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Murder on Haifa Street

Will we ever know the truth behind the Associated Press's strange, anonymous pictures of an execution?

12:00 AM, Apr 18, 2005 • By D. GORTON
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So this is where the story stands now: A photo "stringer" who is identified as an Iraqi national, who remains anonymous, makes an exclusive picture that is not corroborated by any other photographic news source. The image fits into a press meta narrative about the situation in Iraq prior to crucial national elections. The published photo sets up an immediate outcry in the blogosphere and is met by an institutional defense by the AP. That is followed by a series of misstatements by the AP on the distance the photographer was from the scene, culminating in a piece by AP's director of photography, who avoids addressing that very issue of proximity.

Whatever the truth is, it may eventually come out. The terrorists know whether or not they were complicit with the photographer. As the insurgency winds down they may broker their way into an amnesty in which, no doubt, many tales will emerge--tales that could confirm the worst suspicions of complicity in murder.

In the meantime the AP is left with almost no reasonable defense of the photographer's actions, uncorroborated as they are. They can release all of the photographer's pictures of that day. They can even produce the photographer. But it's difficult to see what they could do to assure their integrity in this matter.

D. Gorton is a former New York Times White House photographer who covered the Carter and Reagan administrations.