Who is Capt. Jamil Hussein? A Blogger Finds Him?

Mary Katharine Ham
|
Posted: Dec 18, 2006 11:43 AM

When last we left the story, the AP had still not produced Capt. Jamil Hussein, but had managed to produce another shoot-the-messenger piece on the blog-driven story:

Their assertions that the AP has been duped or worse are unfounded and just plain wrong.

No organization has done more to try to shed light on what happened Nov. 24 in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad than The Associated Press...

Still, no Jamil Hussein.

The AP has been transparent and fair since the first day of our reporting on this issue.

We have not ignored the questions about our work raised by the U.S. military and later, by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Indeed, we published those questions while also sending AP journalists back out to the scene to dig further into what happened and why others might be questioning the initial accounts.

Where's Jamil Hussein? He's a named source that the AP has worked with for two years. It seems proof of his existence should be easy to produce.

Some of AP's critics question the existence of police Capt. Jamil Hussein, who was one (but not the only) source to tell us about the burning.

It's worth noting--which is, of course, why the AP refrained from doing so-- that the first of those witnesses was not added to the story until a good nine hours after Jamil Hussein told it, and it had spread all over the world. The sources added after that were added on Tuesday, after the story had been flying around the globe for more than four days, and they were unnamed. So, there are some lingering questions as to the validity of those corroborations. By the time AP added them, any Joe Schmoe newswatcher in Idaho could have known enough about the story to corroborate it, since the story was so big.

Those journalists have no interest in furthering the chaos that makes daily life in Iraq so perilous. They want what any of us want: To be able to live and work without fear and raise their children in peace and safety.

Questioning their integrity and work ethic is simply offensive.

It's awfully easy to take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad.

Can't comment on coverage unless you're in Baghdad or, barring that, a head editor at AP, it would seem.

Well, since the AP seemed incapable of answering important questions, bloggers went about doing it for them. Michelle Malkin was contemplating a trip to Baghdad, and Marc Danziger may have just spotted the elusive Mr. Hussein from California:

With the help of some friends who have been doing a smidgen of looking, and it appears - appears, but is not certain - that there is in fact a Jamail Hussein in the Yarmouk police station in Baghdad. We'll know more tomorrow.

Slightly different spelling. Just a mix-up that the Ministry of Interior didn't spot his name? It would seem the Iraqi members of the MOI woud know to look for slightly different spellings of common Arabic names.

Instapundit puts it well:

Upside for AP: This would mean he exists. Downside for AP: A blogger operating from California finds a source in Iraq that AP itself couldn't produce.

See Dubya remains very skeptical:

None of this proves either way whether "Capt. Jamil Hussein" is real or a phantom. But it shows that the questions of the "Mad Blog Rabble" aren't that unreasonable compared with what the AP is selling, and that they deserve a serious response from the AP, not simply scorn and derision. This may have escaped the high-and-mighty Ms. Carroll, but we are customers--very discerning customers--of the AP's services. And we are dissatisfied. What will the AP do about it?

P.S. Incidentally, AP had a little inaccuracy here about where exactly "Capt. Jamil Hussein" works. On November 28th, AP International Editor John Daniszewski issued two statements condemning the questioners. One is here at USA Today's On Deadline:

He is an officer at the police station in Yarmouk, with a record of reliability and truthfulness. His full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein.

And here is another, on AP's site (scroll down to the 11-28 item):

He has been based at the police station at Yarmouk, and more recently at al-Khadra, another Baghdad district, and has been interviewed by the AP several times at his office and by telephone. His full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein.

Allah grabbed a media hit with his back-to-earth analysis of Danziger's new information on Hussein, and E&P is just delighted about the new delevopments.

The tag for the story on the Hot Air home page currently reads, "Anyone got any good recipes for crow?"

The short E&P post is basically cobbled together from Marc Danziger's, Michelle Malkin's, and Allah's work, offers no new evidence of its own, and addresses none of the remaining questions about this guy. Guess you can't expect much more from a publication edited by a guy who's admitted making up quotes for news stories, and who even changed the text of the admission of his journalistic sin when bloggers brought attention to it back in August. That's right. Remember Greg Mitchell? At least E&P is just copying bloggers and not making stuff up out of whole cloth. Baby steps.

And, we're a "mad dog rabble" for suspecting these folks?

Whether or not Jamil Hussein turns up, the questions about his existence are legitimate, and the AP should have wanted, from the beginning, to put them to rest out of respect for their customers and respect for the truth. They could have produced Jamil Hussein, and answered the concerns of some of their closest, most avid readers, thereby dispelling some of our doubts about the coverage of the war, in general. But they didn't. They chose to malign us instead of answering questions about what happened that day in Hurriyah.

I understand that covering a war in a war zone is a tough job, one that brave folks should be commended for doing. I understand that things can get mixed up in the fog of war, and falsehoods can make it into print. But responsible journalists should be interested in doing as close to perfect a job as possible, and that means answering pertinent questions about coverage-- even when they come from (gasp!) righty bloggers.

Covering a war in a war zone is a tough job, one that brave folks should be commended for doing. Covering a war in a war zone accurately is an even tougher job, and one that deserves even more commendation. If the AP showed any inclination to do the latter, and to make sure their readers know they're doing just that, newsmakers and newsreaders alike would be a lot better off.

Who is Jamil Hussein? Marc Danziger or Michelle Malkin will figure it out before AP or E&P does. Scooped again.

Update: As I said, legitimate questions. Lots of 'em.