Photo: Creative Commons License via Marjorie Lipan on Flickr

Seymour Hersh alleges President Obama lied about the Killing of Osama bin Laden.
Photo: Marjorie Lipan on Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Two intelligence sources tell NBC News that the year before the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a “walk in” asset from Pakistani intelligence told the CIA where the most wanted man in the world was hiding – and these two sources plus a third say that the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was hiding all along. [NBC News]

THERE IS little to add to what Seymour Hersh writes, except in the Credit Where Due Department. It’s important to remind readers that Hersh is the investigative reporter who broke the story of My Lai, revealing that U.S. Army 1st Lt. William L. Calley murdered 109 Vietnamese civilians in “Pinkville” in 1968. What he alleges in the London Review of Books is not nearly as incendiary, even if his report accuses President Barack Obama of lying about the killing of Osama bin Laden by SEAL Team 6.

Because he is Seymour Hersh, the White House responded.

“There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one,” White House National Security spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to reporters. …saying that “the notion that the operation that killed Usama Bin Ladin was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false. As we said at the time, knowledge of this operation was confined to a very small circle of senior U.S. officials. The President decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani Government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred,” Price said. “We had been and continue to be partners with Pakistan in our joint effort to destroy al-Qa’ida, but this was a U.S. operation through and through.” [CNN]

Due to it’s nature, this story, which is being refuted ably by Max Boot, regurgitated and acclaimed, all simultaneously, will become part of the cable chaos, talk radio noise.

The use of anonymous sources should not surprise or give anyone reason on its own to doubt what Mr. Hersh is suggesting from people he has interviewed and the story he painstakingly draws.

On the other hand, Seymour Hersh tips his hand at the end, unable to help himself by writing that “the Obama administration’s lies, misstatements and betrayals would create a backlash.” Hersh then goes on to cite the CIA, torture and the film Zero Dark Thirty, lumping all the ills of so many years into a piece about something else, putting his opinion on top of the wild tale that he is convinced is not only true, but he believes he’s proven in his 10,000-word tome.

Ascribing nefarious motives to President Obama isn’t anything new. The assertions in Hersh’s piece are obviously meant to cut to the bone of the commander in chief’s character, while representing someone’s truth, leaving a wound that in a second term isn’t politically fatal, but is fodder for legacy assaults.

…This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.

[…] The major US source for the account that follows is a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. He also was privy to many aspects of the Seals’ training for the raid, and to the various after-action reports. Two other US sources, who had access to corroborating information, have been longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command. I also received information from inside Pakistan about widespread dismay among the senior ISI and military leadership – echoed later by Durrani – over Obama’s decision to go public immediately with news of bin Laden’s death. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

[…] ‘Of course the guys knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,’ the retired official said. ‘Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive – to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.”’ The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.


At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters. […]

[…] The retired official said there had been another complication: some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed. At the time, the retired official said, the Seals did not think their mission would be made public by Obama within a few hours: ‘If the president had gone ahead with the cover story, there would have been no need to have a funeral within hours of the killing. Once the cover story was blown, and the death was made public, the White House had a serious “Where’s the body?” problem. […]

TM NOTE: Superhero Photo via The Atlantic, with original by Pete Souza (public domain).