January 08, 2007

Monday Morning Jamil Roundup

While I've been busy over the weekend doing family stuff, other bloggers have kept up the pressure on the continuing on-going scandal called Jamilgate, where the Associated Press claimed that 24 people were burned to death and four mosques were rocketed, machine gunned, burned and blown up along with several homes burned in a Baghdad neighborhood on Friday, November 24, 2006.

The AP has since attempted to rewrite their story after the fact, now only maintaining that six people were immolated and that only one mosque was attacked. Though the claims made in the story have been changed by roughly 75-percent, one of their primary sources is facing arrest, another retracted his claim, and another key source was a group aligned with al Qaeda, the AP's executive editor Kathleen Carroll continues to prove she is the Mike Nifong of professional journalism.

Carroll says she stand by AP's reporting on this story, even as her reporters have dramatically changed it over time (See Protein Wisdom for an excellent summary of the events so far).

Among the bloggers that continued to cover the AP over the weekend have been Dafydd ab Hugh and Sachi X of Big Lizards. On Friday, Sachi released a three-part critique on the main defenders of the Associated Press, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters. Start with Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - 1 and read all three parts. Sachi's partner in crime, Dafydd released So Where IS Lieutenant Kije? yesterday afternoon, wondering what, if anything, Jamil Hussein might have in common with an eight-foot tall invisible rabbit named Harvey (I'd point out as an aside that Harvey was at least "seen" by a decorated U.S. Air Force combat pilot who retired as Brigadier General James Stewart. To the best of my knowledge, that is one more U.S. military officer than has seen Jamil Hussein).

On Saturday, Kurt at Flopping Aces revealed an email exchange he had with Bill Costlow, CPATT (Civilian Police Assistance Training Team) representative on his way back to Baghdad to work with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. Costlow points out something I've heard, but haven't previously commented on: Jamil Hussein may have been difficult to find because that is not the name he is known under as an Iraqi police officer. While the AP credits him as Jamil Hussein, the Iraqi Police Captain calls himself Jamil Gulaim, and when an officer by the name of "Captain Jamil Ghlaim" was questioned several weeks ago, he denied being AP's source.

If Jamil Ghlaim Hussein is the AP's source, and is the same man denying being the AP's source, what kind of position does it place the Associated Press in, on not just the immolation stories, but the dozens of other stories sourced to Jamil Hussein since April of 2006?

Of course, it isn't just bloggers that are concerned over the implications of Jamilgate. Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner hits the same point I've been repeating that liberal bloggers and liberal blog commenters either don't seem able to grasp, or would prefer to overlook:

But even if it is stipulated that AP has been right all along, it has been using a source who is an Iraqi Police Captain by name of Jamil Hussein, that isn't proof that he is a credible source.

Don't forget that al Qaeda and the insurgents have made clear that they consider learning to manipulate the western press is a major front in their war of Jihad.

And there is abundant evidence that there are significant numbers of insurgent sympathizers among the Iraqi Police forces. Neither is it beyond the realm of possibility that Hussein is in fact a double agent.

I talked earlier today with an old journalism friend who has covered just about every significant foreign military action involving U.S. troops in the past 15 years, including both the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and Iraq War of 2003.

My friend explained the difficulties faced by AP and other Western journalists in the theater. Because it is so dangerous outside the Green Zone in Baghdad, few Western journalists venture out beyond its confines.

So they have to rely upon local stringers drawn from among the Iraqi population. Because being a news stringer can put dollars in the pocket, there is a tremendous competition among these folks to bring the Western journalists the best stories.

That competition is, of course, an open invitation to exaggeration, rumor and outright lies being peddled as legitimate news. It is also an opening for a resourceful insurgent or al Qaeda operative to become a source for Western journalists.

Because of AP's ill-advised "trust me" attitude when bloggers first began questioning the credibility of Hussein as a source, the emphasis was on proving his existence.

Proving that he exists is not the same thing as establishing his credibility as a source, especially since there is so much contrary evidence regarding the six Sunnis being burned alive.

Going back to the Duke Lacrosse rape case that I used as an analogy last week, merely proving that the accuser exists does not prove the story, especially when the stories keep changing, the credibility of the witnesses is in jeopardy, and there is little or no physical evidence supporting any of the ever-changing allegations made.

Of course, Tapscott is far from being the only professional journalist concerned over the AP's apparent shifting stories and dubious claims. Jules Crittenden of the Boston Herald posts at his blog Forward Movement:

The AP publishes hundreds of stories a day. Why should anyone give a damn if any of them are accurate? Grubby impertinent news reader people. Just because the AP's claim of four mosques torched and six people burned to death as troops looked on was outlandish, remains unsubstantiated and government officials said the source didn't exist.

E&P scribbler Joe Strupp and Carroll enthusiastically repeat several times that "Hussein" has been threatened with arrest for talking to reporters. They fail to mention that's for unauthorized blather about incidents that may not have actually occurred and could represent insurgent propaganda. If in fact Jamil exists, of course. The Ministry of Interior's record on that is spotty and the AP seems to have lost track of him just as he's been "found."

Crittenden and Tapscott hit at the heart of the matter: the stringer-based reporting methodology and apparently weak editorial checks-and-balances indicate that the world's largest news organization highly susceptible to insurgent propaganda efforts. After all, one of the sources AP used in its Jamilgate coverage is a Sunni group affiliated with al Qaeda that the Associated Press ran without any apparent concerns as to their credibility. If the Associated Press will run claims made by known terrorist supporters, how susceptible do you think they are to running claims by those who first establish an air of legitimacy?

Jamil Hussein is one source cited by name in more than five dozen AP stories, and used anonymously an unknown number of times as an AP source since 2004 to provide information on stories well outside of his jurisdiction as a police officer. You wouldn't cite a Brooklyn cop on stories occurring in Queens or Harlem, any yet, that is precisely what the Associated Press did, time after time after time as the used Jamil Hussein. I checked 40 of the 61 AP stories where Jamil Hussein was cited as a source, and have been able to convincingly verify just one, the death of a Defense Ministry Public Affairs employee, and that only through research done by a native Arab-speaker in the Arab press.

The Associated Press may have very good reasons for failing to account for the varied storylines they've presented, for attempting to shift the blame from themselves to the Iraqi Government, the American military, and various bloggers, but the fact remains that they've had more than six weeks to provide these very good reasons, and the only defense they 've offered so far is to repeatedly attack their critics, and claim they stand behind their reporting, even as they feverishly rewrite it.

Slowly, but surely, the APís story and credibility are falling apart.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 8, 2007 10:52 AM | TrackBack

For any thinking person, CY...the above represents the ONLY solid analysis of the situation. Again, with one proviso...that all this emphasis on the AP being "used" by folks with an agenda. If this was the first or only time, when photgraphs were PROVEN to be photoshopped, when it was PROVEN that a guy in a Green Helmet was STAGING events...then, we might consider the AP to have been "duped" once again.

But it simply doesn't pass the smell test. When confronted with facts that were in direct contradiction to the story that was originally published, they failed to come clean. That's a coverup. That's conspiracy after the fact.

Which would lead any decent investigator to begin to look at whether the conspiracy was confined to after the fact, or whether it arose before the fact.

If you used Jamil, Jamail, Ghulaim, Guliam...whatever...61 times, it would seem to me that you would have stumbled upon whether his ability to KNOW would have crossed your mind. I mean, these are INVESTIGATIVE reporters...and it never crosses their minds to ask how in the world this guy, who is located in a "fortress like, sealed off world of a police station" would KNOW events happening outside of his district.

Isn't that a reasonable question to explore? To even ask?

Nope. It's not relevant, because it's of little or no import. It doesn't matter if he "knows" anything. In fact, the reporters can simply fill him in on the story and have him "confirm" it back to them, to give it that "sourciness" flavor.

After a couple dozen times of getting away with this, he is emboldened to "sprinkle" in some facts of his own. Why not, nobody's paying any attention anyway, right?

THEY know, that he doesn't know anything, because they are feeding him the story to begin with. Is such a scenario possible?

We can't possibly know, because the AP and their apologists won't let us into the inner circle of silence.

1)We ask about the details of this story being so utterly wrong,

they respond by saying that we were joking about his very existence, therefore, we don't deserve to know about the details of the story being right or wrong.

2)We ask how they came to use him for that "hot sourcy" flavor OUTSIDE his district using his name and the very police station he worked in

they respond that we have put his life in mortal danger and to ask any more questions about the basis of ALL his stories, is akin to issuing him a death warrant

3)We ask for verification of the facts detailed in his "hot source" flavored reports

and they respond that in a "fog of war" some MINOR details might get misreported...but if any of our OTHER reports are correct...we should get a pass on the phony ones.

4)We say, if you are failing to report ANY positive news (see Curt at flopping aces on today's date for instance), and ALL the misreporting is done to further advance the notion that everything is bad, nothing is good, it's all a complete failure...then you seem to have an agenda. We question your motives, we question your sourcing, we question your failure to edit, your failure to retract and apologize, your failure to meet even minimal journalistic and ethical standards.

4)They have no rights, you have no station, you have no legitimacy, you have absolutely no standing to question us...we are the Ministry of Media aristocracy.

I say. THIS is the battlefront where we MUST win. The odds are enormous against us, and the axiom of "never pick a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel" is certainly in play. But we MUST win. Truthiness, liberally flavored with not a dish I want to swallow.

Stop the Ministry of Media's campaign of lies. It is our greatest threat. Don't give up.

Posted by: cfbleachers at January 8, 2007 11:33 AM

Since Jamil, Jamail, Jamazel was locked away in a "fortress-like complex" unable to get out into the real world, it seems most likely that he would have to get HIS info from a "source".

Since so many of his "confirmed reports" came OUTSIDE his district, it seems axiomatic that his "sources" within his district, had to have sources from outside ...and in the OTHER districts.

Of course, it goes without saying, that those "sources" outside the district can't be at all places at all times and they would need sources. So, it appears that the AP was relying on a source, within a source, within that source, within that Iraqi Boxes?

Big Sources have little sources
To call upon and cite em
And those sources have littler sources
On and on ad infinitum

Posted by: cfbleachers at January 8, 2007 12:04 PM

Excellent roundup, Bob. I excerpted and linked at Lt. Kije identified, facing arrest? -- Day 4, which is Part 33 of my on-going Jamilgate coverage.

Posted by: Bill Faith at January 8, 2007 12:46 PM

Posted by cfbleachers at January 8, 2007 12:04 PM

Reminds me of the game we played in grade-school. The first guy in the row was told a sentance by the teacher, he/she whispered it to the one behind them, they to the next, and so on until the last person had to write it on the board, then the origional was shown and we would laugh at the end results.

Posted by: Retired Navy at January 8, 2007 01:01 PM

I think everyone is overlooking a tidbit that was unearthed in the Iraqi Intelligence archives a while ago that stated Saddam essentially had a spy on the inside at AP. There too, AP attempted to shift blame and took a swipe at bloggers.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at January 8, 2007 03:06 PM

In looking at the 40/61 stories that were sourced to Jamil Hussein, was there a pattern to the stories? Were they primarily Sunni on Shia violence, Shia on Sunni, mixed, or could you tell?

Posted by: DRJ at January 9, 2007 09:41 PM