***9/18 7:21 pm Eastern update: Bumping to the top…originally posted September 17, 2006 11:53 AM
Pentagon says tonight that Bilal Hussein had strong insurgent ties:
The Pentagon said on Monday that an Iraqi photographer working for The Associated Press and held by the U.S. military since April was considered a security threat with “strong ties to known insurgents.”
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said there was sufficient evidence to justify the continued detention of Bilal Hussein, 35, who AP said was taken into U.S. military custody on April 12 in the Iraqi city of Ramadi and held since without charge.
He declined to elaborate on what that evidence was.
“All indications that I have received are that Hussein’s detainment indicates that he has strong ties to known insurgents, and that he was doing things, involved in activities that were well outside the scope of what you would expect a journalist to be doing in that country,” he said.
In three separate “independent objective reviews,” Whitman told reporters, “it was determined that Hussein was a security threat and recommended his continued detention.”
This is AP photographer Bilal Hussein, detained in Iraq for five months after US military captured him with insurgents, including an alleged al Qaeda leader, in a Ramadi apartment with bomb-making material.
A sample of Hussein’s photos:
Alone in the desert with the killers of Italian hostage Salvatore Santoro–and feeling safe and fine
Smile–you’re on jihad camera
A typical example of photography from the “insurgents'” perspective
Up close and personal for a performance of the Theater of Jihad
Over the past five months, I have pestered the Associated Press for answers about one of its photographers, Iraq-based Bilal Hussein. As noted here in April, Hussein’s photos have raised persistent questions in the blogosphere about his relationship with terrorists in Iraq and whether his photos were/are staged in collusion with the enemy. Military sources informed me then that Hussein had been captured by American forces in a building in Ramadi, Iraq, with a cache of weapons.
AP has maintained complete silence about the case. Until this morning. In a bombshell article filed by Robert Tanner (hat tip: Jim Lynch), we learn some very interesting–and damning details–confirming my initial report:
The U.S. military in
Iraq has imprisoned an Associated Press photographer for five months, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing.
Military officials said Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi citizen, was being held for “imperative reasons of security” under United Nations resolutions. AP executives said the news cooperative’s review of Hussein’s work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system.
Hussein, 35, is a native of Fallujah who began work for the AP in September 2004. He photographed events in Fallujah and Ramadi until he was detained on April 12 of this year.
“We want the rule of law to prevail. He either needs to be charged or released. Indefinite detention is not acceptable,” said Tom Curley, AP’s president and chief executive officer. “We’ve come to the conclusion that this is unacceptable under Iraqi law, or Geneva Conventions, or any military procedure.”
Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide — 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom.
In Hussein’s case, the military has not provided any concrete evidence to back up the vague allegations they have raised about him, Curley and other AP executives said.
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.
“The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities,” Gardner wrote to AP International Editor John Daniszewski.
The military said bomb-making materials were found in the apartment where Hussein was captured but it never detailed what those materials were. The military said he tested positive for traces of explosives.
AP defends Hussein’s extraordinary access to terrorists posing with weapons as “good journalism:”
One of Hussein’s photos was part of a package of 20 photographs that won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography last year. His contribution was an image of four insurgents in Fallujah firing a mortar and small arms during the U.S.-led offensive in the city in November 2004.
In what several AP editors described as a typical path for locally hired staff in the midst of a conflict, Hussein, a shopkeeper who sold cell phones and computers in Fallujah, was hired in the city as a general helper because of his local knowledge.
As the situation in Fallujah eroded in 2004, he expressed a desire to become a photographer. Hussein was given training and camera equipment and hired in September of that year as a freelancer, paid on a per-picture basis, according to Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography. A month later, he was put on a monthly retainer.
During the U.S.-led offensive in Fallujah in November 2004, he stayed on after his family fled. “He had good access. He was able to photograph not only the results of the attacks on Fallujah, he was also able to photograph members of the insurgency on occasion,” Lyon said. “That was very difficult to achieve at that time.”
AP mentions this blog’s reporting, but has nothing to say about questions raised by Bill Roggio about a curious Bilal Hussein image of insurgents on a street corner in Ramadi.
As to AP’s vehement denials that any of its employees would ever collaborate with our enemies, I remind you of Clarice Feldman’s discovery of an Iraqi intelligence document that suggests otherwise.
9/18 1016pm Eastern update: Dan Riehl takes a closer look at the photos and video related to Salvatore Santoro’s execution by terrorists and asks whether Bilal Hussein has blood on his hands.
Here’s the video:
More Bilal Hussein photos of the Santoro murder in the desert (warning: graphic)