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The Case of Bilal Hussein

| 19 Comments

Last week, Associated Press photographer (and alleged insurgent collaborator) Bilal Hussein was released from custody after an Iraqi tribunal decided his case fell under an amnesty law passed earlier in 2008. The United States military had accused Hussein of working with insurgent groups in Anbar Province, in part because of his uncanny ability repeatedly to photograph insurgents in action.

I don’t know if he’s guilty or not, and he deserves the presumption of innocence. Either way, his case brings attention to an issue most consumers of news from Iraq rarely consider: the fact that large media companies—the Associated Press and other news wire agencies and newspapers—work with some sketchy characters in Iraq.

Iraq is full of such sketchy characters, as everyone knows, and large media companies require an enormous staff and network of locals to produce daily news coverage. They can’t cover breaking news every day in a low-intensity war zone without them, especially if violent activity—car bombs, fire fights, assassinations, and the like—are the bulk of what makes up the news. Someone is killed almost every day in Iraq, but the chances that an individual writer or photographer will happen to be present as an eyewitness are minuscule. Reporters who cover breaking daily news spend much of their time on the phone with stringers and sources. They don’t personally investigate every incident in the field. It just isn’t physically possible if they're required to write every day about what happens in a country the size of California, especially when it can take literally days to travel from one part of Baghdad to another.

I’m sure media companies are careful about who they hire, but it’s hard to make the right call every time in a bewildering and inscrutable place like Iraq. Terrorists and insurgents are and have been supported by a substantial percentage of the local population. It’s nearly impossible to build a firewall thick enough to keep them all out.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine.

19 Comments

That's one lesson to draw.

Here's another.

The warbloggers are insane, and don't care at all about who is innocent, and who is guilty.

Still, I commend you for at least BRINGING UP the fact that it appears, at this time, that Bilal Hussein is innocent. Certainly isn't something that a lot of other warbloggers are mentioning, given their trumpeting of the case, ABSOLUTELY CERTAINTY of Bilal Hussein's guilt, etc.

For the record:

"An Iraqi Judicial Commission reviewing his case took ten days to reach a conclusion: No basis existed for the terrorism-related charges which had been brought against him. The conclusion was a sweeping repudiation of accusations U.S. military figures have brought against him, backed by no evidence, but by a handful of strangely motivated American [...] bloggers."

At some point, hopefully you will repudiate some of your compatriots methods.

The AP reports, as does Mr. Totten, that he was released because his case fell under the new amnesty laws.

No claims of insanity are made.

hypo: You used a word that AL has specified as prohibited deprecated. He made no exception for quotes. I elided the word this time. Next time, the whole post goes away, unless AL advises me otherwise.

[Edited for weaselly toadyness]

"The warbloggers are insane, and don't care at all about who is innocent, and who is guilty."

Or maybe the peacemongers only pretend to give a crap about people who's deaths can be blamed on America, through action or inaction.

Nortius,

Apologies. I should have simply kept with "don't care who is guilty or who is not".

I forget these things, sometimes, when confronted by such obvious moral turpitude (how's that for a phrase from a raving liberal - blame Porky's!).

And by the amnesty, in this case, is a JUDICIAL ONE - whereby the case is review by the judges, and granted amnesty based on the evidence - or in this case, the LACK of any incriminating evidence.

HR: There was no determination of guilt or innocence by the judges; he was just found to be eligible for amnesty. Link Your last paragarph is not true.

[Drive-by. Deleted. --NM]

PD Shaw,

The link is right there in the story - again, one more time:

"An Iraqi Judicial Commission reviewing his case took ten days to reach a conclusion: No basis existed for the terrorism-related charges which had been brought against him."

TEN DAYS.
NO BASIS EXISTED FOR THE TERRORISM-RELATED CHARGES

But perhaps I have this wrong - but why?

From the link you give above:

"Two judicial amnesty committees had ruled in recent days that there would be no trial on any of the accusations raised again Hussein. After confirming those decisions, the U.S. military's detention command said Monday it no longer deemed Hussein a security threat and he would be freed"

That looks like Bilal's case was looked at, on an individual level. And CONFIRMED by the U.S. military.

Also:

"In February, the Iraqi parliament enacted a U.S.-backed amnesty law in a step toward national reconciliation. In separate rulings on Sunday and last week, the two Iraqi judicial panels granted Hussein amnesty, which drops the case and assumes no finding of guilt or innocence."

NOTE - In a SEPARATE RULING.

So - unless you possess more evidence of guilt - why are you continuing with this?

Innocent until proven guilty - and considering that had there been credible evidence of guilt, given the high profile nature of this case, don't you think that evidence would have been provided?

Where is it?

Also, look at the trouble that the AP has had to go through, to even get information:

"In April 2006, Bilal Hussein was taken into custody and held as a security risk for being linked to a terrorist group, although the U.S. military pressed no charges and over the years, according to the AP, provided only vague, elusive reasons from detaining Hussein. (For more details and background on the Hussein case, read this very thorough piece by American Journalism Review's Charles Layton.)"

NO CHARGES PRESSED, even though HELD FOR TWO YEARS.

What part of that don't you understand?

This quote is from Bilal Hussein's lawyer:
"An Iraqi Judicial Commission reviewing his case took ten days to reach a conclusion: No basis existed for the terrorism-related charges which had been brought against him."
Which contradicts this from the AP article:
"In February, the Iraqi parliament enacted a U.S.-backed amnesty law in a step toward national reconciliation. In separate rulings on Sunday and last week, the two Iraqi judicial panels granted Hussein amnesty, which drops the case and assumes no finding of guilt or innocence."

So, who ya gonna believe?

Also snipped from AP:
"Two judicial amnesty committees had ruled in recent days that there would be no trial on any of the accusations raised again Hussein. After confirming those decisions, the U.S. military's detention command said Monday it no longer deemed Hussein a security threat and he would be freed"

Which also says nothing about Hussein's guilt or innocence with respect to the alleged crimes. It just notes that the U.S. Military doesn't deem Hussein a future threat.

Once again HR is getting riled up by the left wing noise machine.

No claim of insanity is implied.

But perhaps I have this wrong - but why?

Because it's the lawyer's job to state that his client is innocent; that any decision vindicates his client, facts notwithstanding. You need a healthier dose of skepticism here. Per my link:

In February, the Iraqi parliament enacted a U.S.-backed amnesty law in a step toward national reconciliation. In separate rulings on Sunday and last week, the two Iraqi judicial panels granted Hussein amnesty, which drops the case and assumes no finding of guilt or innocence.

The lawyer is lying. Another link:

The judicial panels did not pass judgment on the guilt or innocence of Mr. Hussein, 36, who is an Iraqi citizen. The Associated Press has insisted that he did nothing wrong, but the military made no concession on that point Monday.

"NY Times": http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/15/business/media/15apee.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

The U.S. military didn’t pass judgment on guilt or innocence; they said he no longer constituted a threat. There is an important distinction here between what the military does -- detain people believed or suspected of aiding the enemy and the Judiciary’s role in punishing crime. Do you know how many hundreds (maybe thousands) of "innocent" civilians were detained during the course of the American Civil War? That's war and its not the most unpleasant aspect of war by far.

Reconciliation is important and this line of attack is not helpful. This blog (or at least Rev. Sensing) argued strongly for lenient amnesty.

But I think the larger criticism from the blogosphere emanates from the AP’s defense which showed a certain ambivalence to ethical concerns (not the criminal or legal concerns). According to "Kathleen Carroll,": http://www.ap.org/pages/about/pressreleases/wn_091706a.html AP's executive editor: "Journalists have always had relationships with people that others might find unsavory," she said. "We're not in this to choose sides, we're to report what's going on from all sides." Question: Does the AP disclose that the source of information is the U.S. military as often as it discloses that its source of information is from the other side or unsavory individuals?

WHY is he lying?

WHERE does the AP contradict him? That "did not pass judgment on the guilt or innocence of Mr. Hussein," is just as important for those who WOULD ACCUSE FALSELY. By not trying the case - if the case had nothing in it - this saves the accusers the EMBARASSMENT of being shown to falsely accuse.

Until you guys show evidence, of what exactly this amnesty entails - and you might be right - the interpretation that I have is a valid one. In addition, innocent until proven guilty. You don't know that the lawyer is lying. After all, the AP has been stonewalled on this for two years, as I show above.

But more importantly -

NO CHARGES PRESSED, even though HELD FOR TWO YEARS.

Argue THAT. Please. PLEASE!!! Argue THAT.

Right to a speedy trial? Remember that?

Stop changing the subject.

HR: How angry do you get when someone expresses the opinion that OJ is guilty? I've much more grounds to say Hussein is guilty than OJ.

Come on, people - no one here knows nearly enough to have a strong opinion on this. The Iraqis let him go; good luck to him and let's hope that a) he was never a bad guy, or b) if he was he's changed his ways.

We're arguing over no meaningful data whatsoever. Let's argue about things where there's at least enough at stake to make the arguments interesting.

A.L.

NO CHARGES PRESSED, even though HELD FOR TWO YEARS.

That speaks for itself. AP had lawyers on this case the entire time. They were stonewalled.

And bye the way - PD - I ask you to stop changing the subject and you immediately - change the subject.

We have some data. This paragraph is simply not true:

And by the amnesty, in this case, is a JUDICIAL ONE - whereby the case is review by the judges, and granted amnesty based on the evidence - or in this case, the LACK of any incriminating evidence.

Amnesty was granted based upon the terms of the amnesty and without consideration of guilt or innocence. See AP and NY Times article. I'm done here.

The warbloggers are insane, and don't care at all about who is innocent, and who is guilty.
...and you might be right - the interpretation that I have is a valid one.

hypocrisyrules indeed.

Right to a speedy trial? Remember that?

Iraqi nationals under Iraqi law have the American right to a speedy trial? A quick scan of the Iraqi constitution doesn't seem to turn up any such provision.

(BTW I suspect the text is a glitch in translation, but the wording of Article 19 point 8 is amusing: "Punishment is personal." Sounds like a line from an action movie.)

Sorry I lied and my last post was a bit snarky, so my apologies to Hypocricy Rules.

There was some sort of probable cause determination made against Hussein, by which I understand there was evidence of criminal conduct identified by a judge, justifying a trial:

On Dec. 9, the Iraqi judge assigned to investigate the case conducted an investigative hearing, and on March 11, he referred the case to trial. . . . In the March 11 ruling, the Iraqi investigative judge determined that the evidence in the Iraqi criminal case against Hussein supported two separate charges, which he forwarded for trial: the terrorism charge, as well as another charge of participating in kidnapping.

When the amnesty law was passed, the terrorism charge was dropped shortly, the enforcement of the kidnapping charge was less clear:

After the February passage of the Iraqi amnesty law, the charges against Hussein were reviewed to determine its applicability. On April 7, the judicial committee appointed to implement the amnesty law dismissed the main charge of terrorism against Hussein.

Under the amnesty law, acts of terrorism are subject to amnesty if they do not result in killing or permanent disability. Following the April 7 order, Hussein remained in coalition custody under a second Iraqi charge alleging that Hussein had participated in a kidnapping.

His detention in coalition custody continued under authorities granted under international law. On April 13, a separate Iraqi judicial committee concluded that the second charge also should be dismissed.

None of this means that Hussein was guilty or innocent. It doesn't matter:

The amnesty panel’s determinations are based only on the charges and not the evidence in each case, officials said. A finding that amnesty applies is not an acquittal, but a determination that the alleged misconduct, whether proved or not, will be excused by the Iraqi government to serve the purposes of the amnesty law, officials explained.

This information is from the U.S. government.

PD Shaw,

Finally got back to the computer.

Well, I suppose I could get back to doing the research, and seeing if there is any more information out there, about this case.

But really, you've proved my point - even if Jamil Hussein WAS in some sort of cooperation with Sunni insurgents, you've proved my point.

a. The evidence is thin - if any.
b. You seem to have no problem with him being locked up for two years without being charged.
c. You have no problem with the AP being stiff-armed and ignored, when they asked "hey, what are the charges??"
d. You immediately think the amnesty means "he is then guilty", but just was let go.
e. You cite a missive from the military, as if it is the God's truth. As if the military missives DIDN'T put out false information about Pat Tillman, or Jessica Lynch.

Unlike you - who seem to have some mystical knowledge about things happen 5000 miles away - I don't know.

I'm fine with leaving this thread as it is, but I tell you - you are part of the problem, and are exactly what I'm complaining about.

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