The day after Hersh: rebuttals & more evidence about the bin Laden hit

Summary: On Sunday the London Review of Books published Hersh’s article trashing Obama’s story about the raid to kill bin Laden. The next day told us much about America, with the reflexive denials by government officials, their support by the government’s fanboys, and the rapid arrival of more evidence supporting Hersh’s analysis.  {1st of 2 posts today.} Obama officially announces bin Laden's death


  1. The lesson we refuse to learn.
  2. The government’s fanboys speak!
  3. Supporting evidence.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

(1)  The lesson we refuse to learn

Seymour Hersh’s “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” and Americans’ response to it illustrates what I wrote about in both of yesterday’s posts. By now a large body of evidence refutes key elements of the government’s story about the bin Laden hit, the books about it, and the film Zero Dark Thirty. It’s the most useful news story of 2015, an opportunity for us to learn so that we do not swallow the next lie. On the other hand, this is just another on the long list of lies about key events — a defining characteristic of the post-WWII era. By now the every American should know that The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told. It’s a lesson we seem unable to learn.

(2)  Immediate denials from the government & its fanboys

As always, reports of government lies are met by denials by government officials. Like Pavlov’s dogs, the government fanboys (geopolitical experts, journalists, Wall Street gurus) immediately bark in support. Max Fisher at Vox ( (who was in turn brutally taken down by journalist Corey Pein. “Given the current climate in the US, it’s hard to imagine worthwhile investigative reporting on intelligence and foreign policy that doesn’t make some use of such {anonymous} sources.”). Peter Bergen at CNN. Max Boot at Commentary (he’s not always wrong). Quartz asks questions with obvious answers (questions that Hersh answered).  Most of this is dressed-up incredulity, neither analysis nor fact-checking. This resembles the waves of mockery that greeted the revelations by Snowden about NSA surveilance. Three years later we see that Snowden was largely correct. Of course there have been few (no?) admissions of error by his critics. Much depends on how many Americans have learned skepticism from the events since 9/11. Our reaction to Hersh’s story will provide an answer.

The Man Who Killed bin Laden

(3)  Supporting evidence

The first day after Hersh’s article brought forth much supporting evidence. I suspect this is just the beginning. Of course the public hears from government and its supporters. The evidence supporting Hersh’s account remains hidden from most Americans.

(a)  NBC confirmed key elements of Hersh’s story in “Pakistanis Knew Where Bin Laden Was, Say US Sources“. Note the update posted the next day, backing away on the key part of the article. Lots of telephone calls, with big pressure, probably applied to make that happen. The Empire always strikes back.

(b)  Michael Brenner (Senior Fellow, U of Pittsburg) points us to his 2013 column, reminding us that many were skeptical of the official account even in 2011, remarking on its combination of unlikely and contradictory elements. As did others, such as the Guardian.

Seal Team Six
Available at Amazon.

(c)  Leaks in 2011 and 2012 discussed details in Hirsh’s 2015 article.

In 2012 David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post about rumors that the senior Pakistan officials knew the location of bin Laden: “What did Pakistan know about bin Laden?” Newsweek and others ran similar stories.

In 2011 Raelynn J. Hillhouse posted at her website about the bin Laden raid (see Wikipedia about her interesting background). Using different sources than Hersh’s she wrote “Bin Laden Turned in by Informant — Courier Was Cover Story” and “Questions Raised by Real Story of How US Found Bin Laden“. The usual pattern repeated: ignored by the US news media, foreign papers such as the The Telegraph and New Zealand Herald wrote about her intel. The Intercept contacted Hillhouse and published valuable additional information. Excerpt…

… “my understanding was there was great concern with the security guys {about her 2 posts} … Everything that I’ve written on national intelligence, [that] was the first time I ever had a [former] senior member of the intelligence community signal me to basically go black … I’ve never been waved off like I was signaled to [then].” Because of this, Hillhouse says, she destroyed her notes from her conversations with her sources.

Hillhouse told The Intercept that one of her sources confirmed a detail in Hersh’s article, which she didn’t mention in 2011 because she could not confirm it: “that the Navy SEALs threw bin Laden’s body out of the helicopter while traveling over the Hindu Kush mountains from Pakistan to Afghanistan.” Hillhouse said that “Everything that [Hersh] has said has been spot on … You can’t help but notice that everything he is saying in the story, which is true, was first broken by me.”

(d)  Update: Carlotta Gall of the New York Times confirms much of Hersh’s reporting.

… my own reporting tracks with Hersh’s. Beginning in 2001, I spent nearly 12 years covering Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Times. (In his article, Hersh cites an article I wrote for The Times Magazine last year, an excerpt from a book drawn from this reporting.) The story of the Pakistani informer was circulating in the rumor mill within days of the Abbottabad raid, but at the time, no one could or would corroborate the claim.

… Two years later, when I was researching my book, I learned from a high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service that the ISI had been hiding Bin Laden and ran a desk specifically to handle him as an intelligence asset. After the book came out, I learned more: that it was indeed a Pakistani Army brigadier — all the senior officers of the ISI are in the military — who told the C.I.A. where Bin Laden was hiding, and that Bin Laden was living there with the knowledge and protection of the ISI.

I trusted my source — I did not speak with him, and his information came to me through a friend, but he was high enough in the intelligence apparatus to know what he was talking about. I was confident the information was true, but I held off publishing it. It was going to be extremely difficult to corroborate in the United States, not least because the informant was presumably in witness protection.

… The former C.I.A. officer Larry Johnson aired the theory of the informant — credited to “friends who are still active” — on his blog within days of the raid.

… After one of the SEALs’ Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, neighbors called the police and reported hearing both the crash and the subsequent explosions. The local police told me that they received the calls and could have been at the compound within minutes, but army commanders ordered them to stand down and leave the response to the military. Yet despite being barracked nearby, members of the Pakistani Army appear to have arrived only after the SEALs — who spent 40 minutes on the ground without encountering any soldiers — left.

(e) Pakistani daily newspaper The News confirms the key detail in Hersh’s story

Well-informed intelligence circles in the garrison town of Rawalpindi concede that the vital information about the bin Laden compound was actually provided to the Americans by none other than an ISI official – Brigadier Usman Khalid.

No Easy Day
Available at Amazon.

(4)  Other posts in this series.

  1. The most useful news story of 2015: the truth about the bin Laden hit.
  2. The day after Hersh: rebuttals & more evidence about the bin Laden hit.
  3. The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told.
  4. The debate about Hersh’s revelations reveals more than his article.
  5. Should we use our special operations troops as assassins? Is it right, or even smart?

(5)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  See all posts about the film Zero Dark Thirty, and especially the posts about lies by government officials — and about our tolerance for them.

The generic rebuttal is to say account of government lies imply a “conspiracy”, as if the government has never run large-scale deception programs against us — like these…

  1. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?
  2. Concrete evidence of government info ops against us, but it’s OK because we are sheep.
  3. Psywar, a core skill of the US Military (used most often on us).
  4. How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this.
  5. The Iranian Assassination caper was a complete success!
  6. Using covert operations to discredit your enemies.

10 thoughts on “The day after Hersh: rebuttals & more evidence about the bin Laden hit”

  1. Terrific links and summary. A debt to Sy for setting this up to expose the nonsense coming out of the Rulers and the Minions. And this/your follow up.

    Many thx


  2. Another great post. Thank you.

    The generic rebuttal is to say account of government lies imply a “conspiracy”, as if the government has never run large-scale deception programs against us.

    Twenty-Five Rules of Disinformation:

    5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary ‘attack the messenger’ ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as ‘kooks’, ‘right-wing’, ‘liberal’, ‘left-wing’, ‘terrorists’, ‘conspiracy buffs’, ‘radicals’, ‘militia’, ‘racists’, ‘religious fanatics’, ‘sexual deviates’, and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues. – The Gentleperson’s Guide To Forum Spies, Cryptome

  3. All the Bin Laden videos shown right after 9/11 looked fake to me. The skin was too smooth, it didn’t look like a real video to me. But of course I can’t be sure

  4. Of course, I dont have access to a lab, but with enough technology you could also make a lab test obsolete.

    Significance is I don’ believe the whole 9/11 story. I don’t see commercial planes, there are no plane parts in that site where one of the planes crashed, the pentagon is very hard to be hit like that, the angle, most likely the plane would have gone over or crashed in the ground, again no plane debree, etc

  5. The 9/11 attack was, it’s been suggested, a publicity stunt to give Al Quaeda more visibility and credibility on the “Arab Street”. If indeed bin Laden was being held under house arrest by ISI one could imagine he was largely neutralized; and plausibly, his network was fully compromised, based on the official account that he was traced through a courier. By this reading, the assassination of bin Laden was essentially a publicity stunt to increase the credibility of the Obama administration.


    1. HH,

      We have a great deal of evidence that 9-11 was not a publicity stunt, but rather a well thought out strategic move. A very successful move. For details see:

      It is not clear when bin Laden moved to the compound in Pakistan, but it was built in late 2005 — when Al Qaeda was under severe attack but still operational. Nor do we know the role of the compound in its early years — global command center or location to hold bin laden under house arrest.

      In brief, there is not much point in guessing about fringe theories.

  6. We sent soldiers to ambush and murder an aged gangster, stripped of armed protection by political maneuvering. The soldiers took his corpse into a helicopter, dismembered it, and threw the pieces out over some mountains. So grotesque. We behave like criminal gangsters.

    1. Patrick,

      I have long wondered about that. See “The biggest re-branding exercise in the history of the world” (2010):

      And “Uncle Sam, Global Gangster” (2012):

      Also, what is the effect of turning our elite troops into assassins?
      “The men of US Special Operations Command are heroes. But are their deeds heroic?” (2011):

      Time has proven these concerns valid, as events have been worse than expected.

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