The account emerging from French officials, witnesses and those who interacted with the suspected terrorists shows how the operation hinged on Mr. Abaaoud’s ability to use the tools of everyday modern life to lay the groundwork for the massacre. The ease with which he and his teams moved—all while avoiding detection by France’s security apparatus—suggests the challenges in identifying would-be terrorists and preventing further attacks in the fluid, digital and transnational world of today, especially when they are European citizens.
The array of car rentals, cellphones and online lodging reservations allowed Mr. Abaaoud to organize his militants as separate cells to ensure the plot wouldn’t unravel if one of the teams was compromised. Likewise, Mr. Abaaoud exploited Europe’s porous border system, sneaking stadium bombers into the continent amid the crush of Syrian refugees washing over Greece and tapping European nationals who could wield their own passports to move freely about the region.
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, almostword-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?”
Personally, I found Hersh’s story about bin Laden quite compelling even if it is a little fantastical. But most scoops like Hersh’s are usually tough to swallow at first, until corroborated by multiple media outlets. Just because a story appears sensational does not mean it is untrue.
If you only read one article today, this should be it.
Chotiner: I just want to talk to you about your piece and journalism.
Hersh: What difference does it make what the fuck I think about journalism? I don’t think much of the journalism that I see. If you think I write stories where it is all right to just be good enough, are you kidding? You think I have a cavalier attitude on throwing stuff out? Are you kidding? I am not cavalier about what I do for a living.
Chotiner: I don’t think you are cavalier. That was not my question.
Hersh: Whatever it is, it’s an impossible question. It’s almost like you are asking me to say that there are flaws in everybody. Yes. Do I acknowledge that not everybody can be perfect? But I am not backing off anything I said.
The entire interview is comical. Chotiner probably should have quit early on in the interview but, for whatever reason, seems to have believed it would end up productive. Instead, he got his ass handed to him on a Hersh-provided platter for everyone to read.
Seymour M. Hersh dismantles the web of lies and claims the true story behind the killing of Osama bin Laden is nowhere near as fantastic as the Obama administration would have the world believe:
It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. 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: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.
The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’
This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.
If Hersh’s story is to be believed, this means not only did torture not produce the elusive courier, in fact there was no courier at all. The debate about whether or not Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Hassan Ghul gave up information on al-Kuwaiti during torture, or any form of interrogation for that matter, is completely meaningless.
The whole story was fiction, invented after the fact, by the United States government.
Whether this is a fairy tale or not, the idea that torture had anything to do with helping the CIA locate Osama bin Laden is growing increasingly weaker. Sadly, we still have far too many people in the U.S. who believe the torture program produced results, and thus continue to defend it and those that perpetrated such heinous criminal acts.