White House account of Osama bin Laden’s death questioned

Author Seymour Hersh’s allegations the Pakistani government knew of the bin Laden raid draws sharp rebuke from Obama Administration, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon.

Hersh’s assertions, which were published in an essay which appeared in the London Review of Books and rest almost entirely on the information obtained from a single, unnamed former U.S. intelligence official, include:  The claim the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was not an ambush but a trap laid by Americans working in close collaboration with Pakistan’s Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI); the ISI provided intelligence personnel to escort Navy SEALs to complete the raid; that an unnamed source, commonly known as a “walk-in,” entered the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to disclose bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad; the Saudis were financing bin Laden’s sanctuary in Pakistan; DNA from bin Laden was provided by a Pakistani physician as proof of bin Laden’s existence in the compound under surveillance; and, most damaging, that top Pakistani military officials were never informed of the raid which killed bin Laden.

The White House, the CIA, the Pentagon and former Navy SEAL, Rob O’Neill, the trigger man in bin Laden’s death, all reject Hersh’s allegations.  Former deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morell, refuted Hersh’s claims in a CBS interview by stating:  “The Pakistanis did not know.”

Hersh may be manning a leaky ship here.

If true, Hersh’s allegations are troubling and will blemish the Obama Administration’s reputation. Hersh is a respected journalist, responsible for enlightening works over five decades in his illustrious career, including the disclosure of the My Lai massacre and the revolting behavior of U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib prison.  Nonetheless, a stellar career can include errors.

Pakistan’s security service, the Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI), is known to be eminently hostile to the United States; there are recorded incidents of U.S. troops clashing with the ISI during incursions into Pakistan; and Pakistan has loudly protested the intrusion of American drones into their airspace.  It is improbable Pakistan cooperated in the bin Laden raid even with the expectation of favor or advantage.  If Pakistan offered refuge to bin Laden, it was an act of sympathy only.

Given the vast body of evidence and the howling of officials disproving Hersh’s claims, it is doubtful Hersh’s contentions will withstand scrutiny.  While it is possible the White House has a vested interest in concealing any minor role played by others in the death of bin Laden to trumpet a considerable victory for the administration, Hersh’s claims, expressing reservations of a single American effort, appear to be less a brazen lie concocted to gain journalistic respectability and more to be the inspired hunches of a fantasist whose paranoia had gotten the best of him.

The good news is the allegations do not include bin Laden is alive and still on the run.

[cbsnews.com] [cnn.com] [businessinsider] [lrb.co.uk]