Fake News from Iraq

Update 11/30/2006: See the email from CENTCOM at the bottom of this post.

Michelle Malkin and Curt at the Flopping Aces Blog have been covering a story, for the last several days, about bogus news report from “officers” in the Iraqi army and police force, concerning the violence between the various Muslim sects.
One individual, a police Capt. Jamel Hussein, is sited in numerous AP and Reuters (among others) articles as an official source.
In one of the latest events reported by Capt. Hussein, six people were pulled from a mosque, dosed with kerosene and set on fire. When Iraqi troops investigated the incident, they not only did not find any physical evidence that it ever happened, but were told by numerous residents that it didn’t happen.
The “icing on the cake” in my mind was this message from CENTCOM:

BAGHDAD — Contrary to recent media reporting that four mosques were burned in Hurriya, an Iraqi Army patrol investigating the area found only one mosque had been burned in the neighborhood.

Soldiers from the 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted a patrol in Hurriya Friday afternoon in response to media reports that four mosques were being burned as retaliation for the VBIED attacks in Sadr City on Thursday.

The Soldiers set up a checkpoint near the Al Muhaimen mosque at approximately 2 p.m. and found the mosque intact with no evidence of any fire at the location.

While investigating the Al Meshaheda mosque, the patrol received small arms fire from unknown insurgents. The patrol returned fire, and the insurgents broke contact and fled the area. A subsequent check of the mosque found the mosque intact with no evidence of a fire.

At approximately 3:50 p.m., a local civilian reported to the patrol that armed insurgents had set the Al-Nidaa mosque on fire by throwing a gas container into the mosque. The patrol pursued the insurgents but lost contact with them.

The Soldiers called the fire department and set up a cordon around the mosque. Local fire trucks responded to the scene and extinguished the fire at approximately 4:00 p.m. The mosque sustained smoke and fire damage in the entry way but was not destroyed.

An alleged attack on a fourth mosque remains unconfirmed. The patrol was also unable to confirm media reports that six Sunni civilians were allegedly dragged out of Friday prayers and burned to death. Neither Baghdad police nor Coalition forces have reports of any such incident.

Link to CENTCOM press release.

Followed by this email that Curt at Flopping Aces Blog got from CENTCOM:

Got an update from Centcom. I sent them an email asking if they had any information on this Capt and I received:

“We are checking with the Iraqi Government to verify that Capt. Jamil Hussein is a legitimate Iraqi Government spokesperson. We haven’t heard back yet. Unfortunately, people posing as government officials often do call the media to make statements.

We have no confirmation that this event happened; so it is very likely that this is not a legitimate source. In addition, of the four mosques that were suppose to have been burned/destroyed at that time; we only confirmed one mosque was damaged by a fire that lasted an hour and then was extinguished with no casualties.”

———–

Just received another email from Centcom in Iraq from a Lietenent at the MNC-I Joint Operations Center. Pretty important stuff in this email: (MOI = Iraqi Ministry of Interior)

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Sir:

Unfortunately, we do not have a direct contact into the MOI so we cannot provide you with that. We have to work through a CF organization called the CPATT (Coalition Police Assistance Training Team), an MNFI organization that seems to be made up of retired police officers.

Since September we have been engaging CPATT to verify the legitimacy and employment status of various MOI/IP spokesmen. Our contact at CPATT has been quite helpful, however, I know helping us is not his full-time job. Interestly, MOI has apparently issued an edict that no one below the level of Chief can speak to the media. We have reminded AP of this but without proof that these spokesman are not employees, they have pretty much ignored us. (If you were a reporter, would who give up a primo source because of rank? Probably not.)

I personally engaged CPATT about Capt. Jamil Hussein’s legitimacy within an hour of seeing the burning alive story — which we cannot verify from any source, but how do you prove a negative.

Of note, we definitely know that one IP spokesman – Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq of the city’s Yarmouk police station (a.k.a. police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq) is not authorized to speak on behalf of the IP and the MOI supposedly issued a warrant for his questioning. That happened a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t seen his name recently.

Below is an incomplete list of MOI spokesmen we are tracking since the middle of November and trying to verify.

Very respectfully,

LT Dean

So in a nut shell, we have false reports, or at best unconfirmed third party hearsay being passed off as facts by the mainstream media. Not to beat the dead horse, but between all three wars (Afghanistan, Iraq and the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict) the MSM’s have shown that they no longer rate as news organizations, but rather as propaganda machines for the enemy.
Be aware of this as you read and watch the news every day. You are not getting the facts about Iraq.

Michelle Malkin “Fake news vs. real news from Iraq“.
Michelle Malkin “The media fog of war“.
Flopping Aces “Getting The News From The Enemy“.

Update 11/30/2006:
Email from CENTCOM via Little Green Footballs:

From: MNC-I PAO Victory Main JOC
[mailto:MNF-IPAOVictoryMainJOC@iraq.centcom.mil]
Sent: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 9:14 AM
To: [deleted]
Cc: MNC-I PAO Victory Main JOC
Subject: RE: [U] RE: Could you confirm that the letter below was sent
by CENTCOM

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Sir:

I have just learned from Mr. Costlow, mentioned below, that Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the official Ministry of Interior spokesmen, will begin his regularly scheduled press conference at noon tomorrow with a statement that Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee.

Yesterday, coincidently, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior issued a press release warning of spreading propaganda aimed at broadcasters. The text of this statement follows:

A Statement from the Ministry of Interior

After media became free in Iraq and expressed the will of all without the government interfering, unfortunately, some satellite TV channels began misleading public opinion and disclosing chaos for a particular political agenda, by broadcasting propaganda that harms people and tries to shake the trust in security forces.

Such satellite channels are trying to affect Iraqi unity and claim that information was stated by a security source without mentioning the source. Information sources should be well-known and reliable, and to avoid repeating such unfair actions, MOI warns the media and insists on defending the people’s security and safety. MOI will take all immediate preventive procedures against media that broadcast propaganda, because such media intend to repress the will of Iraqis in fighting terror and crime.

We would like to mention that such procedures we do not consider as chaining true free media, but it is a legal defense for Iraqi security and the safety of our people.

If you have any additional questions, please let us know.

Vr,
LT Dean

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

michael.dean@iraq.centcom.mil
MNCI-PAO-VictoryMainJOC@iraq.centcom.mil
Multinational Corps – Iraq
Public Affairs Office

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