Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Getting the News from the Enemy

Ever since the original "fauxtography" scandal, there has been increasing scrutiny over the use of local stringers to cover stories in the middle east. The latest set of questions comes from the reporting on Iraq, which most agree is heavy on the gloom and doom side. It's all been chalked up to "if it bleeds, it leads," mentality of the press.

However, one alert blogger has noticed that many of the sources for the news in Iraq are not reliable, to say the least. People claiming to be representatives from the Iraq police force or army are feeding reporters exaggerations and outright lies in an attempt to further dishearten Americans and push us closer to a Vietnam-like withdrawal.

The AP has been getting a large number of its stories from one Captain Jamil Hussein, who does not exist.

I just sent the following to AP:

Dear AP:

I just read your statement on journalistic integrity. It's good stuff. Especially this part:

That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise.
It means we always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information – not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable.

So it puzzles me that you frequently use one Captain Jamil Hussein as a source for many of the more bloody stories out of Iraq. There is no Captain Jamil Hussein in the Iraqi police. http://floppingaces2.blogspot.com/2006/11/getting-news-from-enemy.html.

That blogger's query to CENTCOM yielded the following response:

Unfortunately, we do not have a direct contact into the MOI so we cannot provide you with that. We have to work through a CF organization called the CPATT (Coalition Police Assistance Training Team), an MNFI organization that seems to be made up of retired police officers.

Since September we have been engaging CPATT to verify the legitimacy and employment status of various MOI/IP spokesmen. Our contact at CPATT has been quite helpful, however, I know helping us is not his full-time job. Interestly, MOI has apparently issued an edict that no one below the level of Chief can speak to the media. We have reminded AP of this but without proof that these spokesman are not employees, they have pretty much ignored us. (If you were a reporter, would who give up a primo source because of rank? Probably not.)

I personally engaged CPATT about Capt. Jamil Hussein’s legitimacy within an hour of seeing the burning alive story — which we cannot verify from any source, but how do you prove a negative.

Of note, we definitely know that one IP spokesman - Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq of the city’s Yarmouk police station (a.k.a. police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq) is not authorized to speak on behalf of the IP and the MOI supposedly issued a warrant for his questioning. That happened a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t seen his name recently.

Below is an incomplete list of MOI spokesmen we are tracking since the middle of November and trying to verify.

Very respectfully,

LT Dean

Given that the Iraqi police have mandated that no officer below the rank of chief is to make statements to the press, you shouldn't even be talking to a captain, real or imaginary. What gives?

I don't know who's at fault for this oversight, but given that the blogosphere is keeping such a close eye on y'all, doesn't it behoove you to check your sources more carefully? I mean, this is embarrassing.

Good luck getting the egg off your face,

This is a link to the AP Statement of News Values and Principles, and you can send e-mail to the AP at info@ap.org.

I'm going to send a similar letter to my local newspapers, asking them to refrain from using AP stories unless they can confirm the identities of their alleged sources.

It would also appear that the LA Times is also relying on unreliable sources for their reporting about Iraq.

This is worse than disgusting. It's positively criminal.

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