White House dismisses new claims about Bin Laden death raid
The Obama administration has rubbished claims that its account of the 2011 raid which killed Osama bin Laden was fabricated, describing claims that Pakistan co-operated with the US to kill the former al-Qa'ida leader as "inaccurate and baseless".
According to the new account by Seymour Hersh, the investigative journalist, bin Laden was being kept as a prisoner of Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, and senior Pakistani generals and intelligence officials agreed in advance to the US Navy Seal mission to kill him.
"There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one," said a White House national security spokesman in a statement to reporters first released by CNN, reiterating that the raid was a "US operation through and through".
"The president decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred," the spokesman added.
Mr Hersh, who won a Pulitzer prize in the 1970s for his reporting on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, disputes the White House account in a 10,000-word article that relies heavily on the testimony of an anonymous former US intelligence official.
The standard account was "false", Mr Hersh wrote in the 'London Review of Books', "as are many other elements of the Obama administration's account" which he attacked as an 'Alice in Wonderland' confection that "might have been written by Lewis Carroll".
Contrary to the official story, in which the CIA tracked down bin Laden by tracing the phone of one of his couriers, Mr Hersh claims that the primary intelligence came in October 2010 from a "walk in" to the CIA station in Islamabad.
The Pakistani intelligence officer revealed bin Laden's whereabouts to Jonathan Bank, the then-CIA station chief, in exchange for part of the $25m (€22m) reward that the US had offered for information leading to bin Laden's death or capture. That information, according to Mr Hersh, set in train a six-month bargaining process involving high-level Pakistani officials.
The Hersh account was met with widespread scepticism in the US by intelligence analysts and former members of the CIA, including Michael Morrell, who was deputy director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013.
"I started reading the article last night, I got a third of the way through and I stopped, because every sentence I was reading was wrong," he said. (© Daily Telegraph London)