The White House dismissed the assertion of investigative reporter Seymour Hersh regarding the circumstances surrounding the Osama bin Laden raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011 as “baseless” and “patently false.”
Hersh alleged that the administration of President Barack Obama did not reveal the truth regarding the involvement of Pakistan in a raid, which resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to Hersh, the Obama administration revealed the operation in a manner that portrayed Pakistan as a villain.
In a statement to reporters, Ned Price, spokesman for the White House National Security said, “There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one.”
Price rejected Hersh’s claim that the Obama administration collaborated with Pakistani officials in the operation. He said, “the notion that the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false.”
He maintained that position of the White House that the information regarding the Osama bin Laden raid was “confined to a very small circle if senior U.S. officials.” Price further emphasized that President Obama early on decided not to inform any other government including Pakistan regarding the operation. He said the Pakistani government was not informed until after the raid occurred.
“We had been and continued to be partners with Pakistan in our joint effort to destroy al-Qa’ida, but this was a U.S. operation through and through,” said Price.
Hersh claims U.S. version of Osama Bin Laden raid as fiction
In his story published in the London Review of Books on Sunday, Hersh described the official report of the United States regarding the Osama bin Laden Raid known as “Operation Neptune Spear” as a work of fiction or a “fairy tale.”
“The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll [referring to the author of Alice in Wonderland],” wrote Hersh.
He added that U.S. story indicating that Pakistan’s two most senior military officials at the time, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (then chief of the army staff) and Gen Ahmed Shula Pasha, director general of inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency were not informed about the operation was a “blatant lie.”
Hersh said Gen. Pasha knew about the U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. He also rejected the story that Osama bin Laden was living in his hideout.
According to him, Osama was an ISI prisoner. The United States learned about Osama bin Laden’s location in 2010 from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer, who asked for the reward offered by Washington in 2001.
“The US initially kept what it knew from the Pakistanis. ‘The fear was that if the existence of the source were made known, the Pakistanis themselves would move bin Laden to another location. So only a very small number of people were read into the source and his story,” wrote Hersh citing a retired senior U.S. intelligence official as a source.
Hersh also claimed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also knew that Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts and advised the Pakistanis to keep him as a prisoner.
Hersh account of Osama bin Laden raid a “farrago of nonsense”
Peter Bergen, a national security analyst at CNN, refuted Hersh’s claims. According to him, “Hersh’s account of the bin Laden raid is a farrago of nonsense that is contravened by a multitude of eyewitness accounts, inconvenient facts, and simple common sense.”
Bergen said he contacted ISI head Gen. Assad Durrani, who was mentioned by Hersh in his story. According to Bergen, Gen. Durrani told him that there was no evidence of any kind” that the ISI knew that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. However, he could still “make an assessment that this could be plausible.”
Many criticized Hersh for his heavy use of anonymous sources in his story. He explained to CNN that is “very tough for guys still inside to be quoted extensively.” Hersh emphasized that he “vetted most and verified” his sources.
Hersh said. “I would argue that a lot of the stories I wrote were pretty much on-mark.” However, he also acknowledged, “Nobody is perfect, and everybody’s done bad stories.”
In 2004, Hersh reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld effectively approved abuses against terrorists held at Abu Ghraib prison. A Pentagon spokesperson dismissed his report as “the most hysterical piece of journalist malpractice” he ever observed.