They can’t get an execution right. Why should they be able to find a guy’s name on a list?

Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who had previously denied there was any such police employee as Capt. Jamil Hussein, said in an interview that Hussein is an officer assigned to the Khadra police station, as had been reported by The Associated Press…

Khalaf offered no explanation Thursday for why the ministry had initially denied Hussein’s existence, other than to state that its first search of records failed to turn up his full name. He also declined to say how long the ministry had known of its error and why it had made no attempt in the past six weeks to correct the public record…

Khalaf told the AP that an arrest warrant had been issued for the captain for having contacts with the media in violation of the ministry’s regulations.

Hussein told the AP on Wednesday that he learned the arrest warrant would be issued when he returned to work on Thursday after the Eid al-Adha holiday. His phone was turned off Thursday and he could not be reached for further comment.

Is Captain Jamil headed to the clink? No.

Khalaf said Thursday that with the arrest of Hussein for breaking police regulations against talking to reporters, the AP would be called to identify him in a lineup as the source of its story.

Should the AP decline to assist in the identification, Khalaf said, the case against Hussein would be dropped. He also said there were no plans to pursue action against the AP should it decline.

So what happened?

On Thursday, Khalaf told AP that the ministry at first had searched its files for Jamil Hussein and found no one. He said a later search turned up Capt. Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, assigned to the Khadra police station.

I speculated about a mix up due to the conventions of Arabic names back on November 30th, mainly because Khalaf himself had initially been included on Centcom’s list of suspect sources. But that got eaten up by the other (still outstanding) questions: How is it that Hussein was able to comment on attacks all over Baghdad, including some far away from his precinct? How come the AP dropped the detail about four mosques being burned when it was challenged after their first report? Why couldn’t Bob Owens find corroborating stories from other media outlets on so many incidents sourced to Hussein? And why weren’t Armed Liberal‘s sources, Eason Jordan’s sources, and Michelle’s sources collectively able to find this guy? I said last week in writing about Zombie’s response to HRW re: the Israeli ambulance attack that “I’ve reached the point where, when one of these blogstorms kicks up, I half-hope the media will produce the smoking gun that proves them right, just so we can have a little faith that they’re covering sensational incidents with due diligence.” Well, here’s the smoking gun. And while I have more faith now in the AP, I have less faith in the certainty of any information I get from Iraq. It took six weeks, with multiple people checking, to confirm the mere existence of a guy whose name, rank, and location were publicly known — and the issue would still be in doubt if Khalaf hadn’t come clean.

Anyway. The left will enjoy this, even though with the exception of Boehlert and knee-jerk blog-basher Greg Mitchell they couldn’t have cared less about it until now. Boehlert’s reaction should be interesting. Will he stick to his point about there being no grand lessons to be drawn from the accuracy of any one story, especially when it means so little to how bad conditions are on the ground? Or will he merrily ignore the remaining outstanding questions and conclude that, on second thought, yes, this story does have implications for the entire corpus of reporting on Iraq? Probably the latter; if I were in his position, in all candor, I’d be tempted to do the same. As long as he doesn’t re-torch the strawman about right-wingers supposedly ignoring the gravity of the situation in Iraq. Like I said in my response to his last column about this:

At the risk of suggesting that I know What Warbloggers Believe better than Eric Boehlert does, let me assure you that we’re not using this story as a fig leaf for the war. There are Shiite death squads roaming hospitals in Iraq — just one of many “bona fide, grim realities on the ground,” as Michelle puts it, but gruesome enough in itself to convey the magnitude of the emergency. No one, or almost no one, is under any illusions about how awful conditions are and how Bush mismanaged the occupation when we had our best chance to get it right. On the contrary, it’s Boehlert who’s using the war as a fig leaf for yet another credible accusation of shoddy, possibly ideologically motivated war journalism. He’d have you believe that to challenge this report is, essentially, to be guilty of historical revisionism, which is not only ironic vis-a-vis the AP but a nifty way of cowing a critic into backing off. It’s more important that Michelle Malkin be wrong, you see, than knowing for sure whether the world’s biggest news agency is passing off crap stories about the most important issue of our time.

She and we were wrong about Jamil Hussein. Whether we’re wrong about the rest of it, too, we’ll see. Apologies, though, to the HA readers for having led you on a bit of a wild goose chase, however well founded and well intended our suspicions were.

Update (from Michelle): Just to clarify, I’m not apologizing for anything. Also, I await response/reaction from my sources and will keep you updated. See here.

Bob Owens received this word from MNF-I’s public affairs office:

Mr Owens,

The validity of the AP story below has not been confirmed at this time.

Tags: Israel