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.’
It’s a long, detailed piece, but should be read with this major caveat: it’s basically single-sourced to an unnamed “retired official.” Then there’s also Hersh’s track record to consider. Still:
- New York Daily News: U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden with the full cooperation of Pakistani intelligence agencies, who had kept the 9/11 mastermind prisoner inside his infamous Abbottabad compound for years before the fatal raid, a new bombshell report claims. The report, a lengthy article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, widely contradicts multiple elements of the original account of the May 2011 raid by U.S. forces provided by the Obama administration and other federal government figures.“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,” Hersh wrote in the 10,000-word expose published online Sunday on the London Review of Books website.
- The Hill: Hersh based his report on a single, anonymous source. This individual, he said, is a “retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abottabad.” Hersh’s source alleged that the Pakistani government had an active role in approving and implementing the raid on bin Laden’s compound. In addition, the source said that the Obama administration originally agreed to announce bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike rather than shot during an active Special Forces mission. “Obama’s speech was put together in a rush,” Hersh wrote of Obama’s announcement of Operation Neptune Spear to Americans. “This series of self-serving and inaccurate statements would create chaos in the weeks following,” he added. “This was not the fog of war,” Hersh quoted his anonymous source as saying.
- The Daily Mail: Among the explosive claims that Hersh makes in the piece:
The Pakistanis had been essentially holding bin Laden captive at the Abbottabad compound for years.
The CIA learned of bin Laden’s location from a Pakistani intelligence official who tipped off American operatives hoping to claim the $25 million bounty on the terror leader – not from interrogation of an al-Qaeda courier.
Top American officials negotiated with Pakistani officials to let them carry out the operation to kill bin Laden on Pakistani soil.
There was no vaccination program used to college the DNA from bin Laden’s compound – it was all made up as part of an elaborate cover-story after the fact.
The Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, cut power to the neighborhood where bin Laden was hiding on the day of the raid and made sure no Pakistani forces would not interfere with the American choppers flying into sovereign airspace.
There was no firefight during the SEAL raid – the only shots fired were those that killed bin Laden, whom Hersh described as a feeble, unarmed man.
Bin Laden was cut off from al-Qaeda at the time of his killing and was not running the terrorist group
There was almost no useful intelligence information found his compound.
After he was killed, bin Laden was not buried at sea, but instead buried in Afghanistan.
Obama publicly announced the commando raid and claimed public credit for it, despite agreeing with the Pakistanis to keep the action secret for seven days and eventually say bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike.
Obama’s announcement badly alienated Pakistani leaders and all but obliterated the military and intelligence ties between the two nations.
In the wilderness of mirrors that is the intelligence community and the Obama White House, believe almost nothing. Easier on your sanity that way.