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11 May 2015


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The Hersh tale fits quite nicely with the story FB Ali wrote here shortly after the raid.


The Twisted Genius

With all the claims and revelations in the Hersh story, the passage that most disturbed me was this.

"The White House’s solution was to silence the Seals. On 5 May, every member of the Seal hit team – they had returned to their base in southern Virginia – and some members of the Joint Special Operations Command leadership were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private. ‘The Seals were not happy,’ the retired official said. But most of them kept quiet, as did Admiral William McRaven"

What the hell happened to STFU and taking a secret to your grave? The SEALs were not happy? What are they, a bunch of gossiping teenage girls at the mall? The only thing they should not have been happy about was the White House impuning their integrity by requiring another nondisclosure form.

The Twisted Genius

And yes, Brigadier Ali did scoop Hersh by several years.


Hersh doesn't explain how the helicopter went down. Any speculation?


Hersh's article is a fascinating read...and equally resistant to verification as are the original, official Obama administration account(s).

At the end of the day, Hersh wants Americans to feel bad that we may have simply murdered UBL. Good luck with that.


BTW, why did Sy Hersh publish this story now? Who benefits?


To me the key question is not whether the Pakistan military or ISI knew about OBL's whereabouts; it is whether they had advance notice of the US raid on OBL's living quarters.

Hersh does a poor job, conflating both questions, e.g., he cites Carlotta Gall, but her story is about whether the Pakistanis knew about OBL's whereabouts, and not about did the US notify them that a raid was imminent.

e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/magazine/what-pakistan-knew-about-bin-laden.html

To me, it would seem that the US would at the time of setting up the mission, have come to Col. Lang's opinion "that bin Laden could not have lived at Abbottabad for six years without the knowledge of the Pakistan military and intelligence" so therefore that giving advance notice to the Pakistanis of the raid on OBL's quarters or asking for cooperation from the Pakistanis even in the very last minute would compromise the mission.

Anyway, there is this criticism of Seymour Hersh's article at vox.com, that I just found:



While I have no doubt OBL could not have lived in Abbottabad without some in the Pakiastani military/intelligence knowing or at least pretending not to know, Hersh's tale seems a bit far fetched to me. One person knowing something is a secret, two people is a potential leak and this tale has dozens, if not hundreds involved across multiple countries.


There is, shall we say, some pushback.





FB Ali does indeed deserve our compliments. It encouraged close examination of the official story which now definitively is exposed as an exercise in total fabrication. The contradictions in that story were gross; yet none of the MSM picked up on them. Perhaps most troubling is that this fiction was concocted in the White House under the direction of President Obama by his political consultants with technical advice from John Brennan - then White House Counter-Terrorism "czar." The diplomatic fall-out was considerable and damaging to the security interests of the country. The broader baneful consequences from putting some of the final nails in the coffin of the American government's integrity will register indefinitely. The only open question is who are the bigger fools: Obama who sold what's left of the nation's birthright for the sake of burnishing his role in the melodrama or the public and its elites who are such easy marks.


Seymour Hersh's article is internally consistent as far as I can tell, that means its not a fabrication. My initial reaction to it is the same as MBrennner: The broader baneful consequences from putting some of the final nails in the coffin of the American government's integrity will register indefinitely. "

To put that another way if what Hersh says is true, then it is extremely dangerous for any country to trust America at all in any matter at all. The lesson for the current Ukrainian Government, as well as European and Baltic states Governments is profound.


There is also R.J. Hillhouse who wrote a similar story about the raid already in 2011:

ex-PFC Chuck

R. J. Hillhouse, whom Brigadier Ali cites a major source for his piece four years ago, calls plagiarism on Hersh.



I wouldn't be surprised if those non-disclosure agreements extended to 2300 AD, as someone I knew had to sign. It locks in the heirs and their diaries.

Babak Makkinejad

I would not call it "murder"; "justified retribution" is more apt.


Since when is Max Fisher such an expert on the bin Laden death that he could whip out this breathless dismissive piece on Seymour's article (implying that Hersh no longer has the juice) in less than 24 hours? http://www.vox.com/2015/5/11/8584473/seymour-hersh-osama-bin-laden


Again, an off-topic note, but sentencing was today in the Sterling case- he got 3 and 1/2 years in prison- which is 3 and 1/2 more than Petraeus recevied. The judge said Mr. Sterling had to be punished to send a message to other officials. “If you knowingly reveal these secrets, there’s going to be a price to be paid,” she said. Funny, it didn't apply to Petraeus.


Patrick Bahzad

Speculation and hear say yes, absolute certainty no


a theory I've heard is that the chopper was operating at the edge of its performance envelope; weight / 4000' altitude / heat & humidity impacting engine efficiency / "ground effects" as it hovered & landed in a physically constricted zone (among buildings & walls)... a "combination of blows" like most accidents. I don't think the pilot has written a book, or made a movie deal.



I stopped communicating with the Sterling defense people after he was convicted. They chose to not put me and Manning (ex CIA) on the stand and I reckon that ended any obligation I had to participate. Did he get bail pending an appeal? pl



"Hersh's article is internally consistent as far as I can tell, that means its not a fabrication." Come now! You don't think fiction can be written that is "internally consistent?" pl



Yes, I am shocked as well, deeply shocked. IMO it would have been stupid to do anything that would further damage relations with Pakistan. They were bad enough without publicizing the cooperation of the senior Pakistani leadership in this matter, assuming that they did cooperate. Lying in international relations? Truly shocking. What I find deplorable in this story is the idea that Obama would feel it necessary to grandstand for the world in this. pl


Re. the Hersh story, there are some points that usefully could serve as pivots for this discussion.

1. The official administration story is full of contradictions which were pointed out 4 years ago. I was one of those who did and I wrote something in the Huffington Post at URL http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-brenner/zero-dark-thirty-truth-or_b_2541371.html

2. The initial White House public comments were obviously rushed and full of lies (such as Brennan's description in detail of a Western shoot-out)which support Hersh's account.

3. As to what which Pakistanis knew what when, it is conceivable that they did not bring OBL to Abbottabad, as Hersh was told, but uncovered him there later and kept him on ice to use as a bargaining chip - as described.

4. A careful reading of the Hersh account makes it pretty clear that his unnamed CIA source was Bank - the former station chief in Islamabad. It's hard to imagine his interest in making up this story. In addition, the "walk-in" was a story that has been circulating in intelligence circles for 4 years.

5. Hersh has an excellent record as an investigative reporter - notwithstanding one minor slip-up 25 or 30 years ago. There clearly is now an orchestrated attempt to discredit him. People like Peter Bergen are trotted out; this is the CNN so-call security specialist who wrote the popular book on the Seals' OBL mission. He swallowed whole what was fed him by the CIA and McRaven and now his reputation turns on defending his witting or unwitting role as the purveyor of pulp fiction.

6. Instinctively, whom are we inclined to believe: Hersh who broke the stories on My Lai and Abu Ghraib or the people who have been lying to us and deceiving us routinely for the past 14 years?



"The official administration story is full of contradictions." Let's make a fresh start... Please point out the "contradictions," so that we can discuss them." BTW, based on what happened to Sterling, Bank (if he is the source) should expect trouble. pl


Pat, the contradictions in the official fable are stated clearly in the cited Huffington Post piece. Here is the entire essay - unedited.


Zero Dark Thirty is writing our collective history for us – engraving it on the American psyche. The graphic images of who we are and the deeds we have done are intended to inspire confidence and to soothe qualms – now and in the future. We are a Resourceful people. We are a Righteous people. We are a Resolute people who do not shrink from the necessary however hard it may be. We are a Moral people who bravely enter the shadowy precincts where Idealism collides with Realism – and come out enhanced.

In truth we are an Immature people – an immature people who demand the nourishment of myth and legend that exalt us. Actual reality intimidates and unsettles us; virtual reality is the comforting substitute. Zero Dark Thirty is fiction – most of it anyway. Yet critics and commentators have taken as given the story line, the highlight events, and the main character portraits as if the film were a documentary. The one big debate is on the question of whether torture works. The film’s paramount message is that it does, that it did lead inexorably to the killing of Osama bin-Laden, and that anyone who gives precedence to ethical considerations had better be prepared to accept the potentially awful consequences. The heroines and heroes make the right judgment after struggling with their consciences.

That is a dubious conclusion. Moreover, the question itself is wrongly framed. For the intelligence supposedly extracted was of no value in finding bin-Laden ten years later. Even members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have testified to that. Simple logic should lead any thoughtful person to the same conclusion. After all, if so valuable, how is it possible that it took a full decade for the information to lead anywhere - the indefatigable fictional lady notwithstanding (the lady who does not exist in the real world)? The tale as told assumes a static world in which places, persons and politics don’t change. But they do. In ways that the film narrative cannot and does not take account of.

It all comes down to the fabled courier. Without him, the narrative collapses completely. We didn’t have a clue where OBL was between Tora Bora and Abbottabad five years later. His odyssey from one safe house to another in the Tribal Areas, and Northwest Frontier Province (Swat and Bajaur) escaped the CIA with all its ultra-sophisticated high-tech gadgetry. We had next to no human intelligence assets anywhere in the region and did not until the very end. And at the end, it was the Pakistanis who provided us with the critical leads – as acknowledged by President Obama in his announcement of OBL’s killing. That was just a week or so before the White House and the CIA approached Hollywood with promises of cooperation if a film were made that properly hallowed those who brought OBL to "justice" and satisfied the national thirst for vengeance. Both sides kept their side of the bargain.

What of the courier al-Kuwaiti? The official cum Hollywood line is full of inconsistencies, anomalies and logical flaws. A systematic scrutiny of the evidence available makes that abundantly clear to the unbiased mind. That task has been undertaken by the retired Pakistani Brigadier Shaukat Qadir. His account, and interpretive analysis, draws as well on extensive interviews with intelligence and military officials in Islamabad – and with principals in both Northwest Pakistan and across the Durand Line in Afghanistan. This was an independent investigation by a man with an established reputation for integrity. His appraisal and conclusions have been featured in front page stories in The New York Times, Le Monde and the Guardian yet never widely circulated - or refuted. (Operation Geronimo: the Betrayal and Execution of Osama bin Laden and its Aftermath by Shaukat Qadir (May 1, 2012) - Kindle eBook)

Here is a brief summary of a few key points regarding the official story’s self- contradictory elements.

• According to the CIA, Hassan Gul, was a courier for senior Al-Qaida operatives including OBL and Khalid Sheikh Muhammed (KSM). Gul revealed to the CIA under interrogation the name Al-Kuwaiti, the fact that Al-Kuwaiti was still alive, that he was OBL’s most trusted courier. CIA further stated that it was Gul’s statement that provided detailed insight into his working routines which led (four years later) in 2009 to the feeling that al-Kuwaiti lived in Abbottabad! Assuming all this to be true, it seems a little surprising that it should take them almost four years to move.

• What is even more improbable is that, despite providing such a wealth of information for the CIA, Gul was released as early as 2006 by the CIA into ISI custody. If Gul had provided all the information on Kuwaiti to the CIA and the CIA did not wish to share this information with the ISI, as asserted, how can their releasing him to ISI custody make any kind of sense?

• Is it credible that it took the CIA so long after 2005 to discover Al-Kuwaiti’s identity since Al-Libi, his close collaborator, was also captured by the ISI and handed over to CIA in 2005! Yet, Al-Libi was not questioned regarding Al-Kuwaiti’s real identity---despite Gul’s revelations, despite “enhanced interrogation” techniques? In short, why did it take the CIA from 2004 till 2011 to find “actionable intelligence” to locate and execute OBL?

• Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, captured by the ISI in March 2003, was handed over to CIA soon thereafter. KSM not only knew Al-Kuwaiti by his real name, Ibrahim, according to OBL’s wife, Amal, he had also visited al-Kuwaiti’s house outside Kohat when OBL was resident there in 2002. Yet, he too never was questioned as to Kuwaiti’s identity.

There are two fundamental flaws in the official CIA (and Hollywood) account:
a) the CIA seems to have been unaware of the intimate relations between Al-Libi and Al-Kuwaiti despite all those Al-Qaida leaders in their custody (most of whom were arrested by ISI) who knew exactly who and where Al-Kuwaiti was - and, therefore, the CIA actually was unaware of the latter’s identity until early 2011; b) still, they insist that the ISI did not provide the lead that ultimately led them to OBL’s hideout, which looks to be equally untrue.

Therefore, the CIA in all probability began tracking OBL only in 2010/11, thanks to the lead provided by ISI.
Let us recall President Obama’s words when he announced that OBL had been killed. Even as he stated that the US acted unilaterally on actionable intelligence, he added, “It is important here to note that our counter terrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound he was hiding in.”
Against that backdrop, it was logical for the US and Pakistan to launch a joint operation in Abbottabad. Washington decided to reject the idea. Why? Not because we feared a “leak” which made absolutely no sense. But rather because we wanted to make sure that OBL was killed and denied a public legal forum. We also wanted the glory and flourish of a drama with Americans in all the starring roles – we wanted a Hollywood blockbuster.

John Brennan, the White House terrorism chief, gave the game away the next day in offering the world a vivid description of the assault featuring a concocted shootout between the Seals and a pistol wielding Osama bin-Laden who held his young wife as a shield while firing off shots. Made for Hollywood indeed.
After a decade of impulsive vengeance, of brutality, of killing, of deceit, of hypocrisy, of blindness and incompetence – we have an encapsulated myth that expiates all that in a drama worthy of our greatness. We have Closure. The American pageant moves forward.
What in fact we have is a roughly-spun yarn woven post-hoc to give a semblance of discipline and direction to a fitful, adrenaline driven manhunt that belatedly stumbled upon its objective - only thanks to the critical help of others. Unable to generate any human intelligence, we relied on technology and torture. It didn’t work.

The claim that the official US version provides an honest, forthright accounting is unsustainable. The version offered by Zero Dark Thirty substitutes pulp fiction - of the mythological kind - for truth. It satisfies a gnawing hunger; it meets a powerfully felt need. It allows us to avoid coming to terms with how America went off the rails after 9/11. It fosters the juvenile in us.

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