It's too early to draw any conclusions about Bilal Hussein, but his story, especially on the heals of the release of Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, illustrates of the challenges facing Western news organizations in reporting from Iraq, as well as those facing the US military in differentiating between journalists and enemy combatants. Since December, 2004, conservative bloggers have been raising questions about how some photojournalists were able to capture certain horrifying photos, since to do so they have to be in extremely dangerous situations. One photo they've focused on is an AP photo depicting terrorists executing Iraqi election workers in broad daylight, a shot credited to an unidentified stringer.
The AP's photos won a Pulitzer, and Bilal Hussein was a member of the winning team. Writes Malkin: "Hussein's photos have raised serious, persistent questions about his relationship with terrorists in Iraq and whether his photos were/are staged in collusion with the enemy." Some of Hussein's disturbing photographs can be found here, including a shot of insurgents standing over the body of Italian national Salvatore Santoro, guns drawn. Malkin has others, including close up shots of combat. "It's clear the photographer wasn't fearful at all for his own life," she writes.
At this point, it's impossible to know Bilal Hussein's relationship to the people he was photographing. Maybe they wanted images they considered to be propaganda to be disseminated, so they gave access to the photographer, even though they had nothing in common ideologically. Maybe they considered him their ideological brother, and he pledged his allegiance to their cause. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between.