Wednesday night, I received a call from my column syndicate, Creators Syndicate. The Associated Press had phoned my editor to inform her that it would be sending a response to my column about detained AP photographer Bilal Hussein. (Funny how quickly they respond now. Where have they been the past five months? Oh, right: Busy covering up the news about Hussein's April 12 capture by the military at a Ramadi apartment with an alleged al Qaeda leader and a weapons cache.) The AP asked my editor to supply its corporate communications office with my newspaper client list so it could disseminate its response.
Well, I am happy to help out the AP by sending it out as a bonus column to all my syndicate clients (I've also posted the statement on my blog.). The AP's non-response response is a very instructive, valuable and revealing document that I'd like all of you to see. It is as damning for what it says as for what it doesn't say. As you'll see, AP's statement abandons any attempt to address the key issues bloggers and my column have raised -- its questionable journalistic judgment in suppressing news of Hussein's detention for five months, its compromised neutrality, and its dangerous dependence on dubious local stringers embedded with the Iraqi insurgency. Instead, AP has written a little policy brief that calls into question the news organization's ability to be fair and impartial in its reporting on the capture, detention and interrogation of security detainees in Iraq and other fronts in the war on terror:
For publication in those newspapers who used the Malkin column in print or online:
September 20, 2006
Letter to the Editor:
Michelle Malkin's incendiary Sept. 20, 2006 column about Associated Press is filled with innuendo, distortion and factual error. This is not surprising because AP has found numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations in Malkin's online blog references to AP photographer Bilal Hussein, who has been detained in Iraq for more than five months by the U.S. military without being charged. Malkin would deny Bilal due process and the rule of law by trying him in her column and assuming his guilt by mere association.
Among other things, Malkin asserts in her column that Bilal took photographs "before, during, and after the Iraqi desert execution of . . . Salvatore Santoro." This is absolutely false. The man identified as Santoro was already dead by the time anyone working for The Associated Press was brought to see him. The AP story, filed on December 16, 2004, explains that masked insurgents stopped Hussein and other AP journalists at a roadblock and took them to the site where the blindfolded body lay, already stiff with rigor mortis. For the full story and photo captions that AP transmitted, see http://www.ap.org/response/response_091906a.html.
To see all the facts about the detention of AP photographer Bilal Hussein and thousands of others detained by the U.S. military in Iraq, see AP's extensive news coverage at http://www.ap.org/pages/about/whatsnew/whatsnew.html.
There you can learn why AP has been asking the U.S. military to either charge or release Bilal, an Iraqi citizen whom they detained while he was working in Ramadi. While claiming his ties to insurgents are inappropriate, the military has not provided clear evidence or brought charges in a court of law.
Journalists interview and photograph murderers, child molesters, kidnappers, and, yes, even terrorists, when they cover news that the public has a right to know, such as the reality of the insurgency in Iraq. To cover the conflicts in our world, journalists must have contact with the people who engage on various sides of the conflict. While AP understands that its journalists may be detained briefly during a military sweep on occasion, indefinite detention without charges is not acceptable.
As AP reported on September 17, Bilal is one of about 14,000 people held by the U.S. military as "security detainees" in a global network of overseas prisons. They have not been charged with crimes, and most have not heard why they have been held. Government officials in Iraq say the U.S. has no right to detain its citizens in this way.
AP is insisting that the U.S. military follow accepted due process under the law and the Geneva Conventions -- that is, give Bilal Hussein the chance to see any evidence and answer formal charges; if the evidence is not there, release him.
Ellen Hale, V.P., Corporate Communications
The Associated Press
Now go back and read my column.
If my column and online blog references are so "filled with innuendo, distortion and factual error," why does the AP come up with a whopping one specific example? Let's dispense with this lone example concerning Hussein's Santoro photos -- which AP undoubtedly hopes will distract readers from the fundamental issue of the news organization's news suppression.
I encourage you all to read the AP account referred to in the statement -- which implies that Santoro was killed because he crashed through an insurgent checkpoint and ran over a terrorist. Video from that day, shot by another so-called journalist who accompanied Bilal Hussein on the desert field trip to visit Santoro's killers, however, shows the terrorists bragging about killing Santoro because of his support and ties to America. Rusty Shackleford raises additional doubt about the single anonymous source -- wonder who? -- upon whom AP relies for the facts.
More telling than what the AP chooses to respond to is what it remained stunningly silent on in its statement about my column and blog posts supposedly filled with "numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations."
What does the AP have to say about its five-month blackout on the news of Hussein's detention, first reported on this blog and covered extensively in what it derisively calls the "so-called blogosphere"?
What does the AP have to say about the questions raised by National Journal's Neil Munro over a dubious Hussein photo taken in October 2005 of a purported funeral image outside Ramadi disputed by the U.S. military?
What does the AP have to say about questions raised by milblogger Bill Roggio concerning another suspicious AP/Hussein-photographed scene in Ramadi of a favorite staging ground for terrorists?
What does the AP have to say about blogger Cori Dauber's scathing critique of old AP television footage used to spread bogus reports of a fake "uprising" in Ramadi in December 2005
What does the AP have to say about blogger Clarice Feldman's post at the American Thinker on an Iraqi intelligence document that bragged about "one of our sources (the degree of trust in him is good) who works in the American Associated Press Agency"?
Instead, most of AP's 444-word response reads like an Amnesty International press release arguing for the "charge or release" law enforcement approach to Hussein and 14,000 other security detainees deemed high-risk threats to our coalition forces in Iraq:
"Malkin would deny Bilal due process and the rule of law by trying him in her column and assuming his guilt by mere association. . . . There you can learn why AP has been asking the U.S. military to either charge or release Bilal. . . . AP is insisting that the U.S. military follow accepted due process under the law and the Geneva Conventions -- that is, give Bilal Hussein the chance to see any evidence and answer formal charges; if the evidence is not there, release him."
With its non-response response to my column, the AP has made its priorities crystal clear. AP stands for Advocacy Press. Its reporting on military detentions and interrogations of enemy combatants and security detainees -- and its coverage of the accompanying legislative and legal debates -- cannot be trusted as fair and impartial as it lobbies aggressively for the military to subjugate its security concerns and intelligence-gathering mission in favor of what AP exec Tom Curley calls "justice."
You can count on AP, the "essential global network," to support your "right to know" and cover the news -- except when the news organization deems it more important to cover it up. Right, AP?