Did the media fall for yet another insurgent information operation in Ramadi?
Click to play CNN video of Ramadi incident. Original caption: “U.S. Marines beat back the largest attack in weeks by Sunni Arab insurgents in western city of Ramadi.”
Last weekend, several news sources, including the Associated Press and CNN, reported a major insurgent attack on the provincial government headquarters in the heart of Ramadi. We reported the story on Sunday, with skepticism, noting “Insurgents have conducted false propaganda operations in the past, such as the incident in early December where the Associated Press reported a fake uprising based on stringers, so the possibility exists this report is false as well.”
The purported incident in Ramadi never made the press releases at either Multinational Forces-Iraq or CENTCOM. The
Original caption from The Examiner: Unidentified masked gunmen fire at a government building, in Ramadi, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 14, 2006. Gunmen fired three mortar rounds targeting a U.S base and a government building on Tuesday in Ramadi. Police said one civilian was killed during an exchange of fire between gunmen and U.S. forces. [Click to enlarge.]
At first glance, it appears the media has fallen for yet another enemy Information Operation. But there is more.
A reader in Holland notes some curiosities between a video from last weekend’s purported Ramadi attack taken on April 8th and a photograph taken in Ramadi on March 14th. Study the video, then the photo, and you will see both of these images were taken at the exact same street corner in Ramadi, and shot from an identical angle. Note the awning, the poles, the two ‘booths’, even the stance of the ‘insurgents’ and the direction which they are firing. This is without a doubt the same street corner in Ramadi. The video and photo are obviously taken at two different points in time (note the umbrella in the video, as well as the different dress of the insurgents). (You’ll have to watch the video to get the full effect as I was unable to capture a screen shot for a photo comparison.)
And there is yet another photograph from the same street corner in Ramadi, this time from a different angle. Note the red riot-shutters and the ‘Sharp’ advertising on the building. The photograph was taken at the end of February of 2005 and published in The Global Beat, which is a self described “resource for the global journalist.”. This street corner is quite popular with insurgents and ‘photojournalists’.
Photo taken in February, original caption: Iraqi insurgents prepare to meet an assault by U.S. troops at Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Despite the U.S.-sponsored elections, the insurgency continues unabated, and has accelerated in recent weeks.
What are the odds video and photographs from two different incidents of insurgent attacks are taken from the nearly exact same perspective? Was the photographer/cameraman the same person? How did he know to be at this particular location at this particular point in time? How is the third photograph, taken from the exact same location over one year ago explained? Did the insurgency dig deep into their propaganda libraries?
The Associated Press has a reporter embedded with the Marines in the heart of Ramadi, the same Marines who would have “fought back with anti-tank rockets, machine guns and small-arms fire,” and called in airstrikes from F/A-18s. Did they bother to ask him about this incident, or did they merely rely on a stringer to provide potentially doctored video? CNN’s caption for the video is “U.S. Marines beat back the largest attack in weeks by Sunni Arab insurgents in western city of Ramadi.” Did they really?
The National Journal’s Neil Munro provides a comprehensive roundup of the media’s dealings with stringers as photojournalists. A quote of interest:
Patrick Baz, AFP’s photo director for Iraq, is based in Cyprus. He said in an interview, “We don’t hire them for [their skills as] reporters; we hire them because we can’t go there…. We teach them and try to explain to them what a real reporter is. Some become real reporters, some do it for money, some are involved in the insurgency … or terrorist activities, but we stop them when we find them going too far.”
Also, Michelle Malkin notes that Associated Press “photojournalist” Bilal Hussein, who has a long history of taking pictures for insurgents, took the second photo displayed in this post. She received a tip Bilal Hussein ” was captured earlier today by American forces in a building in Ramadi, Iraq, with a cache of weapons.” Developing…