Sy Hersh vs. the White House on Bin Laden Kill Mission

Seymour Hersh's version of the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden couldn't be more different from that of the White House.

[Hersh] claims that Bin Laden’s burial at sea never happened, that Bin Laden was an invalid when the SEALs raided the compound and killed him, and that there was no firefight at all during the SEAL raid. Additionally, Hersh’s account says that the ISI captured and set bin Laden up in Abbottabad in the first place, to use him as “leverage” in the country’s dealings with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Hersh's version appears here in the London Review of Books.[More...]

Hersh says the CIA got the information on bin Laden's location from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who was after the reward money.

Hersh's sources:

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.

The White House says Hersh's article is false and insists the kill mission was entirely done by the U.S.

The Guardian had this article on the changing story in early May, 2011.

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    A lot of inquiring minds asking today (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Wed May 13, 2015 at 08:49:37 AM EST
    That if Hersh's account has a scrap of truth to it, why would the US and Pakistan even do this raid thing? If Bin Laden was being held by the ISI why wasn't this approached by the power players then in  a risk reducing fashion?  Why even have US forces challenge your nation's sovereign borders?

    Military aviation has an even bigger obvious question, if avoiding radar detection really wasn't needed why did we risk exposing knowledge of our stealth helicopters? And they are very difficult to fly, they do not possess the agility and capabilities of their non-stealth version and this is probably why one went down.  But if the gate was wide open and the radar was down, why did we choose to risk exposing a top secret military vehicle that the world can now be on the look out for and adjusting radar systems for?

    One of the most (none / 0) (#1)
    by lentinel on Mon May 11, 2015 at 05:27:15 PM EST
    jaw-dropping things in this article by Seymore Hersh was this one:

    A worrying factor at this early point, according to the retired official, was Saudi Arabia, which had been financing bin Laden's upkeep since his seizure by the Pakistanis. `The Saudis didn't want bin Laden's presence revealed to us because he was a Saudi, and so they told the Pakistanis to keep him out of the picture. The Saudis feared if we knew we would pressure the Pakistanis to let bin Laden start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaida. And they were dropping money - lots of it.

    With friends like that...

    Peter Bergen said that Saudi Arabia had (none / 0) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 11, 2015 at 10:01:55 PM EST
    Made a couple of assassination attempts of bin Laden before 9/11 and failed to get him.  There is no way Saudi leadership knew where he was after 9/11.  If they had known where he was they would have assassinated him in Pakistan and received much less blowback doing it than the US did.

    It's possible that Sy Hersh got played (none / 0) (#2)
    by Mr Natural on Mon May 11, 2015 at 07:47:59 PM EST
    like Judith Miller.  It's also possible what he wasn't.  So who do we believe?  Is belief all we've got?  More to the point, which elements of the story add up to the most probable and possible story?  Or do we simply compare the credibility of Journalism's Lone Ranger to the credibility of America's Ministry of Truth?

    I am less and less inclined to believe (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by caseyOR on Tue May 12, 2015 at 08:39:54 PM EST
    anything the government says about anything. And all of this trashing of Hersh, who has been right so many times, makes me suspicious.

    Who to believe? Who to believe?


    Hersh is not a God and he has been (none / 0) (#20)
    by Militarytracy on Wed May 13, 2015 at 08:06:47 AM EST
    Way off many times.  I used to view him through a God-like lens too until some of his Iraq War reporting.  The guy just runs wide open and it leaves him open to discrediting himself.  Case in point, second year of the Iraq War, at a press conference Hersh claimed that he was contacted by an Army Captain in Iraq.  The Captain was hysterical, claimed that when the Marines arrived in the Sunni triangle to relieve his troops they began shooting Iraqis in the head that were armed and employed as security guards protecting private property. Story was never followed up, Captain disappeared into thin air.  I don't think Hersh made it up...I think he simply got played because he doesn't believe that fact checking is as important as getting a story out he wants out.  Read around, some of the individuals who have worked with him.  It's how he rolls.  If he has a real story he breaks it quickly, if he has been played, well oh well...so what?  He doesn't care.  

    I don't view Hersh through a god-like (none / 0) (#22)
    by caseyOR on Wed May 13, 2015 at 01:31:31 PM EST
    lens. He may not always get it right, but he does more often than not. And his record when it comes to exposing government lies about military actions is one of the best.

    To say that Hersh doesn't care about the truth is a cheap shot.

    The constant drumbeat of lies the U.S. government has fed to the American people for, geez, for my whole life, makes me quite skeptical of anything the government says.

    Honestly, Hersh has a much better track record on this than the government.

    I find the rush to discredit Hersh, to not just challenge his story, but to denigrate Sy Hersh himself, telling.

    So, maybe Hersh is wrong, maybe Obama is wrong. I don't know. And that there is no way for me to know the truth is the saddest thing of all.


    I disagree (none / 0) (#23)
    by Militarytracy on Wed May 13, 2015 at 01:46:29 PM EST
    He does not have one of the best track records for exposing government lies on military actions.  He won a Pulitzer for exposing a war crime yes.  But as I said, if you read around, people who have worked with him, he is fine playing fast with the truth when it suits him.

    Is Anybody Defending Hersh? (none / 0) (#3)
    by RickyJim on Mon May 11, 2015 at 08:30:31 PM EST
    I've read about half a dozen articles by other investigative journalists and they all come down debunking the Hersh piece.  Here is article mentioning several of them.  

    I haven't found anyone defending him (none / 0) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 11, 2015 at 09:57:54 PM EST
    And the New Yorker and WaPo passed on running this story.  They said they are interested in working with him in the future but the editors passed on running this story.

    Apparently, (none / 0) (#6)
    by lentinel on Mon May 11, 2015 at 10:39:26 PM EST
    NBC is supporting Hersh - at least to some extent.



    As Peter Bergen responded (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Tue May 12, 2015 at 08:36:36 AM EST
    What is true about Hersh's article isn't new, and what is new isn't true.

    We long suspected that the ISI knew where bin Laden was, and the intel collected during the raid confirmed it.  The ISI is not Pakistan, and a Pakistani General who oversaw hunting extremists with the United States when my husband was in Afghanistan was later assassinated by the ISI.  The ISI isn't the Pakistani military or Pakistani leadership.  They are sometimes used by the Pakistani military but the relationship is tenuous bordering on hostile when it operates at all.

    As for a walk in, our CIA posts there are constantly monitored by the ISI.  Do you really think they allowed someone with real intel and spilling it to survive after making initial contact?  I'm willing to wager there were a lot of walk-ins.  Which walk-in are they talking about? A walk-in ended in seven CIA agents falling on the battlefield in Khost Afghanistan.  

    In my opinion this is all about attempting to weaken the Obama side of the score board on "getting Bin Laden".  And look, the President bowed to Saudi Arabia again, he's weak, he bends to our enemies behind our back and then breaks trust even with them and then gets on the television and lies to all of our faces.  He's a snake........It is nothing more than a Democrat leadership smear going into the next Presidential election and Sy Hersh fell for it.

    Democrats have proven now that they are better at national security than any recent Republican leader, they make life and death decisions based on fact and not their gut and their lizard brain and their greed and this is a long term problem for Republicans.

    If you think hundreds of people could have kept this secret until now, you have lost your noodles.


    I'm beginning to think that (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Militarytracy on Wed May 13, 2015 at 05:41:39 PM EST
    Hersh's retired CIA source is Larry Johnson, who printed a somewhat similar story a few days after Bin-Laden's death, got no play, and is a notorious Obama hater.

    The "whitey tape" guy (none / 0) (#27)
    by MKS on Thu May 14, 2015 at 09:09:28 AM EST
    That would make sense he would be the source.

    Yes, that guy (none / 0) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Thu May 14, 2015 at 12:43:11 PM EST
    I can't believe he gets any play anymore, but he does, because he was once a counter-terrorism deputy, 20 long long yrs ago.  After the whole horrible whitey tape thing you would have thought he'd been destroyed, but no.  His blog is a manifesto of six years of rock solid Obama hatred, for reasons that I can't even guess at anymore.  I'm left with nothing else other than he hates being "lorded over" by a black man.  There is no reason for the man's vitriol at this point.

    NBC now retracting confirmation (none / 0) (#24)
    by Militarytracy on Wed May 13, 2015 at 05:36:11 PM EST
    Jeez, I used to like reading some of Hersh's (none / 0) (#7)
    by Green26 on Mon May 11, 2015 at 10:57:21 PM EST
    stuff. This is unbelievable. Almost nothing he writes seems likely or plausible. He seems to have lost it. I see that he's 78.

    One of the things I get from this outrage... (none / 0) (#9)
    by lentinel on Tue May 12, 2015 at 12:31:45 PM EST
    of interest to me is that the official version seems to have been that b-L was discovered thanks to torturing an informant.

    The Hersh version is that he was discovered thanks to a walk-in - someone wanting to claim the multi-million dollar bounty.

    The mantra that torture yields credible information is widely accepted, it seems to me.

    It is the staple of all cop shows.
    And some entertainment shows like "Scandal".

    I would like to know the facts about this instance.

    The subject above should have (none / 0) (#10)
    by lentinel on Tue May 12, 2015 at 12:32:46 PM EST
    simply been, "One of the things"..

    the rest filled in from a previous post before I realized it...


    Not true (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Tue May 12, 2015 at 12:57:40 PM EST
    The courier was never directly given up during the torture of anyone.  The Hollywood version of the story goes something like, a CIA agent determined al-Kuwaiti's importance by what those being questioned and sometimes tortured chose to omit.  Which could have just as easily been assertained without torture I would think.  Nobody being tortured directly gave al-Kuwaiti up though. In fact, according to the Hollywood version, it was someone who chose to work with us verses being turned over to another country where he knew he would be tortured who gave us some of the most clarifying testimony to the possible importance of al-Kuwaiti and his proximity to bin-Laden.

    Leon Panetta disagrees with you, MT. (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by caseyOR on Tue May 12, 2015 at 02:41:43 PM EST
    According to Panetta waterboarding led directly to the U.S. discovering Osama's whereabouts.

    I am inclined to think torture was not helpful, but I also believe that a former CIA director, Panetta, would want us to believe something useful came of all that torture the U.S.A. meted out.


    Panetta would like a (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by Farmboy on Tue May 12, 2015 at 03:28:09 PM EST
    "the ends justifies the means" excuse at his trial.

    Even When the Two Are Not Related... (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 12, 2015 at 04:48:15 PM EST
    ...which seems to be the case here.

    Asking Panetta if torture was effective is like asking Ron L Hubbard if Dianetics works.  

    Not exactly an unbiased opinion.


    With his vita, I'm sure (none / 0) (#18)
    by Farmboy on Tue May 12, 2015 at 05:53:59 PM EST
    there's something actionable.

    Hopefully, this link works. (none / 0) (#13)
    by caseyOR on Tue May 12, 2015 at 02:43:32 PM EST
    And I am with Farmboy on this (none / 0) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Tue May 12, 2015 at 04:23:20 PM EST
    Panetta wishes, oh how he wishes. There were many writings at DailyKos about how torture never directly exposed al-Kuwaiti, and then the access that Bigelow was granted for Zero Dark Thirty seemed to back up fully almost all of the well investigated essayist at DK of which I believe Armando was one.

    In fact, according to Zero Dark Thirty (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Tue May 12, 2015 at 04:35:42 PM EST
    One of the leading CIA torture interrogators voted at the table almost against the raid because of what he had heard in the torture roomswhen he ran them.  He thought an Al Qaeda bigwig was there but he doubted it was bin Laden.  So torture distorted some people so badly they were no longer able to process information well and make good assessments and could no longer see the forest for the trees it would appear.

    Hersh's Insulting Interview With Slate (none / 0) (#26)
    by RickyJim on Thu May 14, 2015 at 08:32:19 AM EST
    Read this if you are still a Hersh fan.  I am definitely an ex-fan now.