U.S. President Barack Obama.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Seymour Hersh, an award-winning investigative journalist, is accusing the Obama administration of broad and thorough deception in its accounting of the mission that killed arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden.
In a direct assault on the integrity of the president and his team, Hersh says that the White House fabricated an entire narrative for public consumption upon bin Laden’s death in May 2011. The raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, Hersh reports, was not based on US intelligence leads through the tracking of his couriers, but on cooperation with Pakistani intelligence authorities.
The extraordinary claims from Hersh are made in a 10,000-word article in this month’s edition of The London Review of Books, marking four years since the raid. In the piece, Hersh admits that his sources, which are anonymously cited, are few in number; but he stood by their credibility in television interviews on Monday.
“I’ve been around a long time,” Hersh told CNN. “I understand the consequences of saying what I’m saying.”
At the core of his piece, Hersh asserts his reporting confirms that bin Laden was a prisoner of Pakistan’s ISI in the compound since 2006; that the ISI and army chiefs knew of his whereabouts; that they secured safe air passage for US Navy Seals into Pakistan for the raid; and that bin Laden’s hideout was originally discovered “from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward.”
If corroborated, the story would represent a dramatic departure from the account offered by the White House, which stated that Pakistan was kept in the dark throughout the intelligence operation.
Hersh is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, two National Magazine Awards, and five George Polk Awards for, among other stories, his enterprising reporting on the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, US treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Iran’s development of a nuclear program.
But the White House roundly rejected the story in its entirety on Monday, calling it “baseless” journalism and defending their narrative shared to the public on that fateful day four years ago.
“There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told the press. “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.”