The Associated Press proudly calls itself the “essential global news network” and a “bastion of the people’s right to know around the world.” But when it comes to the “people’s right to know” whether Associated Press employees are cooperating with terrorists overseas, the “essential global news network’s” motto is: Bug off.
On April 12, I learned from military sources that an Associated Press photographer in Iraq, Fallujah native Bilal Hussein, had been captured in Ramadi in an apartment with insurgents and a cache of weapons. This was news. I asked the AP for confirmation. Corporate spokesman Jack Stokes informed me that company officials were “looking into reports that Mr. Hussein was detained by the U.S. military in Iraq but have no further details at this time.” After reporting the alleged detention on my blog, I followed up several more times with AP over the past five months for status updates on Hussein. No reply.
On Sept. 17, the Associated Press finally acknowledged that Hussein was being detained. The AP’s overdue revelation was likely part of an attempt to drum up sympathy for Hussein, who has made critical public statements against our troops in Fallujah, and undermine Bush administration interrogation efforts involving military detainees. The AP article not only confirmed Hussein’s capture, it also revealed (buried deep in the story) that it knew of Hussein’s capture from at least May 7 — when it received an e-mail from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner revealing bombshell details:
“The military said Hussein was captured with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. ‘He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces,’ according to a May 7 e-mail from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, who oversees all coalition detainees in Iraq.”
In fact, the Pentagon said on Monday, after three separate independent reviews, the military had deemed Hussein a security threat with “strong ties to known insurgents . . . involved in activities that were well outside the scope of what you would expect a journalist to be doing in that country.” Hussein “tested positive for traces of explosives.”
Let me repeat that: An Associated (with terrorists) Press journalist gets caught with an alleged al Qaeda leader and tests positive for bomb-making materials. That. Is. News. How does a news organization explain away its decision to sit on it for five months? Like this: “The AP has worked quietly until now, believing that would be the best approach.”
The best approach to journalism? No. The best approach to suppressing a damning connection to terrorists.
The mainstream media enjoys mocking bloggers as journalistic wannabes who don’t do any “real” reporting and have no concern for the “public interest.” But as in the case of the Reuters photo-faking debacle this summer, it is bloggers in their little home offices — not the professionals on the ground thousands of miles away — who smoked out a war story with profound national security implications. Well before I reported on Hussein’s capture, military bloggers and media watchdog bloggers had raised persistent questions over the past two years about Hussein’s relationship with terrorists in Iraq and whether his photos were staged in collusion with our enemies. (For a thorough overview, see here.)
Hussein’s up-close-and-personal insurgent propaganda photos include a Pulitzer Prize-winning image of four terrorists in Fallujah firing a mortar and small arms at our troops in November 2004, several chilling photos with terrorists before, during and after the Iraqi desert execution of kidnapped Italian civilian hostage Salvatore Santoro, and repeat images of Sunni locals in Theater of Jihad poses.
In an investigation of war photo staging and fakery earlier this spring, National Journal‘s Neil Munro exposed another dubious Hussein photo taken in October 2005 of a purported funeral image outside Ramadi. An accompanying article claimed the U.S. had bombed the crowd including 18 children. But according to the military, video footage of the air strike against terrorist roadside bombers in that incident showed only what appeared to be grown men where the bomb struck. Munro reported: “AP officials declined to make Hussein available for an interview.”
The Hussein case may be the tip of the iceberg. In December 2005, AP television footage was used to spread bogus reports (see here) of a fake “uprising” in Ramadi. Earlier this spring, independent milblogger Bill Roggio identified another suspicious AP/Hussein-photographed scene in Ramadi (see here). And blogger Clarice Feldman at The American Thinker recently highlighted 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” (see here).
I e-mailed the AP yesterday to find out whether any other AP employees are currently in military detention. The people have a “right to know,” don’t they?