Reacting to stunning claims made by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that the Obama Administration’s version of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound is “fictional,” the White House on Monday disputed “inaccuracies and baseless assertions” while also stating that Pakistan was not notified in advance of the May 2011 US Navy Seals operation.
“There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one,” White House National Security spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “As we said at the time, knowledge of this operation was confined to a very small circle of senior US officials,” Price added.
“The President (Barack Obama) decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred.
“We had been and continue to be partners with Pakistan in our joint effort to destroy al Qaeda, but this was a US operation through and through.”
The reaction came in response to Hersh’s claims made in a 10,000-word piece for the London Review of Books. In his writing, Hersh alleges that the Obama administration’s version of events is so fictional as to constitute a Lewis Carroll story, according to one media account. He also claims that the May 2011 raid on an Abbottabad compound was actually performed in cooperation with Pakistani officials. Hersh also claims that Pakistan held bin Laden as a prisoner.
Former acting director of the CIA Mike Morell called Hersh’s details “all wrong”.
In an appearance CBS’s show This Morning, Morell said “Every sentence I was reading was wrong.”
“The source that Hersh talked to has no idea what he’s talking about. The person obviously was not close to what happened. The Pakistanis did not know….The president made a decision not to tell the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis were furious with us. The president sent me to Pakistan after the raids to start smoothing things over,” Morell said.
Meanwhile, Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, defended his account, which is sourced from one unnamed retired US official.
“I’ve been around a long time. I’m long-of-tooth in this business, and I understand the consequences of what I’m saying,” Hersh told CNN.
In an analysis, Peter Bergen, a CNN’ national security analyst, questioned some details of Hersh’s account.
He pointed out in a piece posted on CNN website that the only source Hersh refers to by name in his 10,000-word piece is Assad Durrani, who was the head of ISI during the early 1990s, around two decades before the bin Laden raid occurred. Hersh portrays Durrani as generally supportive of Hersh’s various conclusions.
“When I emailed Durrani after the Hersh piece appeared, Durrani said there was “no evidence of any kind” that the ISI knew that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad but he still could “make an assessment that this could be plausible.” This is hardly a strong endorsement of one of the principal claims of Hersh’s piece,” Bergen wrote.