A possibly stupid question about the AP/Centcom kerfuffle

posted at 8:00 pm on November 30, 2006 by Allahpundit

Jim Hoft, a.k.a. Gateway Pundit, has a new post up on a big news story from September about trenches being dug around Baghdad. The source for the story? Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Iraqi official who just so happens to be on Centcom’s list of unverified and possibly fake government employees. Jim thinks this calls the trench story into question. I don’t. If you follow the link to the Times article he provides, you’ll see that it quotes American military officials as saying they were familiar with the plan. Jim then points to a subsequent article from Reuters in which the military reversed field and denied the plan — but only as to its scope, not its existence. Quote:

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson said the description sounded like an exaggeration of a plan that mostly would rely on existing terrain features to ensure that traffic moved through the 28 checkpoints.

“No doubt there will be some trenches involved in this, but to say there is going to be a moat around the city is a bit of a stretch,” Johnson said.

“They’ve called it a trench around Baghdad. Really what this is, is there’s a series of obstacles that the Iraqi government are planning, and we’re working with them, to ensure movement through checkpoints, to keep terrorists and extremists and criminals from using those (other) routes,” Johnson said.

That sounds to me less like a guy repudiating what Khalaf had said than rephrasing it to make it more palatable to western ears. So I think the trench story probably was/is true.

But I digress. The stupid question I want to ask here is this:

If Centcom can’t verify the existence of Abdul-Karim Khalaf, then how on earth was he able to give the press conference today on behalf of the Ministry of Interior? He’s the guy who told the press corps this afternoon that Jamil Hussein isn’t an official Iraqi cop. Isn’t he? From the AP’s account of the presser:

Iraq’s Interior Ministry said Thursday it had formed a special unit to monitor news coverage and vowed to take legal action against journalists who failed to correct stories the ministry deemed to be incorrect.

Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman for the ministry, said the purpose of the special monitoring unit was to find “fabricated and false news that hurts and gives the Iraqis a wrong picture that the security situation is very bad, when the facts are totally different.”

Isn’t it the same guy? Here’s how Centcom identified the mysterious Abdul-Karim Khalaf on its blacklist of unverified sources:

Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the Interior Ministry spokesman (a.k.a. Police Brigadier Abd al-Karim Khalaf, Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, Brig. Abdel-Karim Khalaf)

“Interior Ministry spokesman.” It’s the same guy! So why was there such confusion here? In all likelihood because of the conventions of Arab names. In his e-mail to Michelle this morning, the Centcom spokesman identified the man who would be giving the press conference as “BG Abdul-Kareem.” The “Khalaf” was missing. And in the transcript of the presser that he provided, he was identified as “Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf Al-Kenani.” They probably weren’t able to verify “Abdul-Karim Khalaf” because that precise name doesn’t appear in their database; the surname they’re probably using is “al-Kenani.”

Which brings us to the obvious question: if they could screw up their own spokesman’s name, is it possible that they’ve screwed up Jamil Hussein’s? Consider this, also from the AP article:

U.S. Navy Lt. Michael B. Dean, a public affairs officer for the multi-national force, later demanded that the story be retracted because he said police Capt. Jamil Hussein “is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee.”

His allegations were checked with the AP reporter, who had been in routine contact for more than two years with Hussein, in some cases sitting in his office in the Yarmouk police station in west Baghdad. Hussein wore a police uniform during the face-to-face meetings.

Exit question: how many more people on Centcom’s source blacklist are simple cases of mistaken identity?

Update: Michelle was on to this earlier and e-mailed Lt. Dean about Khalaf. Here’s what he wrote back:

Ma’am:

We have verified him as legitimate. He is the official Minister of Interior spokesman through the CPATT. The list that includes him was a working list of spokespeople we are in the process of trying to verify that hadn’t been updated.

Vr,
LT Dean

Michael B. Dean
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
MNC-I Joint Operations Center
Public Affairs Officer

How could the spokesman for the Interior Ministry end up on a working list of unverified sources?

Update: I missed it on the first read-through, but the AP’s article ends with a burst of pure, undistilled douchebaggery. Here’s the final, gratuitous paragraph, a naked attempt to compare Centcom’s questioning of the AP’s sources to the Saddam era:

Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the government imposed censorship on local media and severely restricted foreign media coverage, monitoring transmissions and sending secret police to follow journalists. Those who violated the rules were expelled and in some cases jailed.

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The solution is simple. AP must feature a story with him in it and show us that he is truely who he says he is.

Its possible the AP or Centcom got his name wrong. But there is ultimately only one way to solve all of this.

William Amos on November 30, 2006 at 8:07 PM

Possibly a quite a few. But they were dead certain about Hussein and another name, Razzaq, who Gateway Pundit talked about a while back. If you go back and read Curt at FA’s original letter, you’ll see that they specified Razzaq, and they have since firmly decided that Hussein is bogus.

I just thought it was unusual that one AP reporter, Qais al-Bashir, kept quoting from several names on that list in the same article.

see-dubya on November 30, 2006 at 8:19 PM

My head is beginning to spin.

JammieWearingFool on November 30, 2006 at 8:25 PM

Finger twitching over the FUBAR button …

laelaps on November 30, 2006 at 8:27 PM

The solution is simple. AP must feature a story with him in it and show us that he is truely who he says he is.

That would show that he is indeed a police officer.

However, if CentCom takes Capt. Jamil Hussein off of the list of unverified sources, that too would seem to show that he was indeed a police officer.

Part of the difficulty here is that Arabic naming conventions are very different from Western naming conventions.

Here is a web site that has some examples.

Compounding the difficulty is that there are many different ways of spelling these names. For example, here in the US you have Steven and Stephan. They both sound the same. But obviously, you can see they are spelled different. This problem is even more difficult with Arabic names.

To be blunt, I would not be surprised if this guy really was a police officer, but just due to inaccurate records, or misspellings, he slipped through the cracks.

Never underestimate the ability of a large bureauacracy (sic) to let people get lost in the system.

So it goes…

EFG on November 30, 2006 at 8:29 PM

His allegations were checked with the AP reporter, who had been in routine contact for more than two years with Hussein, in some cases sitting in his office in the Yarmouk police station in west Baghdad. Hussein wore a police uniform during the face-to-face meetings.

If he remains unverified and if the reporter really does see him in the office, perhaqs that police station is so infiltrated, they let brother Jamil pose as a cop to blinker the media.

laelaps on November 30, 2006 at 8:45 PM

Keystone Cops???

Zorro on November 30, 2006 at 8:52 PM

I thought this story was in doubt because of conflicting witness statements, not because of who reported it. No?

Scot on November 30, 2006 at 8:59 PM

As for the police uniforms, see the first paragraph here. Actually, see the whole thing, it’s pretty grim.

It seems that police gear has a way of…finding its way to unofficial sources. A friend who served in Anbar province told me quite a bit about that, in fact.

see-dubya on November 30, 2006 at 9:03 PM

As for the police uniforms, see the first paragraph here. Actually, see the whole thing, it’s pretty grim.

Do police stations have a way of finding their way to unofficial sources, too? They say they interviewed the guy in his office.

This is totally moronic on Centcom’s part. They know where the guy’s supposed to be: Yarmouk police station. Send someone over there and ask for “Jamil.” They could solve the mystery in five minutes.

Allahpundit on November 30, 2006 at 9:07 PM

Also, that list is at least a couple of days old. They’ve probably rechecked all the names by now.

Scot on November 30, 2006 at 9:07 PM

And it was BG khalif who announced that Jamil Hussein was not an Iraqi officer, not Centcom. So i find it hard to believe there was any confusion because of the name.

Scot on November 30, 2006 at 9:17 PM

Actually he’s supposed to be at the al-Khadra station now, according to AP’s first response. How do you know CENTCOM didn’t do this already as part of their verification, and that’s why they say he doesn’t exist?

see-dubya on November 30, 2006 at 9:19 PM

not a stupid question at all. very clearly the image we’ve been getting is of an iraq as an organizational and informational wilderness.

jummy on November 30, 2006 at 10:11 PM

The key thing to remember about CENTCOM’s list is what it isn’t:

It’s not a list of confirmed frauds
It’s not even a list of suspected frauds
It’s a list of people they haven’t verified. Don’t read further into it than that.

Greyhawk on November 30, 2006 at 10:12 PM

Allahpundit:

Update: I missed it on the first read-through, but the AP’s article ends with a burst of pure, undistilled douchebaggery.

Well, if we are looking for examples of douchebaggery, perhaps I can provide one. It may not be as extreme, but it kinda steamed me when I saw it.

Below is an exerpt from mypetjawa. It has the request by CentCom for a retraction or explanation about the Iraqi Police Captain.

Unless you have a credible source to corroborate the story of the people being burned alive, we respectfully request that AP issue a retraction, or a correction at a minimum, acknowledging that the source named in the story is not who he claimed he was. MNC-I and MNF-I are always available and willing to verify events and provide as much information as possible when asked.

Very respectfully,
LT XXXXXX

XXXX X XXXXXXXX
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
MNC-I Joint Operations Center
Public Affairs Officer

His name is redacted, but I’ll bet he is the guy that the AP is refering to below.

U.S. Navy Lt. Michael B. Dean, a public affairs officer for the multi-national force, later demanded that the story be retracted because he said police Capt. Jamil Hussein “is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee.”

So I guess we went from “respectfullly request” to a “demand.” Ah well. I suppose the fascist boot of military oppression has pressed down on the neck of our friends at AP. Truely, they can tell that the chill winds of U.S. military censorship are blowing out out of Iraq. I fear for all of our civil liberties.

This is dread man…truely dread.

EFG on November 30, 2006 at 10:17 PM

His allegations were checked with the AP reporter, who had been in routine contact for more than two years with Hussein, in some cases sitting in his office in the Yarmouk police station in west Baghdad. Hussein wore a police uniform during the face-to-face meetings.

Since when does a news agency keep the identity of its reporters anonymous?

Am I the only one who finds it curious that AP seems to be going out of its way to avoid identifying their own reporter?

rokemronnie on November 30, 2006 at 10:33 PM

Ahhah: “If Centcom can’t verify the existence of Abdul-Karim Khalaf, then how on earth was he able to give the press conference today on behalf of the Ministry of Interior?”

Perhaps he is their spooksman.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on November 30, 2006 at 11:21 PM

douchebaggery

Priceless. (hey, it was new to me)

urbancenturion on November 30, 2006 at 11:29 PM

Am I the only one who finds it curious that AP seems to be going out of its way to avoid identifying their own reporter?

rokemronnie on November 30, 2006 at 10:33 PM

MJaybe it’s because he’s the perpetra(i)tor of douchebaggery.

urbancenturion on November 30, 2006 at 11:31 PM

Didn’t you guys know? Criticism is the SAME as censorship – at least when it’s a reporter, an artist, or a liberal who’s being criticized (possibly the same person).

Thus it’s not overblown to compare a military spokesman requesting confirmation or correction to Saddam jailing journalists, because, well, ummm…

Okay, it’s douchebaggery. And possibly soccage-in-feif. Certainly it could be construed as barratry-on-the-high-seas. Well, barratry anyway.

Merovign on November 30, 2006 at 11:40 PM

A real, honest-to-G AP reporter could meet Jamil Hussein in a police office and see the police uniform. The office could be so rife with Sunni brothers, they let Jamil pose as an official cop to convince said AP reporter he is getting the Gospel (Koranic) truth.

laelaps on December 1, 2006 at 1:14 AM

Which brings us to the obvious question: if they could screw up their own spokesman’s name, is it possible that they’ve screwed up Jamil Hussein’s?

When the wheels come off, the wheels come off. I’m amazed they still have spokesmen, irrespective of actually knowing who they are.

honora on December 1, 2006 at 8:06 AM

Could you not use that stupid pigeon-British “k——-e”? Squirm City!

mymanpotsandpans on December 1, 2006 at 9:54 AM