Carroll claims that the AP has been using him as a source for up to two years. Interestingly enough, I did an English language Google search of the first 40 of the 61 accounts attributing Hussein as a source, and was able to verify just one of the 40 with corroborating accounts from other news organizations. Of those 39 accounts that were not corroborated by any other English-language accounts from other news organizations, research into both English and Arab language accounts of one assassination, along with Iraqi Police casualties accounts provided to Multinational Corps Iraq (MNC-I) and relayed to me for the day of June 20, 2006, seems to suggest that one story, the assassination of Iraqi Police Captain Amir Kamil, may have been fabricated entirely.

Jamil Hussein is not a source who's stories have been easy to corroborate, and the fact that his accounts came from all over Baghdad, mostly well outside of his jurisdiction, should have thrown his veracity into question months before Hurriyah became and issue.

Two variations of a map showing Hussein's duty stations and the locations of his alleged accounts show just how suspicious accounts are, and are located here:

By way of comparison, this is the equivalent of a New York Police Department officer based in Staten Island being used as source in Brooklyn, Long Island, the Bronx, Queens, and Harlem. Would you allow the reporters in your own organizations to get away with this? Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll and International Editor John Daniszewski apparently did.

Another point of contention is that she still maintains that "Jamil Hussein" is, in fact, the name of her source. This is patently untrue.

According to MNC-I, there is no police officer named Jamil Hussein, despite a January 4, Steven Hurst article (surprising enough, an AP-written article by someone who used Hussein as a source repeatedly) saying otherwise. According to a MNC-I email, Interior Ministry personnel records show that "Jamil Hussein" is actually Jamil Gulaim XXXXX XX-XXXXXXX [name redacted for blog publication]. If this is true--and MNC-I has been right on almost everything so far--then one of two things has occurred.

Either the Associated Press is guilty of extremely shoddy reporting, and has been duped as to XX-XXXXXXX's identity for two years, or the Associated Press reporters and editors involved, in direct violation of the organizations own code of ethics, used a pseudonym for their source.

Considering how rapidly Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs for the Associated Press Linda Wagner contacted me with a denial after I attempted to confirm to XX-XXXXXXX's identity with Steven Hurst (within 1.5 hours), I feel the second is more likely.

Let me now take a moment to review the case I've made:

The Associated Press reported 4 mosques were "burned and blew up." the physical evidence shows that this claim was greatly exaggerated, as all four building still stand.

The Associated Press claims that 24 people died as a result of these attacks. The same photographic evidence cited above flatly debunks the claim of 18 people dying in an inferno, as there was no fire. As for the claim that six people were immolated, there has never been the first bit of evidence to suggest this is true, and local civilians dispute that such an event ever occurred, as does all involved Iraqi Ministries (Interior, Health, Defense) and American military units in the area.

Jamil Hussein, who Kathleen Carroll would seem to imply is a rock-solid source, is not even Jamil Hussein, but Jamil Gulaim XXXXX XX-XXXXXXX. Jamil Hussein seems to be an unacknowledged (and therefore unethical) pseudonym. Only one of 40 accounts provided by Hussein can be readily verified, and it appears that one account, the assassination of Amir Kamil, may have been fabricated.

With all of this known, I hope that you act to restore integrity to the reputation of the Associated Press by correcting the inaccurate Hurriyah stories, and consider investigating how "Jamil Hussein" could have been allowed to be a source for AP for so long when his accounts seemed almost always uncorroborated and well outside of his jurisdiction.

I hope that you also take steps to assure that this kind of journalistic malpractice and "faith-based" reporting does not happen again.

Thank you very much for allowing me to present this matter to you.


I was unable to find the email addresses of all of the Board's members, but feel confident that by contacting these members who have the AP's best interests at heart, that we might see some movement towards a correction of the Associated Press' overexaggerated and in some cases fraudulent reporting in the coming weeks.

Update: Heh. I take it somebody read it.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 26, 2007 01:06 PM | TrackBack

right a wrong, not write a wrong, is what you mean. The latter is what they did.

Posted by: colin at January 26, 2007 01:23 PM

Crap. Dunno why I did that.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at January 26, 2007 01:30 PM

Great letter. And great idea to go to the top to complain about the shoddy product they sell.

Posted by: Patty at January 26, 2007 02:27 PM

I caught a few more typos, but figure since the letter was already sense pointing them out, it was the content...not the typos that are of paramount importance. No worries.

Great letter, it will be interesting to see if they even bother to respond. My suspicion is, they will give the old PKO and say that it's an internal matter for those in AP "management" to decide. But, it's certainly worth trying.

On a second item, LGF has some interesting news today about the "shot in the back of the head" portion of the downed a heads up.

Posted by: cfbleachers at January 26, 2007 02:31 PM

Thanks for the effort. I hope at least one of them will actually read this; but I doubt it will get past their screeners.
Michelle Malkin has a good video on the AP this morning on her web site.

Posted by: Rod Stanton at January 26, 2007 04:03 PM

Way to go!

Posted by: bird dog at January 26, 2007 05:25 PM

Civic! Good on ya.

AP's like that giant Pillsbury Doughboy in Ghostbusters, so big and soft and numb that it doesn't feel pain and never but never has to say "I'm Sorry".

Sure, it's lefty & agenda-driven and dishonest whenever it feels like it, but that's power, ain't it!

Posted by: buddy larsen at January 26, 2007 09:12 PM

Excellent, Bob. I excerpted and linked from Part 44 of my Jamilgate series.

Posted by: Bill Faith at January 26, 2007 09:27 PM

Great letter and an even better idea. The American way to right a wrong is to take things to the people in charge.

As an aside, I went through the 61 AP notations listed by Curt at Flopping Aces, found and read online sources for the articles, and counted "only" 50 AP articles that use Jamil Hussein as a source. A few articles listed more than one incident sourced to Jamil Hussein, thereby increasing the count of incidents attributable to him. However, several of Curt's entries were duplicates - different articles based on the same incident - that decreased the total count. I don't think it makes one whit of difference but I thought I'd mention it here since you have done a yeoman's job of following up on this story.

Posted by: DRJ at January 26, 2007 09:46 PM


... if you want to be taken seriously, spend a little more time on grammar before sending out your silly screeds.

If you would like to indulge in condescending snark, you might wish to double-check your facts.

The error you highlighted is not a grammatical error, it is an error of diction or spelling.


Posted by: Matthew Goggins at January 27, 2007 05:51 AM

Good for you, CY, and thanks for the addresses. I have a few bones to pick with that bunch myself.

Posted by: RebeccaH at January 27, 2007 10:17 AM

CY: Excellent work and many thanks for efforts.I have such a bad taste for the AP and other MSM anymore I have turned my back on them. I send letters and emails to the advertisers of MSM, Hit them where it hurts their pocketbooks.

Posted by: learner at January 27, 2007 04:55 PM