AP: Some ‘Capt. Hussein’ Proof? Yet, More Questions Remain

-By Warner Todd Hsuton

As last reported on Publius’ forum, the AP has been under fire for a November ’06 report that 6 Iraqi Sunnis were burned alive in sectarian violence a claim that was never adequately proven and is hotly disputed by both Iraqi Government and US Military officials. And, as many Bloggers investigated (such as Michelle Malkin and Patrick Frey of Patterico’s Pontifications among many more), the identity of the AP’s lone source seemed impossible to establish.

At last it seems some light has been shed on the existence of this capt. Hussein as we get the story from Michelle Malkin’s site. Michelle has been the chief bulldog in efforts to reveal the AP’s mysterious source.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – The Interior Ministry acknowledged Thursday that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media.

It looks like we just might have an answer — though it is not yet assured that this person is, indeed, the “capt. Jamil Hussein” the AP used as a source. Still, the revelation that such a man actually exists seems to answer to the doubts that the AP actually had a live source for this story.

But it’s only a start toward solving the controversies surrounding this AP story.

There are still many questions that dog this story and the AP is not out of the woods yet where it concerns the truth of whether 6 Iraqi Sunnis were burned alive or not. And that, not the existence of this capt. Hussein, has always been the central point to the dispute. The existence of the source always was a sidelight, a distraction, to the story, not the main problem.

There is not a shred of proof that the 6 burning Iraqis incident ever happened and this is an issue that the AP has still not satisfactorily addressed. There’s no independent source, no burnt bodies … little of the story has checked out other than the source, at long last. And THAT has taken over a month and a lot of recrimination and controversy to straighten out.

Central points of this story

  • Did the incident ever even happen and where is the proof?
  • Why does the AP publish news stories based on only one witness with no corroboration?
  • How long has the AP been publishing stories on the word of only one witness?

As I wrote in my first report on this issue on NewsBusters:

And, it has always been a staple of journalism that more than one source be required to publish a story reported as “fact”. After all, if only ONE source is ever needed for a story, then anyone can publish anything as “fact” merely upon any single person’s say so.

The AP’s inability to substantiate their source was but a small part of the questions the AP faces overs its credibility here.

Expect the AP to wash its hands of this issue, though, imagining it is a closed case now that we seem to have proof of the existence of capt. Hussein.

As for the rest of us, there is a long way to go before we could be satisfied that the AP is practicing due diligence in their reporting.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001