MAILBAG: My Country Tis Of Thee?


AP photographer Bilal Hussein won the Pulitzer Prize for this 2004 photo of insurgents fighting the Battle Of Fallujah. He as been held in custody by the U.S. military without charge for the past 19 months.

Again, George Miller is my favorite professor. Today in my Journalism and Society class (which is responsible for introducing me to Phawker), Jim MacMillan came to talk about photojournalism, but more importantly Bilal Hussein. MacMillan personally knew Hussien. He was one of the members of the team who won the Pulitzer Prize. Watching MacMillan speak about a collegue and friend was tough-you could see the anger and sadness and confusion in his eyes.

How can the American government let this happen? Hussein had America credentials for his work…

Phawker Intern


I wish I had a better answer for you than: The whole thing stinks worse than a whorehouse at low tide. I do know that the AP hired a former federal prosecutor to look into the allegations against Bilal and he says the U.S. Army has refused to produce any evidence to back up their allegations and have refused to file any charges against Bilal, thereby frustrating any attempt by the AP to mount a legal defense of their employee. Which prompted Tom Curley, president and CEO of the Associated Press, to write the following in a Washington Post Op-Ed piece:

We believe Bilal’s crime was taking photographs the U.S. government did not want its citizens to see.bilalhussein.jpg That he was part of a team of AP photographers who had just won a Pulitzer Prize for work in Iraq may have made Bilal even more of a marked man. In the 19 months since he was picked up, Bilal has not been charged with any crime, although the military has sent out a flurry of ever-changing claims. Every claim we’ve checked out has proved to be false, overblown or microscopic in significance. Now, suddenly, the military plans to seek a criminal case against Bilal in the Iraqi court system in just days. But the military won’t tell us what the charges are, what evidence it will be submitting or even when the hearing will be held.

Best I can tell, turning him over to the Iraqi legal system is like handing a stuffed turkey to the pilgrims. This is why we keep saying over and over again that habeas corpus matters, damnit. Why doesn’t anyone care about this? Why is it every time I bring this up people look at me like I’m trying to explain to them how to program their VCR — like, I’m sure this important but it’s just so boring I would rather not know. Under habeas corpus you can’t just arrest people, hold them indefinitely without charge and refuse to show them the evidence against them because it’s Top Secret. And without it you don’t have a system of justice, you have the Spanish Inquisition.


PS Apologies for the graphic images so early in the morning, but people should know that Bilal Hussein didn’t just take close-up action shots of insurgents, he also documented the ghastly results of their actions. Besides, it’s a dirty war and people should know it.

PREVIOUSLY: The Free Press Needs Your John Hancock


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