The Killing of Osama bin Laden
May 10, 2015 4:59 PM   Subscribe

It began with a walk-in. In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001. Walk-ins are assumed by the CIA to be unreliable, and the response from the agency’s headquarters was to fly in a polygraph team. The walk-in passed the test. ‘So now we’ve got a lead on bin Laden living in a compound in Abbottabad, but how do we really know who it is?’ was the CIA’s worry at the time, the retired senior US intelligence official told me.
Seymour Hersh on new revelations about the operation to kill Osama bin Laden
posted by p3on (191 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
It must be comforting for some to wallow in the minutiae of 'getting him' (and Hersh is fascinating on how tawdry and compromised that process was) but isn't the real story here how the sole remaining superpower couldn't find someone, even if given a decade and a trillion dollars with which to do so?
posted by dmt at 5:10 PM on May 10, 2015 [6 favorites]




This Jonathan Bank, he's everywhere, Islamabad, Albuquerque...
posted by growabrain at 5:13 PM on May 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think the new information from Hersh satisfies Occam's razor much better than the official narrative. There have always been serious problems with the narrative as delivered. The likelihood of getting helicopters into Abbotabad without Pakistani Army (and probably ISI) collusion is virtually nil. Bin Laden hiding out in, more or less, a suburb of Islamabad, basically right up the street from their military academy?

For Hersh's article to be wrong and the official White House narrative to be right would mean a lot more unlikely hoops.
posted by chimaera at 5:14 PM on May 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


the response from the agency’s headquarters was to fly in a polygraph team.

Jfc.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:14 PM on May 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


"Everyone in the government is lying to you, I have learned from an anonymous government source."
posted by Banky_Edwards at 5:18 PM on May 10, 2015 [27 favorites]


isn't the real story here how the sole remaining superpower couldn't find someone, even if given a decade and a trillion dollars with which to do so?

There are a lot of stories contained within this article (I'll leave it as an exercize to the reader to decide which one is the 'real' one), but certainly a significant one is the extent to which the Obama administration misled the public about what actually happened.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:19 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't understand how Hersh's reputation hasn't taken any hit from the multiple thinly sourced, unprovable, or out and out debunked stories he's been putting out in the last decade. At this point I just ignore anything with his byline.
posted by gerryblog at 5:30 PM on May 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


and yet here you are
posted by Auden at 5:33 PM on May 10, 2015 [46 favorites]


The drama and danger portrayed by Bissonnette and O’Neill met a deep-seated need, the retired official said: ‘Seals cannot live with the fact that they killed bin Laden totally unopposed, and so there has to be an account of their courage in the face of danger. The guys are going to sit around the bar and say it was an easy day? That’s not going to happen.’

CLEARLY THE ONLY SOLUTION IS A MASSIVE GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY
posted by duffell at 5:34 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


It must be comforting for some to wallow in the minutiae of 'getting him' (and Hersh is fascinating on how tawdry and compromised that process was) but isn't the real story here how the sole remaining superpower couldn't find someone, even if given a decade and a trillion dollars with which to do so?

Some of us find this rather comforting.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:41 PM on May 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


It's funny: the core story, that Pakistan was bin Laden's jailor, paid with Saudi money, seems quite plausible, as does the U.S. taking sole credit, to allow the Pakistanis to avoid inflaming local support and the taliban.

Yet many details ring false. The seals being angry about the administration saying they shot bin Laden in self defense? I suspect seals understand the larger context better than many, and weren't particularly hungry for Obama to say that they mowed him down in cold blood.
posted by fatbird at 5:42 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It must be comforting for some to wallow in the minutiae of 'getting him'

Yea. That part's actually pretty sweet.
posted by echocollate at 5:42 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive – to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.”

In this particular case, I can't dredge up any issue with this. Murder Osama. Okay by me. YMMV of course.
posted by Splunge at 5:42 PM on May 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Anyone who says anything like "ISI must have known bin Laden was in Abbottabad" has either not spent a lot of time working with governments, or else is so caught up in their own work that they're convinced of their own infallibility. The list of things that governments must have known about but didn't, have to have done but failed to, and generally obviously fucked up on is what we call "history".
posted by Etrigan at 5:43 PM on May 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


I don't find it remotely unbelievable he might have reached for an AK.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:44 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


not to Godwin the discussion but... it feels like the US political PR apparatus has invented a new variation on the "big lie" which could be called the "big truth".

take the infamous Dan 'kerning' Rather story of George W. Bush's time in the Alabama Air National Guard. It was entirely true that Bush was avoiding VIetnam in Alabama. It's also fairly clear that he was, but for the grace of his father, basically AWOL from his post in Alabama. but instead of having to put forward a big lie about the whole business it was only necessary to discredit the actual truth.

the official story of the killing of Bin Laden is an insult to the intelligence of every American. Who is credulous enough to believe that Bin Laden was just hanging out in an unguarded compound in the city which is the headquarters of the Pakistani military? Who believes that the same SEAL team which managed to crash a helicopter in said unguarded compound, was able to fly into the headquarters city of the Pakistani military totally undetected? I mean, surely somebody heard the helicopter crash, if nothing else. Who believes that Bin Laden was so threatening, in said unguarded compound, that the SEALs were forced to shoot him?

Yet, it will be entirely easy to discredit the Hersh story, if anyone cares to.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:51 PM on May 10, 2015 [26 favorites]


I don't find it remotely unbelievable he might have reached for an AK.


I don't find it remotely unbelievable that this stunt in the 'heroic' pursuit of Bin Laden (one man!) severely weakened efforts to eradicate deadly diseases (in a way that will echo through at least a generation), and, thus is linked in a direct causal chain to the deaths and immiseration of, at a minimum, tens of thousands of people....that this effect was predictable, and that once again, the blood is on the USA's hands.

....b.b.b.but revenge!
posted by lalochezia at 5:52 PM on May 10, 2015 [45 favorites]


Definitely agree with you that they never should have used that tactic. It was a fucking catastrophe of an idea.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:55 PM on May 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Some of the logic here is skating perilously close to 9/11 truther logic: implausible that an aircraft was flown into the vicinity of the military headquarters of a major world power and not detected until it was too late, you say? And I thought that the logic behind hiding bin Laden in a lightly-guarded suburban compound was precisely to avoid drawing attention.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:10 PM on May 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Who is credulous enough to believe that Bin Laden was just hanging out in an unguarded compound in the city which is the headquarters of the Pakistani military? Who believes that the same SEAL team which managed to crash a helicopter in said unguarded compound, was able to fly into the headquarters city of the Pakistani military totally undetected?

Abbottabad is the "headquarters of the Pakistani military" like Highland Falls is the headquarters of the U.S. military, which is to say, not at all (the Pakistan Military Academy, their version of West Point, is in Abbottabad). The Pakistani military is actually headquartered in Rawalpindi, which is a two-hour mountain drive from Abbottabad.

Please, continue to tell us about credulity and credibility.
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 PM on May 10, 2015 [30 favorites]


Wait, so what actually happened?
posted by ReeMonster at 6:15 PM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


A similar story was run by UK's telegraph in 2011 -- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/8693111/Osama-bin-Laden-protected-by-Pakistan-in-return-for-Saudi-cash.html

I don't think its surprising that a superpower cant find one person. I think its amazing that we assume the concept of a superpower was ever real. Most serious watchers of the USSR agree that after 1989 the regime as it fell apart showed how weak it really was. If you think the US is so much different -- then Western PR or intelligence has merely done its billion dollar job.

Fuck OBL, and fuck the Saudis for being able to play all sides and get away with it.
posted by brainimplant at 6:16 PM on May 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Surprising that the U.S. can't find one person? You've never heard of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted? We can't find those guys and they're often inside the country. Without networks of sycophants to protect them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:20 PM on May 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


ReeMonster: "Wait, so what actually happened?"

Babble babble.

Chop chop chop chop chop

BOOM

Sneak sneak.

Pow pow

Sneak sneak

Bang.

Scream!

Shootshootshootshootshootshootshootshoot

Wait wait

Chop chop chop chop chop

Splash!

Robble Robble Robble

Article.
posted by Splunge at 6:21 PM on May 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


Also: I don't understand how Hersh's reputation hasn't taken any hit from the multiple thinly sourced, unprovable, or out and out debunked stories he's been putting out in the last decade.

Well, breaking the My Lai massacre story buys you a lot of cred, especially as a number of major news outlets initially refused to carry Hersh's reporting on the subject, although I'd mention that one of the criticisms of Hersh's reporting of the massacre is that it basically endorses the government's putting the bulk of the blame on William Calley. (It occurs to me that the timing of this report, during the opening days of a presidential campaign in which the current frontrunner was Obama's Secretary of State at the time of the action, and whom in fact was in the Situation Room during the operation, might be considered.) And I'd date some of Hersh's more dubious reporting to further back than a decade, the JFK book, for example. (See also Sydney Schanberg (The Killing Fields), who has been flogging the POWs-in-Vietnam story for quite some time now.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:39 PM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know, there were reportedly a number of people captured at the time the US stormed the compound. What happened to them? Where's their account? Are they dead, or in some sort of oubliette, or have they been silenced some other way?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:42 PM on May 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


So I guess the reason Obama fibbed is he didn't want to explain why all the support for Pakistan for so long while they harbored Public Enemy #1?

If it's in the mainstream media it is 99% lies and public relations spin. Why aren't they going broker faster?
posted by bukvich at 6:43 PM on May 10, 2015


The fact is that we the peasants will never know how the killing of Bin Laden went down. Conveniently enough, many of the personnel involved in the operation died in a Chinook crash (August 6th 2011).

That being said, Seymour Hersh has one of the strongest reps in journalism, and anonymous sources is the name of the game when it comes to espionage journalism. This of course, could all be the ISI trying to establish a new narrative to avoid contention with the Pakistani parliament - 'of course we knew of the American raid'.

But I think it speaks to the truth that none in the mainstream dare speak: over the past decade, the greatest enemies to American political interests have been Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. American actions have done little to serve our hegemony and much to reinforce theirs. America has proven to be the Mamelukes of the 21st century- non-Muslim mercenaries dispatched to the hinterlands of the Umma to dispose and distract the rivals of Riyadh.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 6:45 PM on May 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


America has proven to be the Mamelukes of the 21st century- non-Muslim mercenaries dispatched to the hinterlands of the Umma to dispose and distract the rivals of Riyadh.

So -- what you're saying is -- basically, we're the Unsullied?
posted by clockzero at 6:50 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thinking about one thing makes you forget other things and then the other things swirl up later. People you must obey tell you this and tell you that and after 3 courses of manipulation, dessert is something else again. That flaming thing is not a complimentary banana foster, it is your conscience.

Hersh finds people who need to talk. We all need them to talk. We don't need mid-level bureaucrats deciding what information is right for us and kicking recommendations upstairs. Flee off the cliff or turn and look.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:52 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't find it remotely unbelievable he might have reached for an AK.

So you're saying it was not a good day?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:56 PM on May 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


He broke Abu Ghraib, too, though he got big stuff wrong there too.
posted by gerryblog at 7:08 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Conveniently enough, many of the personnel involved in the operation died in a Chinook crash (August 6th 2011).

While helicopters are, indeed, dangerous, the timing of that crash was definitely convenient. I'd prefer to believe that the deaths were faked as a way to send those soldiers into super deep protective cover in anonymous small towns, but that involves a level of secrecy and forward planning that I suspect isn't actually possible.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:09 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


An interesting note from Jason Kottke in his own blog:
Hersh is a regular contributor to the New Yorker -- he broke the Abu Ghraib story in the pages of the magazine -- so I wonder why this story didn't appear there? Perhaps because it goes against the grain of their own reporting on the subject?
I wonder too.
THE NARRATIVE and the need to keep consistent to it rules Journalism - and maybe always has. The "let's just see where this story leads me" reporter is more of a Hollywood creation, because most WORKING reporters have always had to deliver X words on deadline, and meandering narratives or ongoing stories that kept changing direction didn't help anybody keep their jobs (let alone win Pulitzer Prizes).

The comparison to "Rathergate" is interesting. The most incredulous thing about George W. Bush's Air National Guard days was the lack of documentation; so much 'accidentally lost' about him (and many others peripherally connected to him) that it was always a 'circumstantial' case against him. So when Rather found somebody with first hand knowledge, he knew he needed more than 'an anonymous source', and that's what he got - re-creations of original documents re-constructed to the best of the source's memory (affected by time and old grudges) but passed off as real originals. The story would have remained MORE accepted if not for the attempt to fake documentation. (And you had to know that the Brave Bloggers who revealed them as fake had to have their own sources to tell them upfront "they can't be genuine; we know we destroyed every copy")
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:12 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think its surprising that a superpower cant find one person.

The odd and confused idea that very powerful= totally powerful and infallible is extremely widespread for all kinds of political issues across the ideological spectrum
posted by Bwithh at 7:12 PM on May 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


It does all seem far too Hollywood. An old, infirm man is holed up in a large urban area with no protection that can't be turned off by a phone call, and yet the best option is to send in the special operatives in a high-risk raid that might fatally hole POTUS below the waterline - and did, in fact, go wrong in a 'large fireball' way?

What's wrong with a man in a van popping over, killing the evil genius mastermind, loading the corpse into the back of said van, driving it into the mountains and running the 'drone strike' cover they had ready anyway? Hell, you can just poison OBL with a dodgy pizza delivery. You're in control of the whole story, there's virtually no risk, far fewer people are involved - as a covert operation that's going to be headline news, I'd be so much happier about keeping the lid on that than an armed airborne operation into the heart of Pakistan. The way Hersh tells it, there's virtually nobody involved who wasn't hugely pissed off by the way things actually unfolded - with all sorts of nasty repercussions - and for what? Something you had to lie massively about anyway?

Bizarre business. But then, that's state-sponsored assassination for you.
posted by Devonian at 7:15 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seriously, there are people who actually believe the Bin Laden tale?
posted by telstar at 7:16 PM on May 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Pakistani military is actually headquartered in Rawalpindi, which is a two-hour mountain drive from Abbottabad.

And just down the road from Costellobad.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:25 PM on May 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


I don't think its surprising that a superpower cant find one person.

I would totally believe that the USA couldn't find one sick old guy who was basically confined to his bedroom.

I never believed that the USA couldn't find a genocidal mastermind who inspired and orchestrated attacks across the world.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:26 PM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Piltdown man"?? Is that the source material you pull from when referring to a hoax? How about the weird Vietnam era terminology? So the anonymous source here has to be over seventy, one of the retiree consultants the CIA contracts out for. This all feels like vague best guesses from a source who hasn't had a good command of the intelligence world for about thirty years.
posted by one_bean at 7:31 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


"The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed," Hersh reported, citing his senior US intelligence official.

What? Why?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:44 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I find the whole thing very insulting.

The whole Bin Laden assassination story has more holes than the Albert Hall. Please recall - each of these soldiers had helmet cameras that were beaming video live to the White House - who had perfect ability to delay releasing the story until it was all clear - and instead we initially get a cinematic story about Bin Laden coming out guns blazing using a woman as a human shield, and then a "correction" later. (I have always assumed that this correction came from some people in the machinery having a hint of an actual conscience - that Bin Laden died bravely and that some higher-ups were unwilling to participate in such a duplicitous story.)

And then - nothing. Body dumped in the ocean. Where are all these videos? Not even a still image of Bin Laden with a machine gun, or Bin Laden at all. No hard information at all - and then many of the soldiers involved happen to die in an accident, which I'm sure is just a coincidence, but can't they even released cropped photos, or a little video, or something?

The US government has an appalling track record for honesty and yet we're being told, "We won't give you the slightest bit of information, and if you question our story or ask for more, you're a loony."

I'm insulted, because you'd have to be stupid to accept the word of a serial liar, particularly when they so relentlessly refuse to provide the slightest evidence.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:25 PM on May 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


Who is the serial liar? Is that Hersh or the US?

Whose purposes does Hersh serve with this toenail pulling. Maybe the US tried t o protect their sources.
posted by Oyéah at 9:30 PM on May 10, 2015


Yawn.

INSERT:
Meta narrative about empire.
Chomsky quote about news media.
Statements about knowability of current middle east political situation.
posted by temancl at 9:38 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


lalochezia: I don't find it remotely unbelievable that this stunt in the 'heroic' pursuit of Bin Laden (one man!) severely weakened efforts to eradicate deadly diseases (in a way that will echo through at least a generation), and, thus is linked in a direct causal chain to the deaths and immiseration of, at a minimum, tens of thousands of people....that this effect was predictable, and that once again, the blood is on the USA's hands.

....b.b.b.but revenge!


It wouldn't really surprise me if the CIA had done that specifically to damage international vaccination attempts, as part of a long-term plan to undermine attempts to improve public health in countries hostile to the US.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:47 PM on May 10, 2015


If it's in the mainstream media it is 99% lies and public relations spin. Why aren't they going broker faster?

They couldn't be going broker much faster than they are already.
posted by carping demon at 9:53 PM on May 10, 2015


"Conveniently enough, many of the personnel involved in the operation died in a Chinook crash (August 6th 2011)."

I'm not expert, but the 15 Seals who died in August were from Gold squadron and the Osama operation were from the Red. All of the accounts I have seen make it clear that none of those Seals who died were part of the Osama operation. Here are their photos.

Do you have any source for your belief that anyone involved in the Osama bin Laden operation died in that Chinook crash?

I hear Hersh too often on Democracy Now to swallow his stuff without a lot of chewing first. He's been great, just amazing, and he's been lousy--this one seems to be in the latter category.
posted by Cassford at 10:09 PM on May 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Seymour Hersh?!! With the Weekly World News out of business, I guess he is the next best thing.
posted by LarryC at 10:16 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Joe in Australia: You know, there were reportedly a number of people captured at the time the US stormed the compound. What happened to them? Where's their account? Are they dead, or in some sort of oubliette, or have they been silenced some other way?

They were deported to Saudi-Arabia and Yemen.
posted by Kattullus at 10:31 PM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mean, surely somebody heard the helicopter crash, if nothing else.

IIRC, someone in town live-tweeted it and it was picked up by local news.

Maybe Paks are chill peeps but pretty sure our local AFB would check that shit out
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:54 PM on May 10, 2015


I've always taken for granted that the story of bin Laden's death included an awful lot of bullshit, and that we'd probably never know the truth.

Thing is, what I'm seeing of Hersh's story...yeah, this just doesn't really work, either.

So as long as "none of the above" is still an option on this test, I'm filling it in.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:57 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden
By CARLOTTA GALL - MARCH 19, 2014


A Dangerous Method: Syria, Sy Hersh, and the Art of Mass-crime Revisionism by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Hersh’s damning allegations are all attributed to a single source. There is no independent corroboration. Indeed, in a novel approach to cross-checking, he allows his source to endorse its own story. The source claims that a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo supports his assertions. The DIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) deny such a document exists. Such denials may be predictable and easy to dismiss, but Hersh offers no further verification. Nor does he explain how his source, a “consultant,” was made privy to a document that is “highly classified.” Absent corroboration, there is good reason to doubt its authenticity. As we shall see, a group of individuals matching the description of Hersh’s source have already shown the motive and intent to fabricate documents to implicate Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

[...]

Hersh’s hall of mirrors suggests a world of mystery, intrigue, and deception. But the only deception that is revealed is Hersh’s own. He writes, for example, that according to his source, “within a few days of the 21 August attack […] Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent,” which they subsequently relayed to the British chemical weapons lab at Porton Down. According to Hersh’s source, the British confirmed that the sarin didn’t come from the regime’s arsenal. Hersh does not corroborate the claim. In fact, the only thing that the lab confirmed is that sarin was used — and it based its findings on soil and cloth samples smuggled out from the sites. (Hersh doesn’t say why he believes the lab would consider valid any sample supplied by Russia, a state determined to absolve its client by any means, however clumsy.)
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:20 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


“Two things you can count on: 1. You and I do not know the full details of Bin Laden's killing. 2. Neither does Sy Hersh.”—Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) May 10, 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 12:28 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bin Laden Turned in by Informant -- Courier Was Cover Story (2011)
Forget the cover story of waterboarding-leads-to-courier-leads-to bin Laden (not to deny the effectiveness of waterboarding, but it’s just not applicable in this case.) Sources in the intelligence community tell me that after years of trying and one bureaucratically insane near-miss in Yemen, the US government killed OBL because a Pakistani intelligence officer came forward to collect the approximately $25 million reward from the State Department's Rewards for Justice program.

The informant was a walk-in.

The ISI officer came forward to claim the substantial reward and to broker US citizenship for his family. My sources tell me that the informant claimed that the Saudis were paying off the Pakistani military and intelligence (ISI) to essentially shelter and keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad, a city with such a high concentration of military that I'm told there's no equivalent in the US.

The CIA and friends then set about proving that OBL was indeed there. And they did.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:14 AM on May 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


IIRC, someone in town live-tweeted it and it was picked up by local news.

Yup, this guy. Here's a Mashable story on his live-tweets. He still tweets actively from Abbottabad; I'd extremely disappointed in this world if he was a CIA or ISI plant. :(
posted by the cydonian at 1:27 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]




Did they use the polio irradiation programme as cover?

If you're going to invent a false story, maybe try to do it without endangering the lives of the poor brave suckers administering the polio vaccine, and the poor kids who now get to live with polio.
posted by mattoxic at 2:56 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Based on the way this is being forwarded around the usual channels, all I can say is: Welcome to the Tea Party, Seymour. Hope you enjoy sharing a podium with Ted Nugent.
posted by gimonca at 6:27 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Extended families in the Arab world who live in compounds like this have servants / helpers who live there with their own families. Who were they and what happened to them?
posted by adamvasco at 6:27 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hersh is probably wrong about a lot of things, but almost certainly not wrong about the fact that the White House has been lying about this from the start. At least his story explains the very dubious "Uh, we can't show you his body ... because we buried him at sea! Yeah, that's the ticket. And we can't show you photos of the body because uh, they might destabilise the Middle East."
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:42 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Extended families in the Arab world who live in compounds like this have servants / helpers who live there with their own families. Who were they and what happened to them?

Hersh says that Osama's bodyguards were told to get clear; presumably the same would apply to the servants.

Here's a nasty thought: surely a silenced helicopter is still pretty loud when it's landing in your back yard. Surely Osama's family would have been aware of it. So how did the SEALs take them by surprise? The suggestion that the house's occupants were fed disinformation explains a lot; maybe it explains this, too: perhaps Osama's family were also given a cover story, Maybe they thought they were being taken to another safe house?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:49 AM on May 11, 2015


Am I missing something, or does Hersh really open up with denying that bin Laden was in Abbottabad and then never say anything in support of this point?
posted by Dalby at 6:54 AM on May 11, 2015


FWIW, CNN's Peter Bergen has a longish piece out today disputing most of Hersh's claims.
posted by Creosote at 6:57 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just for reference, here's a random person in Abbotabad live tweeting the helicopter raid. Could be a plant, but then they'd have to have planned this story in advance. Could be coincidence. Could be a massive government conspiracy.

Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).

All silent after the blast, but a friend heard it 6 km away too... the helicopter is gone too.


All I know is, I watched Zero Dark Thirty and I said if that was the whole story I'd eat my hat and my mittens. Why do people think they would be told the real story? What purpose would it serve?
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:02 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Jinx, the cydonian. Should know better than to comment in a fast thread.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:03 AM on May 11, 2015




Abbottabad, a city with such a high concentration of military that I'm told there's no equivalent in the US.

Must be tough to be an adult and expert on military-security shit and somehow never have heard of Honolulu or San Diego.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:41 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


From the Vox article kiltedtaco posted:

He's claimed that much of the US special forces is controlled by secret members of Opus Dei, that the US military flew Iranian terrorists to Nevada for training, and that the 2014 chemical weapons attack in Syria was a "false flag" staged by the government of Turkey.

It's like Dan Brown and Tom Clancy had a baby.
posted by duffell at 7:42 AM on May 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


... the response from the agency’s headquarters was to fly in a polygraph team.

I was watching 60 Minutes do an in-depth story on Russian spy Jack Barsky (worth a look, pretty interesting story that I had never heard of) and was struck by the fact that one of the first things the FBI did when they caught him was to administer a polygraph. "Lie detectors" seem to feature prominently in a number of other national security news stories, both successes and blunders, but especially blunders. What other nonsense do the all-too-human, but curiously error prone heroes of our national security apparatus (to steal a phrase from Charles Pierce) use? Psychics? Homeopathic truth serums?
posted by TedW at 7:42 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


it feels like the US political PR apparatus has invented a new variation on the "big lie" which could be called the "big truth".

take the infamous Dan 'kerning' Rather story of George W. Bush's time in the Alabama Air National Guard. It was entirely true that Bush was avoiding VIetnam in Alabama. It's also fairly clear that he was, but for the grace of his father, basically AWOL from his post in Alabama. but instead of having to put forward a big lie about the whole business it was only necessary to discredit the actual truth.

the official story of the killing of Bin Laden is an insult to the intelligence of every American. Who is credulous enough to believe that Bin Laden was just hanging out in an unguarded compound in the city which is the headquarters of the Pakistani military? Who believes that the same SEAL team which managed to crash a helicopter in said unguarded compound, was able to fly into the headquarters city of the Pakistani military totally undetected? I mean, surely somebody heard the helicopter crash, if nothing else. Who believes that Bin Laden was so threatening, in said unguarded compound, that the SEALs were forced to shoot him?

Yet, it will be entirely easy to discredit the Hersh story, if anyone cares to.


I get the same feeling. The Hersh narrative is attractive, because it reads as more coherent and consistent with Occam's Razor than the official story on the original operation to kill bin Laden. On the other hand, Hersh's recent forays into conspiracy theory and his reduced access to the intelligence community sources he could count on in the past are both troubling and cast doubt on his veracity. It's quite possible that Hersh is 90% correct and 10% wrong, but we may never know which part is the 10%.
posted by jonp72 at 7:57 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Why do people think they would be told the real story? What purpose would it serve?

We're not talking about "not being told the real story" - we're talking about getting a lie, invented from whole cloth.

I, personally, have a dim view of the government lying to me about crucial matters. There are a tiny number of cases where the government is better off lying - but today, "lying" is the US government's default position when it comes to foreign policy.

Suppose that after WW2, instead of trials the top Nazis simply disappeared, and we got some spurious story. Would this be better or worse than what happened?

I believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant. I believe that people's trust in the government is at an all-time low precisely because of the fact that the government lies to us as a matter of course.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:02 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


> We're talking about getting a lie, invented from whole cloth.

To be clear, I prefer the official helicopter version of the story to Hersh's one, because of the tweets if nothing else. But as for the invention of a courier and a dogged CIA analyst to cover up garden-variety greed-driven treachery and betrayal: yeah, probably. But I can see why they'd make up that lie, and I didn't expect that we got the whole truth and nothing but the truth in the first place.

> I believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant. I believe that people's trust in the government is at an all-time low precisely because of the fact that the government lies to us as a matter of course.

Absolutely agreed; mostly agreed. Be the change, etc. (I finished naturalization last week, and I have my filled out voter registration to mail in today.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:11 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The truthiness of Hersh's story is irrelevant- the important thing is that it's saying what people on both the left and right want to hear: the Obama administration is corrupt and deceitful, and anything they say can't be trusted. The of course is that all governments are equally bad. I fully expect that within a month the dominant narrative question in this story will be "What did Hillary know, and when did she know it?"

In short this is a perfect little "Benghazi v. 2.0", served up right in time for the elections. Expect this story to have legs, if not evidence.
posted by happyroach at 8:20 AM on May 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


That's kind of my feeling too. I don't see much that makes Hillary or Obama look bad in the alternative story, but just the idea that they lied can sound scandalous. I find it pretty annoying because I don't really buy Hersh's account but he has enough credibility that many people are just going to take it as fact.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:27 AM on May 11, 2015


Murder Osama. Okay by me. YMMV of course.

I prefer to think of it as an execution without trial which, just this one time I'm going okay with, but just okay. From what I remember of some of the details that came out about the raid itself, the soldiers were told to assume a bunch of things (like that he would be wearing a bomb wired to a dead-man switch) that would have made it nearly impossible for them to have taken him alive unless he had been bare naked, laying unconscious in the courtyard tied up. I can picture what that briefing would have looked like too. I believe that everyone involved probably wanted to capture him alive but I'm sure everyone knew that, because of the assumptions they had to make for their own safety, it would be basically impossible. I'm okay with that but I would have much rather they had captured him alive so we could put him on trial.

I know that no jury in the world would have acquitted him and the trial would have been a total sham but we should have done what we could to make it a fair trial. If we're trying to tell the world and ourselves that we're better than our enemies, I think capturing OBL would have been an opportunity to prove it.
posted by VTX at 8:35 AM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


> In short this is a perfect little "Benghazi v. 2.0", served up right in time for the elections.

Generally, guessing someone's nationality on the internet can be tricky. But ONLY an American would think of May 2015 as "right in time for the November 2016 elections"!

The idea that we have to shut up and agree with the President for most of the last two years of each term - in case "the Republicans!" - is breaktakingly bad.

To compare the assassination of Bin Laden to Benghazi is also deeply flawed.

Benghazi is a non-issue - a few people killed in the sort of attack that is inevitable if you are going to have nearly a thousand foreign military bases in countries often full of people who hate you and wish you dead. If the Republicans hadn't made a big deal of it, no one would ever have cared - American kids will never learn about it in high school.

But 9/11 was the great world-altering event of our age. American kids will be learning about it in primary school a century from now - including how Bin Laden was eventually found and killed (and I hope they pipe up and say, "Ms. Bitrot, why didn't they try him like they did the Nazis?")

Every American is naturally interested in this. If it came out that we were systematically lied to about how that story ended, it affects every American. We deserve to know the truth.

(EDIT: and I'm not actually "an American" - I have a UK citizenship - but I'm a New Yorker.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:57 AM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


not to deny the effectiveness of waterboarding

!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 AM on May 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


There is no reason to accept Hersch's report as true. He has provided no verifiable evidence to support his story or contradict the generally accepted account. He has given us no photographs, documents, identified witnesses to support the story. Hersch's report conflicts with other reports, but does little to demonstrate that the witnesses and documents used to support those reports are fabrications or lies.

Also WRT to the plausibility of Hersch's story. If Hersch's story is true, then some Pakistani leaders decided to have Bin Laden taken out in way that maximized their country's domestic and international embarrassment. That seems unlikely.
posted by humanfont at 10:08 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Suppose that after WW2, instead of trials the top Nazis simply disappeared, and we got some spurious story. Would this be better or worse than what happened?

Better.

The idea that the top Nazis were tried in any meaningful sense is risible. It would have been better to just honestly kill them out of hand than to pretend that the process would have been allowed to acquit them. Just killing them has the benefit of not pretending to be real and impartial justice.

(The war crimes tribunals worked sort of okay for the little people, except where they had to ignore the idea of criminalizing conduct ex post)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:22 AM on May 11, 2015


I'm a little surprised at people thinking Occam's razor favors Hersh's story. It's a convoluted, conspiratorial story that has people acting against their best interests or illogically in many places, and contradicts known evidence and public statements by SEALS and others. And the glee in which it depicts Obama as a glory hound rings to me as much less journalistic than hit piece. The Vox and CNN pieces do a pretty good job of highlighting the inconsistencies and larger issues.
posted by chris24 at 10:30 AM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm (sincerely) not understanding the distinction between deliberately killing Osama bin Laden via SEALs, and deliberately killing other terrorist leaders via drones. Aren't they both premediated murders, if one is?
posted by Enemy of Joy at 10:31 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I disagree. There might not be any way for the Nuremberg trials to have been fair but that doesn't mean they were wrong to try.
posted by VTX at 10:33 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


> The idea that the top Nazis were tried in any meaningful sense is risible. It would have been better to just honestly kill them out of hand than to pretend that the process would have been allowed to acquit them.

What?! What sort of reasoning is this? It's still a trial even if the person on trial is guilty as sin and will certainly be convicted.

"Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done." Trials don't just have the purpose of establishing guilt, but of publicly exposing all the facts of the case, of having a record of guilt for future generations.

While I have little doubt that Bin Laden was the mastermind behind 9/11, I really have very little evidence to back this up - it's basically just Occam's Razor ("He admitted it and no one else has claimed responsibility") and taking the word of the US government (see above for "serial liar").

Absent a trial or an inquiry(*) unless there's some revelation down the road, I assume future historians will have an opinion much like mine: "Because of the US government's obsessive mendacity and secrecy at the time, we will never get a complete picture of what actually happened. Our best guess is as follows:"

(* - the 9/11 Commission Report was not only a decade before, it ran out of money and never really finished...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:39 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Nuremberg trials were vitally important because they were the complement to the United Nations charter in prohibiting aggressive war at international law.

For all of human history, states were permitted to wage war "for profit" as it were: to obtain territory and resources, and to deprive their enemy of the same, and if you won, you got the spoils.

Since 1945, "for profit" interstate wars have been illegal and that illegality has been honored by all the great powers. The war that remained legal -- most notably for sanctioning violators of international law, and for intervening in other states' civil wars as long as you are supporting someone with a claim to be the legitimate government -- have been capable of abuse, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.
posted by MattD at 10:43 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


@Enemy of Joy

For me the only real distinctions are that the SEALs are less likely to create collateral damage, more likely to make a positive ID (even if it's just an ID of the corpse), and it at least gave us the opportunity to capture rather than kill. However unlikely it might have been, it's possible that he was, at that point, a tired and sick old man who just wanted things to be over. When the SEALs burst through his door he could have been waiting with his hands on his head ready to be taken away without complaint. The raid was all that much better than a drone strike but I feel less bad about it.

Had some of the soldiers been killed or wounded in the raid I might feel differently.

There is an irrational part of me that feels like the raid was more honorable somehow. It's dumb and irrational but there it is.

While we're at it, I wish we would have captured him and sentenced him to prison where he could rot (though well treated) away with the knowledge that he'll never be a martyr for the cause. Had I been in OBL's shoes I think life in prison would have been the among the worst fates I could imagine.
posted by VTX at 10:47 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Since 1945, "for profit" interstate wars have been illegal and that illegality has been honored by all the great powers.

Excuse me while I go laugh myself to death. Just in my lifetime: Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan--all about oil and profit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:50 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Occam's razor favors Hersh's story.

Occam's Razor favors only "the US government's story is deceptive in some unknown way" - and that weakly. That's the simplest hypothesis that explains the inconsistency in stories, and the complete lack of hard evidence or even of eyewitness accounts.

Really, aside from that it's too hard to tell. Was it much like they said with a few embarrassing details removed? Had Bin Laden been dead for years? I mean, here's some old guy on dialysis... the last video tape that you saw him with his lips moving in was in 2007 and he wasn't looking good (and the fact the tape freezes right before the voice gets to topical events seemed indicative at the time). By the time 2011 rolled around, I'd long since assumed he'd just died somewhere since then and was resting in an unmarked grave.

No way to tell. Could be anything. There is not enough information to really prefer a hypothesis.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:50 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Since 1945, "for profit" interstate wars have been illegal and that illegality has been honored by all the great powers. honored the letter and not the spirit of this law by the great powers who have sent proxies into the field and come up with excuses for profitmaking wars


FTFY
posted by lalochezia at 10:52 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Have any of these stories figured out how John Cena got the info?

John Oliver explains why he prefers the Cena announcement
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:11 AM on May 11, 2015


I think the US needs to become its own best friend. We need to break up with the Middle East, altogether. More than fifty percent of the people in the US would face massive loss of freedom if they had to live there. Working for any nation in the Middle East is like asking African Americans to support apartheid. I don't think it is prudent or appropriate, and in fact constitutes discrimination against women in the US, by proxy. So, that said, US foreign policy in the Middle East has to meet the situation as it presents. Have you not noticed it is a convolouted mess? When you add these pampered Evangelical politicians to the mix with their apocolyptical "truthwish," (or deathwish,) however you want to look at it, there is no sane way to deal with religious war other than to be reserved in action. Because the whole thing is a bunch of huge lies, there is virtually no other way to engage it, except in its language.
posted by Oyéah at 11:27 AM on May 11, 2015


The hypocracy as usual is mindblowing.
Public enemy number one kept, fed and watered by America's best friend and dearest middle east ally the truely diabolical kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
No protest, no slap, just a hey want some intell to help bomb the shit out of those Houthis?. And all this under the eyes of Pakistan intelligence which hates the Americans with the heat of a thousand suns.
posted by adamvasco at 12:05 PM on May 11, 2015


Hersh on Bin Laden: The Anatomy of a Cover Up, Jack Murphy, SOFREP
Over the years, we’ve stuck our necks out a few times in an attempt to write about what really happened on the OBL raid, and received plenty of backlash for it. This is to be expected when America has made such a strong emotional investment in the War on Terror over the last 14 years. Americans were so happy to see Bin Laden killed that we drank our own koolaid. We took what our government told us at face value and never questioned it, no matter how inconsistent and illogical the narrative spun by the White House was.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:39 PM on May 11, 2015


But ONLY an American would think of May 2015 as "right in time for the November 2016 elections"!

Hey, a proper "Wag the Dog" narrative tales time. But rather than a direct election attack, consider it another chapter in the ongoing attempt to deny Obama a legacy. In this scenario white liberals and conservatives both have consciously our unconsciously decided that one departure from the white male president standard is enough, thank you, and measures have to be taken to ensure that it'll be another fifty years before this happens again. The fact they it can sabato a

Sure that's a paranoid scenario, but note: I have equally as much evidence as Hersh does for his. The question really is, does it fit the internal narrative people have? I mean looking at the reactions here, obviously this story is being accepted not on any evidence, but because it confirms to a story people have already created.
posted by happyroach at 12:40 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


New theory: Sy Hersh has a warehouse full of OBAMA BIN LYIN bumper stickers and desperately needs to sell them somehow.
posted by duffell at 1:35 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Has Sy Hersh been correct about anything in the last decade? I've lost count of how many times he has broken new stories about our imminent war with Iran...
posted by dios at 1:51 PM on May 11, 2015


From The man of twists and turns' last link:
In the movie [Zero Dark Thirty], she advances the thesis that Bin Laden could not be running an international terrorist organization from a cave in Afghanistan. Well, he was essentially living in an urban cave in Abbottabad on house arrest without an internet connection or telephone. Perhaps Bin Laden was not nearly as important as we are led to believe by this stage in the game.
Huh, I didn't think of that. The official explanation for bin Laden's lack of a phone/data link was that he was being surreptitious and communicating by courier. But you know, it fits the "house arrest" scenario just as well, perhaps better. Even if you're being surreptitious, why not have a phone for local calls? Keep it under lock and key perhaps. I might be wrong about this, but I presume that big houses in Abbottabad have phones; not having one could attract more attention than simply doing what everybody else does.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:19 PM on May 11, 2015


The oddist thing about Sy's story to me is why would Pakistan need to have the US secretly fly into their prison to kill their prisoner, instead of killing him themselves, or maybe just bringing in a CIA agent to do it. The only way it would seem to make any sense is if the attack was done with the knowledge of a few people within the Pakistani military/ISI, but not others who needed to be made to believe the US had perpetrated the attack on their own. Sy's explanation doesn't make any sense.

Extended families in the Arab world who live in compounds like this have servants / helpers who live there with their own families. Who were they and what happened to them?

I doubt Bin Laden or Zawahiri would have local servants in their hideouts. I would think any servants would have essentially been part of the family. It is odd, though, that no one has been able to interview anyone that was in the house aside from the SEALs. But I would think it is the ISI that has more to hide than Saudi Arabia as far as their relationship with al-Qaeda goes. al-Qaeda is even more of a mystery than ISIS in some ways.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:30 PM on May 11, 2015


Pakistan intelligence which hates the Americans with the heat of a thousand suns.

I wonder how much this explains a lot of different stuff. I've heard plenty of rumors about how the ISI is riven with fundamentalists.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:32 PM on May 11, 2015


People in Abbotabad at the time (I have family members who went to high school there and still have friends in the area) reported hearing the helicopters as well as having people knocking on doors and telling them in fluent Urdu to stay indoors. I have no idea how true those reports were. Pakistanis love conspiracy theories.

Gen Durrani (the one named source in Hersh's account) retired some time in the early nineties. I'm a little skeptical of his credibility as to the inner workings of the ISI twenty years later.

It seems pretty obvious that the White House version of events is incomplete, at best, however Hersh's story is sensational and thin. I'm not sure why anyone would trust it more, barring the revelation of corroborating evidence.

Some of the things that people point to as being signs of the falsehood of the official narrative amuse me. For example, as to what Abbotabad is like, yes, the PMA is housed there, but it is a hill station resort town as well, and home to one of the nation's best known boarding schools. It cannot remotely be considered a suburb of Islamabad or Rawalpindi. It is remarkably easy to live a relatively anonymous life in Pakistan. High walled compounds that house reasonably well off people who like their privacy are not unusual. Helicopters flying in and out of Abbotabad would not be unusual, given the presence of the military academy. The ISI is not a monolithic entity; neither is the Pakistan military as a whole. It is entirely plausible that some ISI officials knew about OBL being in
Abbotabad without the upper leadership knowing. The breakdown/severe deterioration of US-Pakistan relations post-May2011 does not tend to bear out the idea that the two countries collaborated on this. The way it played out made the military look really bad within Pakistan, at a time when they needed to shore up their public image.

Sorry for this disjointed comment. There are a lot of complicated connected pieces in this story. Occam's Razor probably isn't the most helpful tool here.
posted by bardophile at 2:37 PM on May 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


Have any of these stories figured out how John Cena got the info?

From the Rock, probably.
posted by Etrigan at 2:40 PM on May 11, 2015


Hersh said that we were trying to cover for the informants, and haul off, at the same time a very popular terrorist, whose demise at our hands would not please the Middle East. I think President Obama took the heat for the doings on the national and international stage, to cover for the non-US help. Then Hersh uncovers everyone to the best of his ability, and tries to discredit all invoved, especially Obama. He obviously wasn't planning to help anyone pick up a medal or accolades. That he speculates about the desecration of bin Laden's corpse. Who is paying Hersh to throw gasoline on the fire? Could this possibly make anyone on this monkey wracked globe, more safe?
posted by Oyéah at 2:49 PM on May 11, 2015


Ages ago, the US decided to have Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as major allies, and to fund the governments of these countries regardless. That decision was as stupid as could possibly be.

Ever since, the US has struggled to justify that position and to maintain it. Famously, a number of European countries were neither able to understand the reason of the war against Iraq nor the current sanctions against Iran. (Obviously, the regimes in Iraq and Iran were and are not democratic - but compared to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?????? - and with full documentation of anti-US terror from SA and Pakistan but not from Iraq and Iran??)

My intuition is that the Obama administration came in with an intent to dramatically change the relations with both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and came up against some sort of imperatives they had to deal with. I cannot guess what.
Taking out Osama bin Laden was a bold move, good for us who needed some sort of justice, but also a signal that the US/Pakistani relationship is not boundless. Yes, someone probably had to accept it on the Pakistani side, but it was a humiliation, regardless. And it is obvious that somehow, the Pakistanis still have enough power that the US has not been able to stop radicalization in Pakistan or in Afghanistan.

I may be completely wrong here, but it seems to me that the broader Afghan political interest is in opening up towards both Iran and India and thus a less ideological approach to Islam.
posted by mumimor at 2:53 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The US actively helped create radicalization in Pakistan. The US funded the groups that morphed info the Taliban. Pakistan isn't supporting radicalization in spite of US efforts. Pakistan, to paraphrase Secretary Clinton has allowed the US and Saudi Arabia to start a snake farm in Pakistan, because hey, the US and Saudis were willing to pay big money for snakes to turn loose on the Soviets and on Iran. Now we have these mammoth snakes, which the Saudis will still pay to breed, and which the US has decided to put a bounty on, and a generation of snake farmers who don't want to lose a good living. But let's not assume that all Pakistanis, or even everyone in the Pakistani establishment, is supporting the snake farming business.

Also, I'm not sure why anyone would think that Iraq is a less laughable democracy than Pakistan. Don't conflate Saudi Arabia with Pakistan. Don't assume Pakistan is in the Middle East; South Asia is a different beast altogether. Lastly, American support for Pakistan has never been unquestioning; ask any Pakistani and they'll read you a litany of the "betrayals" of the "so-called alliance between the US and Pakistan."
posted by bardophile at 3:10 PM on May 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


See also: Nixon faked the moon landings, Obama was born in Kenya, Clinton burned an American Flag on foreign soil and is probably a soviet spy.
posted by humanfont at 3:20 PM on May 11, 2015


Bardophile, I hoped not to pontificate on stuff I am not an expert on, and did so anyway. I'm sorry.

I mostly agree with your understanding - not least because I have tons of Pakistani friends who watch all this in horror. However, I do believe the US government is far too accepting of whatever Pakistani government
posted by mumimor at 3:21 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pakistanis Knew Where Bin Laden Was, Say US Sources [NBC News]
Two intelligence sources tell NBC News that the year before the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a "walk in" asset from Pakistani intelligence told the CIA where the most wanted man in the world was hiding - and these two sources plus a third say that the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was hiding all along.

This story just got much more interesting.
posted by andoatnp at 3:27 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Obviously, the Pakistani government knew where Osama bin Laden was. If anyone imagines that is a controversial element in the story, they are living in Disneyland or some other planet. The relevant question in Seymour's article (which he curiously doesn't ask) is to what extent the US government knew it, from 2001 on.
If you really want a conspiracy theory, why didn't the Bush administration already find bin Laden? They most probably knew exactly where he was (in Pakistan) and who funded him (in Saudi Arabia).

At this day and age, I'd say it would be more relevant to cut off those unhealthy relationships and find new alliances based on a situation where the US is less dependent on oil, and where the cold war interest in Pakistan could easily be replaced by a better relationship with Afghanistan and India (and Iran, but I understand how that is controversial)
posted by mumimor at 3:37 PM on May 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


The oddist thing about Sy's story to me is why would Pakistan need to have the US secretly fly into their prison to kill their prisoner, instead of killing him themselves, or maybe just bringing in a CIA agent to do it

Uh, because killing Bin Laden is not the point; it's the political narrative that's important. If Pakistan kills Bin Laden themselves, the public narrative goes:

USA: "WAIT, you knew that Bin Laden was in Pakistan? And you didn't tell us so we could (kill him selves/put him on trial/etc)? How dare you! This will affect our political relationship!"

USA: "(Pakistan, why would you do that without talking to us first?)"

But if Pakistan gives the US the info:

Pakistan: "(We'll give you info on Bin Laden in exchange for ____)"
USA: "(Okay.)"

USA: "We have stormed a secret base after months of intelligence and have killed BIN LADEN!"
posted by suedehead at 3:56 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm skeptical of Hersh from the other direction. Living in America is enough of a surreal carnival of lies, media-induced historical amnesia, and psy-ops and that you could tell me bin Laden was chilling in Argentina with Hitler and the frozen head of Howard Hughes and I'd still consider you more credible than the NYT.
posted by gorbweaver at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2015




Uh, because killing Bin Laden is not the point; it's the political narrative that's important. If Pakistan kills Bin Laden themselves, the public narrative goes:

USA: "WAIT, you knew that Bin Laden was in Pakistan? And you didn't tell us so we could (kill him selves/put him on trial/etc)? How dare you! This will affect our political relationship!"


I doubt "the narrative" was the most important thing to the US. As bad as it is, the US is not the Kremlin. But once Obama new where Bin Laden was, he became politically liable for going after him. If he failed to do so, he could rightfully be blamed the same way Clinton was.

Even still, it would be easy enough to stage the same narrative by killing him, collecting the DNA, and then covering it up with a drone strike - as others have suggested. Flying helicopters over the border in the middle of the night into a the heart of Pakistan was ridiculously unnecessary.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:55 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


“The Bin Laden Raid: The Man Is Still Dead,” Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, 11 May 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 5:11 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


But once Obama knew...

Another weird thing: why didn't Pakistan just announce that they had captured Bin Laden when they found him or after the US found out about it? If it's true they were detaining him under "house arrest," it could be that the ISI was trying to run him. A similar thing was happening with Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi who has been in and out of prison in Jordan, although much more out in the open. I wonder if al-Qaeda knew he was in Pakistan's custody? Should we conclude Pakistan is holding Zawahiri under house arrest as well?

Sy Hersh, Lost in a Wilderness of Mirrors
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:05 PM on May 11, 2015


More reporting on rumors from anonymous sources and shadowy figures without a single document or bit of actual evidence. There are plenty of people and countries who have strong motives to make up and spread these rumors. Without some actual evidence it is hard to see how it gets more interesting.
posted by humanfont at 7:21 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


More reporting on rumors from anonymous sources and shadowy figures without a single document or bit of actual evidence.

This is a somewhat unrelated thought, but 'evidence' looks like documents only in a court of law, or in a legalistic setting.

In this case, with Hersh's alternative story, what would 'evidence' in this setting be?

Isn't this like the evidence asked for when, say, if someone is date-raped, the police officer asks the assailant: "Well, what evidence do you have? You were dating, after all?" And then the pursuit of truths and justice becomes about someone's word vs. someone else's.

To put it another way -- what would convince us that X is true? For the NSA spying revelations, it was the leakage of many documents by Snowden. But even before that, there were numerous, numerous witnesses, whistleblowers, journalists talking about mass surveillance -- yet it wasn't taken fully seriously by the capital-P Public or media until Snowden managed to publish a series of ugly-looking Powerpoint slides and documents.

The absence of proof itself is not an argument that Hersh's thesis is wrong. What would convince us that part of it is true?
posted by suedehead at 7:42 PM on May 11, 2015


A track record of credibility is usually what carries a journalist through these sorts of moments. Hersh has somewhat squandered his pedigree in recent years so it's a situation where you really want to wait for other journalists to see if they can verify the reporting.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:52 PM on May 11, 2015


More reporting on rumors from anonymous sources and shadowy figures without a single document or bit of actual evidence.

It's worth noting that there's fewer witnesses and less evidence for this story than there is for the Roswell UFO crash (to spoil that story- it was a balloon).

But you know, I suspect that every couple months until the election night more shadowy, nameless witnesses will pop up. Shown in silhouette, with voice distorters, in between dramatic camera pans over desert terrain and war and terrorism footage. Names will be named by nameless people.

And I'm certain the upshot will be highly frustrating to Hersh. He wants greater transparency and accountability in the government- what he'll get is a Republican president.

See how easy out is to create a narrative? It's gin and profitable!
posted by happyroach at 8:00 PM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's worth noting that there's fewer witnesses and less evidence for this story than there is for the Roswell UFO crash (to spoil that story- it was a balloon).

But you know, I suspect that every couple months until the election night more shadowy, nameless witnesses will pop up. Shown in silhouette, with voice distorters, in between dramatic camera pans over desert terrain and war and terrorism footage. Names will be named by nameless people.


I read these two paragraphs still thinking I was in the deflategate thread. They would work super well over there too.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:07 PM on May 11, 2015


Hersh is on Chris Hayes' show right now and his performance is making me believe him even less than I was already inclined. He is rambling, nigh incoherent at times, and not answering a single question he's asked.
posted by Justinian at 8:09 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Like Hayes asked him the very legitimate and important question "What do you mean when you say you independently verified much of the source's information?" and Hersh started mumbling and then went on a tangent about how the government has been lying about everything. Which... doesn't seem like an answer?
posted by Justinian at 8:11 PM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow, Andrea Mitchell just blasted (in a polite, nice way) Hersh's reporting and basically threw him under the bus. Between Mitchell and Hersh I know who I believe.
posted by Justinian at 8:14 PM on May 11, 2015


each of these soldiers had helmet cameras that were beaming video live to the White House

They were turned off during the actual raid, according to Panetta. (The linked article also contains quotes from the former head of the ISI saying it was "inconceivable" that his government was unaware of the raid; this was two days after the event.)

But whatever, we've already made the movie. We'll have to wait for a reboot.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:17 PM on May 11, 2015


As The Intercept points out, essentially the same tale as Hersh's was told by security expert R.J. Hillhouse in 2011 — sourced by other altogether different security community insiders.

I wonder if people in this discussion who are piling on Hersh for straying from the official line were also enthusiastic consumers of the Saving Private Jessica story and the earlier Kuwaiti Baby Incubator fantasy.

Obama is not your buddy, guys. Don't think of him as one of the homies. He's the fucking President and he's going to tell you only the things that a President will tell you.
posted by fredludd at 8:18 PM on May 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm not piling on Hersh for straying from the official line, I'm piling on Hersh because he has zero credibility at this point.
posted by Justinian at 8:28 PM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hersh has somewhat squandered his pedigree in recent years so it's a situation where you really want to wait for other journalists to see if they can verify the reporting.

Also in case you missed it, andoatnp's link to NBCNews seems to have done this:
The NBC News sources who confirm that a Pakistani intelligence official became a "walk in" asset include the special operations officer and a CIA officer who had served in Pakistan. These two sources and a third source, a very senior former U.S. intelligence official, also say that elements of the ISI were aware of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad. The former official was emphatic about the ISI's awareness, saying twice, "They knew."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:28 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if it's really that big of a deal, if true. The biggest criticism seems to be that Obama lied to make the SEALs look good. I guess the original story could have been used to defend drones as well, but I don't think creating their own "narrative" was their motivation - rather they lied to protect allies and used the SEALs I guess to make absolutely sure it went down okay?
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:38 PM on May 11, 2015


The NBC News story doesn't, repeat doesn't, corroborate Hersh's story, not in the most important respects. That Pakistan knew of Bin Laden's presence tells us nothing about whether they had advance knowledge of, much less helped orchestrate, the raid that killed him. NBC may have felt more confident in publishing its story because Hersh's story is out there, but it's a long way from corroboration.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:57 PM on May 11, 2015


A former Secretary of Defense who oversaw the first Gulf War told reporters that Saddam still had WMD and that Saddam was connected to 9-11.
posted by humanfont at 9:02 PM on May 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


The NBC News story doesn't, repeat doesn't, corroborate Hersh's story, not in the most important respects. That Pakistan knew of Bin Laden's presence tells us nothing about whether they had advance knowledge of, much less helped orchestrate, the raid that killed him. NBC may have felt more confident in publishing its story because Hersh's story is out there, but it's a long way from corroboration.

it corroborates a very specific claim he makes, and the reporting that hillhouse did in 2011 overlapping so closely with all of the major points he makes is a pretty big deal imo. the intercept points out that hersh's source may have been influenced by hillhouse's reporting, but the fact that he mentions the details about seals throwing parts of bin laden's remains out of the chopper over the hindu kush when she corroborates hearing but specifically chose not to report that is another very specific detail that makes a strong case to me
posted by p3on at 9:16 PM on May 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


. (The linked article also contains quotes from the former head of the ISI saying it was "inconceivable" that his government was unaware of the raid; this was two days after the event.)

As I said upthread, Gen Durrani was ISI head twenty years ago. His credibility is not the best.
posted by bardophile at 10:32 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


If only folks were as skeptical of the U.S. government's claims as they are of Sy Hersh's we might not have invaded Iraq and destabilized the whole of SE Asia and parts of East Africa.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:18 PM on May 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't see why everyone is acting incredulous that a sitting president would lie to the American people about what actually happened during the course of a black-ops extra judicial assassination. Naivete abounds when the proclamations of the U.S. government are concerned. Never underestimate the American propensity to blindly accept the pronouncements of the power structure while vigorously attacking any and all who question the official narrative.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:31 PM on May 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


I fully expect that within a month the dominant narrative question in this story will be "What did Hillary know, and when did she know it?"

Americans love that we executed OBL. Even Republicans couldn't turn the public against Hillary for that.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:09 AM on May 12, 2015


I don't see the incredulity. Rather, it seems that we have reached an impasse between the lies of a government and a conspiracy theory full of contradictions and nonsense.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:55 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's possible to think the government lies, and we don't have the whole story, and still think Hersh's story is... unlikely.
posted by chris24 at 4:02 AM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't see why everyone is acting incredulous that a sitting president would lie to the American people about what actually happened during the course of a black-ops extra judicial assassination.

That's an unbelievably bad-faith reading of what "everyone" is saying here.
posted by duffell at 6:23 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry to be pedantic but wasn't the raid carried out by some kind of joint military/CIA group that included elements of the Navy SEALs, Army rangers, and the Army's Delta force? JSOC I think?
posted by VTX at 6:26 AM on May 12, 2015


Sorry to be pedantic but wasn't the raid carried out by some kind of joint military/CIA group that included elements of the Navy SEALs, Army rangers, and the Army's Delta force? JSOC I think?

JSOC is a headquarters element that has Delta and SEAL Team 6 and some other elements under it, and can pull other assets as needed for particular missions, and works closely with the CIA. The people carrying out the raid on the ground were all SEALs (according to pretty much every report).
posted by Etrigan at 7:16 AM on May 12, 2015


Maybe we learned a lesson from Iraq about the importance of skepticism when it comes to the anonymous whispers of spooks to their media sources. Particularly when those unnamed spooks provide a narrative aligned with our political disposition.
posted by humanfont at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2015


Ah okay, I thought I remembered something about it from the thread about the event. From this link it sounds like it was a JSOC operation and JSOC does indeed include operators from all of those units but the raid itself was all SEALs (other than the helo pilots).

Carry on.
posted by VTX at 8:25 AM on May 12, 2015


The AFP is reporting that there was a defector from Pak intelligence, but does not suggest he was a walk-in.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:58 AM on May 12, 2015


The AFP is reporting that there was a defector from Pak intelligence, but does not suggest he was a walk-in.

The linked article cites an unnamed military source and Gen Hamid Gul. Hamid Gul was the head of the ISI even earlier than Durrani. Additionally, he was ISI when the strategy to support the Mujahideen was being put in place. His beef with less pro-Taliban folk is pretty well-documented, as is his general crackpot status amongst all but the most rabidly pro-militant Pakistanis.
posted by bardophile at 9:59 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which is not to say that the other unnamed source is not credible. Just that if Hamid Gul is suggesting something, one should look at it very very carefully.
posted by bardophile at 10:00 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's possible to think the government lies, and we don't have the whole story, and still think Hersh's story is... unlikely.

It's even possible to think that Hersh's reporting efforts are a deliberate part of a broader conspiracy to ensure this a) keeps being talked about and b) gets murkier and murkier so that eventually no one can actually sift anything like reliable signal out of all the noise.
posted by chavenet at 10:39 AM on May 12, 2015




Hillhouse has updated her blog.
posted by bukvich at 11:35 AM on May 12, 2015


Dr. Hillhouse has run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggled jewels from the Soviet Union and slipped through some of the world’s tightest borders. From Uzbekistan to Romania, she's been followed, held at gunpoint and interrogated. Foreign governments and others have pitched her for recruitment as a spy. (They failed.)

A former professor and Fulbright fellow, Dr. Hillhouse earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan.
Dang!
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:55 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dr. Hillhouse is soon to be s major motion picture.
posted by happyroach at 12:04 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I doubt "the narrative" was the most important thing to the US.

I'm 100% agnostic on the broader issue here, but for better or worse, I have no trouble whatsoever believing that controlling "the narrative" would be the #1 priority for any incarnation of the US government in our current post-Rove "we create our own reality" media climate. Honestly, "trying to control the narrative" is my go-to null hypothesis for almost anything that happens here anymore.
posted by dialetheia at 12:49 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a constant political war played out in the media, but I don't think public perception was Obama's first motivation. He had to get Bin Laden or it would ultimately have been used against the Democrats: that was probably the biggest political factor. Maybe he went a little far in using the raid to his political advantage. That's a valid criticism. Zero Truth Thirty.

Fascinating interview with Robert Baer on the Hersh story.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


The story of the Pakistani informer was circulating in the rumor mill within days of the Abbottabad raid, but at the time, no one could or would corroborate the claim. Such is the difficulty of reporting on covert operations and intelligence matters; there are no official documents to draw on, few officials who will talk and few ways to check the details they give you when they do.

Two years later, when I was researching my book, I learned from a high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service that the ISI had been hiding Bin Laden and ran a desk specifically to handle him as an intelligence asset. After the book came out, I learned more: that it was indeed a Pakistani Army brigadier — all the senior officers of the ISI are in the military — who told the C.I.A. where Bin Laden was hiding, and that Bin Laden was living there with the knowledge and protection of the ISI. […] I was confident the information was true, but I held off publishing it. It was going to be extremely difficult to corroborate in the United States, not least because the informant was presumably in witness protection.

I do not recall ever corresponding with Hersh, but he is following up on a story that many of us assembled parts of. The former C.I.A. officer Larry Johnson aired the theory of the informant — credited to “friends who are still active” — on his blog within days of the raid. And Hersh appears to have succeeded in getting both American and Pakistani sources to corroborate it. His sources remain anonymous, but other outlets such as NBC News have since come forward with similar accounts. Finally, the Pakistani daily newspaper The News reported Tuesday that Pakistani intelligence officials have conceded that it was indeed a walk-in who provided the information on Bin Laden. The newspaper names the officer as Brigadier Usman Khalid; the reporter is sufficiently well connected that he should be taken seriously.
"The Detail in Seymour Hersh’s Bin Laden Story That Rings True": Carlotta Gall in The New York Times today
posted by RogerB at 3:49 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, about that thing where you use single, anonymous sources to base your whole argument on, and you stick your fingers in your ears and go la la la...

Speaking of good old Curveball, he's the subject of a new film: ‘War of Lies’
posted by homunculus at 4:59 PM on May 12, 2015


Yeah, about that thing where you use single, anonymous sources to base your whole argument on, and you stick your fingers in your ears and go la la la...

Unless it's about Nixon.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:34 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


One possible benign scenario would be that Bin Laden's discovery was through a "walk in" and the courier story was crafted as an alternate construction/cover story to protect the source of the information. If someone did come forward for the reward, then that person and their U.S. handlers would be concerned for the individual's safety. Blaming the courier also help throw other terrorist leaders in hiding off their routine. They have to wonder if their couriers are similarly compromised.
posted by humanfont at 8:32 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]




NBC is now retracting correcting its story on the Pakistani "walk-in":

Editor's Note: This story has been updated since it was first published. The original version of this story said that a Pakistani asset told the U.S. where bin Laden was hiding. Sources say that while the asset provided information vital to the hunt for bin Laden, he was not the source of his whereabouts.
posted by Cash4Lead at 5:57 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nbc newsman Brian Williams says he was in the U.S. embassy when the Pakistani walkin arrived. They watched a cricket match together while waiting for the CIA chief to show up.
posted by humanfont at 10:04 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Pakistani asset". I guess it makes thing easier for propaganda purposes: just a tool to use, just some goods damaged in a bombing run.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:37 AM on May 13, 2015


@HeerJeet: "1. @IChotiner's interview with Seymour Hersh reads like a David Mamet play"

“I Am Not Backing Off Anything I Said”
An interview with Seymour Hersh

posted by Golden Eternity at 4:44 PM on May 13, 2015


Can anybody still defend Hersh after reading that interview? Guy sounds unhinged. He did great work on My Lai. That was 5 years before I was born, and I just turned 40 last week. (kill me)
posted by Justinian at 8:36 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]




Golden Eternity: An interview with Seymour Hersh

That was highly entertaining. I felt so embarrassed for the 'interviewer'.
posted by dhruva at 5:35 AM on May 14, 2015


dhurva, I think this was my favorite bit:

Hersh: Now you said the first intelligent thing you have said. If you had asked whether he didn’t run this because he is in love with Obama and all that stuff that people think, no … It is a very good question. Although we have huge disagreements. My children and I have huge disagreements. I have a huge disagreement with my dog. We have a lot of disagreements and there are times when he will call me and I will not answer the call. Oh fuck hold on. He always has said to me he welcomes any information and it was I who said fuck it.

The way this is phrased, it sounds like he's had several in-depth conversations with his dog.
posted by duffell at 12:50 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hersh’s many critics, almost word-for-word, gave the same perfunctory two-sentence nod to his best-known achievements—breaking the My Lai massacre in 1969 (for which he won the Pulitzer) and exposing the Abu Ghraib torture scandal 35 years later—before going on to call him every name in the book: “conspiracy theorist,” “off the rails,” “crank.” Yet most of this criticism, over the thousands of words written about Hersh’s piece in the last week, has amounted to “That doesn’t make sense to me,” or “That’s not what government officials told me before,” or “How are we to believe his anonymous sources?”
Trevor Timm in Columbia Journalism Review: The media’s reaction to Seymour Hersh’s bin Laden scoop has been disgraceful
posted by RogerB at 11:16 AM on May 15, 2015 [10 favorites]






Man, that Hersh interview gave me the same feeling I had interviewing John Pilger, especially when I pressed him about Assange: a brilliant guy in his prime, but now safely cocooned in his own narcissism, relying on questioning the integrity and intelligence of his interviewer in an attempt to deflect examination, and you simply cannot question dude's judgement on anything, because he's the final authority on the subject. Must be Old Man Of Letters Disease or something.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:05 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The beginning of a rift between America and the Saudis. The truth about the Seymour Hersh / Osama story.
posted by adamvasco at 3:37 PM on May 16, 2015


> There is no reason to accept Hersch's report as true.

> I'm piling on Hersh because he has zero credibility at this point.

All you "zero credibility" people are just parroting the same bullshit Hersh has been dealing with since he first started reporting. No matter how many important stories he breaks, no matter how many times the doubts and incredulity and "refutations" are refuted and the news media that basically called him a liar are forced to retract and admit embarrassedly that, gee, ol' Sy seems to have got it right, the presumption in many quarters is still that he's wrong until proven right and the American government couldn't possibly have done what he said it did. Here: Lapdogs, redux: How the press tried to discredit Seymour Hersh’s bombshell reporting on CIA domestic spying. Yes, only fools and conspiracy theorists could possibly believe this latest thing, even though the previous things turned out to be on the money...
posted by languagehat at 2:42 PM on May 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


US releases documents recovered from Osama bin Laden raid.
Meanwhile Peter Maas comments on the frontline documentary and CIA myths of the Bin Laden Raid.
posted by adamvasco at 8:22 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


How extraordinary that the process of clearing documents should have been completed at this time. If Mr Hersh had waited just a few days more he might have seen the foolishness of his claims. This should be a lesson to other critics and so-called whistleblowers.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:22 PM on May 20, 2015


Philip Giraldi, How Was Bin Laden Killed
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:00 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sy Hersh has been giving "interviews about the article for two days and not one interviewer has read his article." Scott Horton podcast interview with Hersh.
posted by bukvich at 6:10 AM on May 21, 2015


Trevor Timm (at CJR), "The media’s reaction to Seymour Hersh’s bin Laden scoop has been disgraceful":
Barrels of ink have been spilled ripping apart Hersh’s character, while barely any follow-up reporting has been done to corroborate or refute his claims—even though there’s no doubt that the Obama administration has repeatedly misinformed and misled the public about the incident. Even less attention has been paid to the little follow-up reporting that we did get, which revealed that the CIA likely lied about its role in finding bin Laden, which it used to justify torture to the public.

Hersh has attempted to force the media to ask questions about its role in covering a world-shaping event—but it’s clear the media has trouble asking such questions if the answers are not the ones they want to hear.

Hersh’s many critics, almost word-for-word, gave the same perfunctory two-sentence nod to his best-known achievements—breaking the My Lai massacre in 1969 (for which he won the Pulitzer) and exposing the Abu Ghraib torture scandal 35 years later—before going on to call him every name in the book: “conspiracy theorist,” “off the rails,” “crank.” Yet most of this criticism, over the thousands of words written about Hersh’s piece in the last week, has amounted to “That doesn’t make sense to me,” or “That’s not what government officials told me before,” or “How are we to believe his anonymous sources?”
It truly disappoints me that MeFi can't do better than the howling, gibbering mob of press-release-parroting journos.
posted by languagehat at 11:33 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]




It truly disappoints me that MeFi can't do better than the howling, gibbering mob of press-release-parroting journos.

Since both your comments defending Hersh follow shortly after mine, although I know I'm not the only one you're directing this at, I want to add the caveat that my response to the interview with Hersh has nothing to do with the veracity of his research. It just struck a very familiar chord with me in talking to Pilger; the kind of defensive "how do you question me" sneering that is especially grating betweens colleagues. Hersh might be completely right about what he says he was told happened. I still don't think journalists should be treating each other like that, as irrelevant that may be to Hersh's research.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2015


Doesn't seem to me that Hersh's story makes much more sense than the official version, but I love Sy after that interview. I wish David Simon would make an international suspense film featuring Sy as himself.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2015


The White House went to enormous efforts to prevent anyone assessing the truth of its story. E.g., the multiple orders to collect, conceal, and destroy photos of the dead bin Laden. That's enough to make me doubt their account all by itself. I can't tell whether Hersh's story is more truthful, but that doesn't really matter: we deserve to have confidence in the official account, and we've been denied that right.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:32 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meh. I can understand if there may be sensitive information that needed to be covered up. I suspect satisfying our "allies" is mainly what was at issue. Though the part about throwing his body into the mountains and claiming it was a drone attack, and then realizing they needed a different story after the helicopter crash seems plausible.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:52 PM on May 21, 2015


Really? For me, that seems the least likely part. Surely they wouldn't have run the risk that anyone would find and identify his body. I suppose you can argue "well, what if his face were shot off" ... "what if they had stripped him naked" ... "what if he had been dissected", but at that point you're really reaching for a way in which the argument could not be disproven.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:57 PM on May 21, 2015


I dunno. How do you get rid of a body? Maybe the SEALs should have consulted with Jeffrey Dahmer.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:24 PM on May 21, 2015


How do you get rid of a body?

This isn't the right forum for asking questions. Inquiries of that nature should be directed to AskMe, where it has been asked and answered.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:18 PM on May 21, 2015


> Since both your comments defending Hersh follow shortly after mine, although I know I'm not the only one you're directing this at

I wasn't directing it at you in particular; in fact, I didn't have any particular usernames in mind, and didn't pay any attention to the comments immediately above. What happened was that I read the thread a while back, seethed at the virulent Hirsh-hatred on display, then came back to post each link as soon as I found it as a general contribution to the thread, not a response to any particular comment. I'm glad you didn't take it personally.
posted by languagehat at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2015




An excellent piece. An excerpt:
Many of the recent criticisms that have been leveled at Hersh’s reporting on the killing of Osama bin Laden have revolved around how difficult it would be to keep elaborate “conspiracies” secret. “Hersh’s stories seem to become more spectacular, more thinly sourced, and more difficult to square with reality as we know it,” writes one critic at Vox.

But the cover-up of the bombing of Cambodia is as spectacular as it gets. And Hersh’s 1983 accurate claim that it was Kissinger who presided over the conspiracy comes from one single source: Ray Sitton.
posted by languagehat at 1:53 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]




Regarding the bombing of Cambodia: my 11th grade American History teacher was a Vietnam War veteran, but our textbooks were written in the 70s. As we got to the war, there were several occasions where our teacher would interject to say, "Now, it doesn't say this in your books, but I was there, so I can tell you that what happened was we [some jaw-dropping thing that defied belief but is now considered common knowledge today]", which included night raids into Cambodia.

I really don't know what to think of Hersh's story. But I do know that the incredulous, the bizarre and the cruel can and have, with time, become accepted truths. So I'm not ready to dismiss Hersh's account wholesale on this criteria alone.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:19 PM on May 22, 2015


Seymour Hersh and the dangers of corporate muckraking (MARK AMES)
...unlike Hersh’s stories going after the CIA and the military, the Times was far more afraid, and careful, of the consequences of taking on a powerful private company (Gulf & Western) and getting sued out of existence. Unlike Hersh’s muckraking stories about illegal CIA spying and military massacres, the Times saddled Hersh with a team of editors and lawyers to vet his reporting, sucking the life out of the piece until it was almost unreadable. Among other things, the Times cut out all the colorful anonymous quotes that made his muckraking bombshells on the CIA (and more recently, on the Osama Bin Laden killing) such memorable reads.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:54 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]






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