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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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3 Responses to “MAILBAG: My Country Tis Of Thee?”

  1. Gayle hegland Says:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: BILAL Press Release for Journalists

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    Today over 1850 professional photographers and journalists from over 90 countries sent once again a petition to the U.S. Government demanding the imediate release of Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein.

    Bilal Hussein was detained by US Forces in Iraq on April 12, 2006, and has been held in prison ever since without charges.

    This week, the US Military informed The Associated Press that they plan to seek a criminal complaint against Bilal before an Iraqi court on Nov. 29.

    Despite the fact that the US Army had said to media outlets that they have “irrefutable evidence” that Bilal is “a terrorist media operative” who had “infiltrated the AP” they won’t say what the charges are or what evidence will be presented.

    We can only wonder why after holding Bilal for 19 months without charges they will not reveal to the AP defense lawyer the accusation or the evidence they feel so strongly about.

    Futher, the US Army says that if the Iraqi justice system acquits him they could still throw Bilal back in jail.

    A nearly 50-page report by former federal prosecutor Paul Gardephe on behalf of the AP and recently disclosed by the news agency concludes that there is no hard evidence for any of the allegations that the US Military has so far unofficially made about Bilal.

    Considering the towering injustice committed against Bilal, we demand Bilal’s immediate release.

    Among the signatories are Pulitzer Prize winners Al Diaz, David Leeson, Judy Walgren, Anja Niedringhaus, Alexander Zemlianichenko, Oded Balilty, Lucian Perkins, John Moore and Charles J. Hanley. Agency VII photographers Gary Knight and John Stanmeyer, Noor agency photographer Philip Blenkinsop and Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado have also signed the petition. The full list of signatures is available at

    The petition, transcribed below, was first faxed on Oct. 12 to the State Department, the White House, the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Office of the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and to the Department of Justice.

    More on Bilal’s incarceration, and links to news coverage of efforts to free him, can be found at

    We would appreciate it if you would consider reporting on Bilal Hussein’s situation.

    Free Bilal Committee

    Annika Engvall
    +1 646-454-5953
    Cell +1 (347) 582-1165
    Tomas Van Houtryve
    Cell +33 (678) 53 03 16

    “On April 12, 2006, Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was detained by the US Forces in Iraq and has been held in prison ever since.

    No formal charges have been presented yet against Bilal, who is behind bars for having the courage to photograph Iraqi insurgents. Bilal was part of an AP team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for its coverage of the Iraq war.

    Bilal’s arrest and imprisonment are a serious affront to the press as a whole, as well as to democratic traditions.

    We, over 1850 professional photographers and journalists from over 90 countries, are seriously concerned for the life of Bilal Hussein, especially in view of the amount of time he has already been locked up and the prison conditions to which he is being subjected.

    For these reasons we demand his immediate release.


    The Undersigned (see below)
    Ps. The full list of signatures is available at

    Free Bilal Committee

    Newsletter mailing list


    […] PREVIOUSLY: My Country Tis Of Thee? […]

  3. Phawker » Blog Archive » FREE BILAL: AP Photog Gets Day In Kangaroo Court Says:

    […] PREVIOUSLY: My Country ‘Tis Of Thee?  […]

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