The new site looks great — I almost hate fouling it up with our usual tour through Greater Wingnuttia. And this week’s tour will be especially foul. The Citizen Journalists of the right blogosphere seem to have surpassed themselves, achieving altogether new heights of vicious absurdity. Have they actually gotten a man thrown in prison through their hysteria?
Many of you will recall the case of Bilal Hussein. Hussein is an Iraqi photographer from Fallujah who was working as an AP stringer; one of his pictures was included in the portfolio the AP submitted to win the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. In April 2006, Hussein was detained by the US military and accused of having ties to the insurgency. No charges were brought against him for about a year and a half. That is, until just a few days ago, when the US finally sent a written complaint about him to the Iraqi government. On December 9 an Iraqi court will decide if enough evidence exists to bring him to trial for aiding terrorists — though US military officials insist that they have the right to keep him locked up for as long as they like even if the court lets him go. The AP declares that their own investigation shows that the accusations against him are unsubstantiated. As far as they can tell, anyway, because it remains unclear upon exactly what foundations these accusations rest.
Conservative U.S. blogs routinely critique war photographs that don’t portray U.S. military actions in a positive light. But few individual photographers have been singled out the way Hussein has been.
Blogs like that of columnist Michelle Malkin, The Jawa Report and Little Green Footballs have been following Hussein almost obsessively since his career began in 2004.
In two cases, it appears U.S. military sources fed the blogs information about Hussein that had not been made public elsewhere….
The Jawa Report, decked out in Star Wars graphics, is written anonymously by someone who uses the name Rusty Shackleford, a reference to a character on King of the Hill.
Last week, The Jawa Report said a military source e-mailed to thank the blog for helping in the case against Bilal Hussein. The source told the blog he was an investigator at Abu Ghraib prison who recognized Hussein (who was held there for a time) as the much-criticized AP photographer, and notified his superiors.
In an e-mail interview, the blogger known as Rusty (who refused to give any details identifying himself) told PDN why he initially thought Hussein’s work was so suspicious. He said Hussein was producing photographs of two particular insurgent groups in Fallujah, the Army of Ansar al Sunnah and Tawid wal Jihad, or al-Qeada in Iraq.
"The groups, at the time, routinely murdered any one they believed to be a ‘collaborater’ or ‘spy’. It was also when any foreigner they found they held hostage and then beheaded," the blogger wrote. "Yet Hussein was given free access."
Asked if he stood by his posts that implied Hussein should be killed, the blogger answered, "Ha, no."…
As Will says, "’Ha’…very funny. Frankly, I don’t care if soldiers in Iraq and bloggers here want to trade emails — it’s a free country — but given the lack of specific evidence cited by the U.S. military in the Bilal Hussein case so far, you have to wonder how much of this man’s 19-month detention was driven by one big blogo-smear."
The hysteria of Greater Wingnuttia as to this case when Hussein’s detention was finally announced was dissected by Will, Dave Neiwert, Greg Sargent, and Glenn Greenwald. Unless you’re crazy — and convinced beforehand as a tenet of Wingnut Belief that the AP is deliberately attempting to sabotage the war effort — the more you review the stuff righty blogs have been saying about Hussein from the beginning, the less convinced you are by any of it.
This is par for the course. But can you even imagine the horror of having your freedom depending upon the standards of "proof" that seem to apply in Greater Wingnuttia? And the evidence cited by the military also seems pretty squishy:
Officials at Camp Cropper, where Hussein is currently being held have reportedly admitted that their evidence against him on most of the charges is “weak”, but say they have “irrefutable proof” of his involvement in supplying a false ID card and of conspiring with insurgents to photograph explosions. According to AP, none of Bilal’s 900 submitted photographs over his 20-month employment with AP including explosions.
Lindsay has even more, including some information about who to contact if you’re pissed off about this. And see also the "Open Letter from Military Reporters and Editors Regarding Associated Press Photographer Bilal Hussein."