paper trail

Seymour Hersh says Obama lied about bin Laden

From the cover of Hard to be a God, first US edition

A 10,000-word piece by veteran reporter Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books has caused a major stir—it tells a story about the killing of Osama bin Laden four years ago by Navy SEALs that has little in common with the version espoused by the US government. Among other things, the piece, which uses several anonymous sources, asserts that Pakistani authorities knew bin Laden’s whereabouts all along, that the US got the information from a Pakistani informant rather than through the work of CIA analysts in tracking his couriers, that the operation that killed him was a stage-managed collaboration between both countries, that taking him alive was never a possibility they considered, and that no cache of useful intelligence was recovered in the raid. This would imply a vast cover-up stretching from President Obama on down, and already there have been denials (a CIA official derided Hersh’s account as “utter nonsense” in the Washington Post, while White House spokesman Ned Price claimed it had “too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions” to check each one) and various attacks on the piece. That Hersh published in the LRB rather than the New Yorker, where he’s long been a contributor, also attracted notice: did the New Yorker’s reluctance imply problems with Hersh’s story, or was it, in Gabriel Sherman’s words, a sign that “Hersh’s relationship with the New Yorker has soured over Hersh’s sustained critique of the Obama national-security apparatus and Remnick’s reluctance to challenge it?” Either way, some of the major claims in Hersh’s reporting (about what Pakistani intelligence knew when and how the US found out where bin Laden was) were backed up late yesterday by NBC News.

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