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November 20, 2007
US Plans Charges Against AP Photographer in Iraq
You may recall the case of AP photographer Bilal Hussein who was arrested in April, 2006. At that time, Hussein was under suspicion because some of his "award winning" photographs were of insurgents taking part in attacks, including one famous picture of terrorists executing 3 Iraqis in broad daylight in the middle of a Baghdad street. Hussein and his employer AP swore that it was just a "lucky coincidence" that Hussein happened to be in the right spot at the right time to film the murders.
On April 12, 2006, Hussein was detained by the US military:
Hussein was detained April 12, 2006 after marines entered his house in Ramadi to establish a temporary observation post and found bomb-making materials, insurgent propaganda and a surveillance photograph of a US military installation. He's innocent, says AP:
Morrell said Hussein, who was part of an AP photo team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005, had previously aroused suspicion because he was often at the scene insurgent attacks as they occurred. He said other evidence, which he would not describe, came to light after his detention “that makes it clear that Mr. Hussein is a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP.”
Soon after Hussein was taken into custody, the AP appealed to the U.S. military to either release him or bring the case to trial — saying there was no evidence to support his detention. However, Tomlin said that the military is now attempting to build a case based on "stale" evidence and testimony that has been discredited. He also noted that the U.S. military investigators who initially handled the case have left the country. The AP says various accusations have been floated unofficially against Hussein and then apparently been withdrawn with little explanation.The US military, on the other hand, begs to differ:
“We believe Bilal Hussein was a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP,” he said. “MNF-I possesses convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a threat to security and stability as a link to insurgent activity.”Just an innocent journalist captured and held by evil Americans. Don't all photographers have bomb making equipment in their homes? And how dare the military question the reading habits of anyone. If an AP photographer wants to read "insurgent propaganda" that's his business.
This is the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, we don't know how many stringers and Iraqi-born employees of media organizations are connected to the insurgents or al-Qaeda. But to believe that none of them have sympathies or work for the enemy is absurd. Hussein's case will be reviewed by an Iraqi court. Even if exonerated, the US military is likely to try him on other charges gleaned from interrogations.
Either way, it appears Mr. Hussein's days as a chronicler of insurgent activity - whether as an insider or as a lucky onlooker - are over.