The AP has produced its long-awaited response on the matter of Jamil Hussein. It is now reporting that the Iraqi Interior Ministry initially failed to find Jamil Hussein’s name in a search of police records, but that a subsequent search confirmed that Hussein actually does work as a police officer in Baghdad. According to the AP, the U.S. military was given the initial, incorrect information, but apparently it was not informed of the subsequent correction:
Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said Thursday that the military had asked the Interior Ministry on Nov. 26 if it had a policeman by the name of Jamil Hussein. Two days later, U.S. Navy Lt. Michael B. Dean, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Navy Multi-National Corps-Iraq Joint Operations Center, sent an e-mail to AP in Baghdad saying that the military had checked with the Iraqi Interior Ministry and was told that no one by the name of Jamil Hussein worked for the ministry or was a Baghdad police officer. [...]
[MOI spokesman Abdul-Karim] Khalaf did not say whether the U.S. military had ever been told that Hussein in fact exists. Garver, the U.S. military spokesman, said Thursday that he was not aware that the military had ever been told.
The AP is also reporting that Hussein is facing arrest for speaking to the media, but that the charges will be dropped unless the AP cooperates by picking him out of a lineup:
Khalaf said Thursday that with the arrest of Hussein for breaking police regulations against talking to reporters, the AP would be called to identify him in a lineup as the source of its story.
Should the AP decline to assist in the identification, Khalaf said, the case against Hussein would be dropped. He also said there were no plans to pursue action against the AP should it decline.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry appears to have committed a colossal error here, and if the AP’s reporting is correct, then the U.S. military and a number of conservative bloggers, myself included, gave the MOI too much credit and the AP too little in the criticism that followed.
That said, the MOI and CENTCOM were unequivocal in their statements about Jamil Hussein. It was not unreasonable for news consumers and media critics to expect the AP to respond to their allegations by producing a report like this one.
For its part, the AP should strive for more transparency on sourcing and stringers in order to prevent future incidents like this one. For their part, conservative bloggers and media critics need to tone down the rhetoric about collusion with the enemy. I’m not exempting myself from this criticism. We know that enemy propaganda makes its way into the Western press through sympathetic stringers and other means, but this is the exception and not the rule, and we need to be much more careful about stressing that fact.
Which brings us to the incident that started all this: the Mosque attack for which Jamil Hussein was the AP’s main source. The MOI and CENTCOM have denied it ever happened, and other news organizations couldn’t verify that it happened, but given how badly the MOI appears to have screwed up, the AP and Hussein deserve the benefit of the doubt here. If Jamil Hussein was telling the truth, then MB reader C.J. Burch makes a good point when he speculates that:
… the Sheik who changed his story on the burning six was intimidated by Iraqi officals. No matter how this hurts politically, we need to know the facts. If the Iraqi government has become completely lawless, we sure as hell shouldn’t be supporting it.
He’s right. Both the AP and its critics in the blogosphere owe it to their readers to keep following this story. A lot of unanswered questions remain.