Nation

New report questions story behind killing of Osama bin Laden

The killing of Osama bin Laden was a major victory for the Obama administration.
AP/File
The killing of Osama bin Laden was a major victory for the Obama administration.

Four years after the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Navy Seals in Abottabad, Pakistan, a new report in the London Review of Books by journalist Seymour Hersh questions the Obama administration’s account of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The report claims that, among the lies, the biggest was the idea that the raid in May 2011 that killed bin Laden was an all-American event, and that officials in Pakistan were not aware of US plans.

“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,” the report says.

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The report also says that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency had been holding bin Laden as a prisoner since 2006, and that the US learned about the Al Qaeda leader’s location through a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer, who gave the information in return for the reward being offered by American officials. The White House has said bin Laden was found through tracking his couriers.

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The killing of bin Laden was a major victory for the Obama administration and gave the president’s national security profile a boost as he pursued reelection in 2012.

Hersh’s primary US source for his story is “a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.” The source also had knowledge about the training of the Seals involved in the raid and after-action reports, according to Hersh’s report.

Michael Morell, a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency who was a central player in the operation to find and kill bin Laden, blasted the Hersh report on “CBS This Morning.”

“It’s all wrong. I started reading the article last night, I got a third of the way through and I stopped, because every sentence I was reading was wrong,” Morell told host Charlie Rose.

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Morell said he had no idea who Hersh’s source could have been for the article, but he refuted the claims made in the story.

“The Pakistanis did not know. . . The president sent me to Pakistan after the raid to try to start smoothing things over,” he said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also dismissed the Hersh piece, saying it was ‘‘riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods.’’

Hersh, a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, is an award-winning journalist who has won numerous prizes for his investigative reporting, including the Pulitzer Prize.

Read the full report here.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.