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Sunday, September 10, 2006

What is Going on at AP?

Saddam Hussein had a very trusted source inside AP, according to the translation of another of the thousands of documents captured by U.S. forces that are only slowing being made public. In this particular document, the source inside AP tells Hussein about the formation of UNMOVIC, the UN weapons inspection team.

So if Hussein had a credible source working for him within AP, was it a stringer in a Middle Eastern nation, an Iraqi "dissident" who had become a full-time employee or consultant to AP or a regular AP employee whose decades of agreement with the "Blame America First" school of foreign policy led to a decision to aid one of America's enemies?

Is this individual still employed by AP? Has this individual gone on to work for another U.S. media organization like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, etc.?

Everything AP reported about Iraq prior to and likely afterwards about everything connected with Hussein and Iraq is now subject to doubt as to its credibility. AP owes its customers in the news industry and its readers in the American public a complete explanation of what it will or already has done about the spy within its ranks (if that spy actually existed as Hussein thought - clarification added. See note in Update IV).

And one more thought: There remain thousands of untranslated documents. We still do not know with any certainty whether in fact Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Go here to The American Thinker for the translation of the key passages of the Iraqi document by Foreign Military Studies Office Joint Reserve Intelligence Center.

UPDATE: Link is fixed!

My apologies for all you folks who came over from Instapundit and found the link to The American Thinker didn't work. I was in a hurry to get the post up before heading out to church (on my motorcycle, which is probably why I missed the link copy), and didn't return until after lunch. You know how Southern Baptists are about going to lunch after Sunday services!

Also, the translation was done not by The American Thinker, but by Foreign Military Studies Office Joint Reserve Intelligence Center. Thanks to Thomas Lifson of TAT for pointing this out so diplomatically.

UPDATE II: Why this matters a lot

Some folks are doubting whether this revelation of a Hussein source within AP is really all that important. My buddy Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters, for example, points to the timeline of UNMOVIC:

"The date of the memo also calls into question the usefulness of the source. The memo was written on July 24, 2000. However, the UN commissioned UNMOVIC in 1999, eight months earlier.

"Hans Blix got the assignment as UNMOVIC chief in March 2000, four months prior to the memo. The group began its training for new inspectors on July 11th, almost two weeks prior to the memo. While the AP may or may not have reported the information in this memo publicly, Reuters did on July 14 -- ten days before the memo was written."

Similarly, John Hinderaker at Powerline notes that "the memo also does not say whether the source was a reporter or some other category of employee. So it is impossible to say, based only on this document, what significance this source may have had, either in terms of the AP's reporting on Iraq, or in terms of funneling information that should have been confidential to Saddam."

Morrissey and Hinderaker are two of the people I most admire and trust in the Blogosphere and they both make strong points here. Even so, I still think this revelation is significant for these reasons:

First, if Hussein had one source - regardless of the postion held by the individual -in a major U.S. news organization, we have to consider that possibility that there were also others within AP and/or other news organs.

This is a topic that is virtually never discussed but it doesn't take much reflection to realize the value of knowing how a story is going to be played before the rest of the world sees it in print. Or to be able to spike or otherwise shape it in some fashion. We ought not assume that it is impossible for there to be people with unseen loyalties in and about newsrooms around the world.

Second, good reporters always have multiple sources of conflicting views, some of whom are rarely or even never actually quoted. They are rather used to check information and assess potential approaches to a difficult or subtle story. They help "shape" a story by confirming a detail here, suggesting a source there or knocking down a competing source.

This is why I noted the possiblity of the Hussein source being a "consultant." Given the prevalence of Iraqi dissidents of varying degrees of credibility, I think it is most likely the individual was from that community and was working as a double agent of sorts.

Third, even if the individual was merely a researcher or a copy editor, any employee or other person from within a news-gathering process whose loyalties are not to the readers or customers of the news organization raises a question mark because they are in a position to poison the process and thus the product.


Just had a conversation with a friend who is a long-time and highly respected AP reporter who thought I went too far above in making accusations about spies within his organization. Let me just reiterate the first sentence of the second graph: "So if Hussein had a credible source within AP ...." Everything I said in what followed in the post should be viewed in the context of that very important "if."

And please note that I repeated the qualifier - "First, if Hussein" - in my response to Messers Morrissey and Hinderaker's doubts, which I also quoted at length, about the newly translated Iraqi document.

More to come, no doubt.

I hope this clarification makes my view sufficiently clear - it is an important development IF it was true that Hussein had a source within AP.

UPDATE IV: Now I see ...

... another clarification is in order. The fourth graph above should from the beginning have been clearly qualified, as it now is, to reflect the "if ... then" nature of the post. My apologies to the folks at AP for the oversight.