The London Review of Books have recently published a long investigative piece by the legendary reporter Seymour Hersh. The article is about the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, in which Hersh claims, among other things, that:
- Bin Laden ‘had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006’ (i.e. they not only knew of his whereabouts, but were actively detaining/protecting him).
- That ‘ In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001’.
- That ‘Saudi Arabia . . . had been financing bin Laden’s upkeep since his seizure by the Pakistanis’, because they were concerned that if the U.S. got ahold of him, he might ‘start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaida’.
- And that ‘General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI’ had known about the raid in advance. Indeed, had green lighted it, in return for military and other kinds of aid.
Personally, I don’t know whether these claims are true or not. But as with Hersh’s LRB pieces on the Ghouta sarin attacks, it’s tempting to give them some credence, if only because Hersh *does* have a distinguished journalistic track record – even his critics would have to concede that.
But not everyone is convinced by this latest article, or even prepared to give Hersh the benefit of the doubt.
So for example, Chris J Woods, of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, tweeted:
And Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute tweeted:
But perhaps the strangest and most vehement set of tweets came from Rob Crilly, a foreign correspondent for The Daily Telegraph newspaper. Here are some of them:
‘Can you believe the LRB would publish such utter, paper thin bullshit?’ seems to be the gist of Crilly’s criticism.
I say ‘strangest’ though, because in August 2011, Rob Crilly and The Daily Telegraph essentially published the *exact same story themselves*.
Compare these details from the Telegraph story with the details I referenced above from Hersh’s story:
- Bin Laden was ‘protected by elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus’.
- Bin Laden’s ‘whereabouts were finally revealed when a Pakistani intelligence officer came forward to claim the longstanding $25m bounty on the al-Qaeda leader’s head’.
- The Saudis ‘were paying off the Pakistani military and intelligence (ISI) to essentially shelter and keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad’.
- And the U.S. had ‘approached Pakistan’s military leaders securing their co-operation in return for cash and a chance to avoid public humiliation’.
See what I mean? Crilly’s story is near enough identical to Hersh’s.
I pointed this out to Crilly on Twitter, and got this response:
I then asked Crilly for any links he might have to these debunkings – because i’ve seen some alleged some ‘debunkings’ of Hersh’s work that weren’t actually that at all – but have yet to receive a response.
Now, Crilly may well be right here – it’s quite possible that the story has been ‘conclusively debunked’ since its first telling in 2011. Then again, it might not have been.
But I just don’t understand why Crilly has to use such harsh and derogatory language about Hersh, his methods and his sources.
And by doing so, he’s only condemning himself and his own newspaper.