Seymour Hersh claims White House account on bin Laden death is based on lies

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tags: Osama bin Laden

HNN Editor:  Historian Brian Williams debunks Seymour Hersh's story on HNN.  Click here

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’...


  • A blockbuster report from Seymour Hersh alleges that Pakistan captured Osama bin Laden in 2006, and let the US kill him in a stage-managed raid in exchange for military aid and concessions on Afghanistan. 
    [London Review of Books / Seymour Hersh]
  • The article, pubished in the London Review of Books, alleges that bin Laden was kept in Abbottabad by the Pakistani government, with Saudi financial help, and that Pakistan consented to an assassination dressed up as a raid after one of their own intelligence officials leaked bin Laden's whereabouts to the US. 
    [BBC / Anthony Zurcher]
  • Hersh claims that the Obama administration agreed to say bin Laden was killed in a drone strike, but changed its story after a helicopter crashed during the mission, and it concluded the story couldn't be contained. 
  • Hersh has a long career as an acclaimed investigative reporter, helping to uncover both the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. 
    [New Yorker / Seymour Hersh]
  • The bin Laden story has been a point of friction between him and New Yorker editor David Remnick, who published a piece by Nicholas Schmidle backing the government version of the raid. It's notable that the New Yorker didn't publish Hersh's latest story. 
    [New Republic / Isaac Chotiner]

    • Hersh's story is very similar to one advanced in 2011 by security analyst Raelynn Hillhouse, who called Hersh's article "either plagiarism or unoriginal." 
      [Slate / Joshua Keating]

    Read entire article at London Review of Books