Hersh’s Bin Laden Story Revisited

Veteran journalist and historian Gareth Porter recently published an article at Truth-Out.org disputing one key element in Seymour Hersh’s recent bombshell story on the U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

According to Porter, bin Laden was not sequestered in Abottabad by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, for some five years, as claimed by Hersh’s sources, but was instead exiled there by al-Qaeda. Porter’s source is a retired Pakistani brigadier general who had done his own research into the circumstances surrounding the bin Laden raid using contacts he had known in South Waziristan from his military service there some years earlier. They had put the retired general, Shaukat Qadir, in touch with tribal couriers who had served a leading militant allied with al-Qaeda. And though Qadir had never had any involvement in the ISI himself, one of the ISI officers involved in an investigation of the bin Laden killing had once been under his command and assisted him in his own investigation. The information borne out of Qadir’s research was the basis of Porter’s own 2012 article on the bin Laden raid. That piece goes into some detail of how al-Qaeda began to perceive bin Laden as something of a crazy old nuisance, obsessing over such delusional goals as a takeover of Pakistan’s heavily guarded Kahuta nuclear reactor. Furthermore, Qadir confirmed from discussions with various residents in the neighborhood of the Abottabad compound that there was never any evidence of ISI guards, contrary to the claims of Hersh’s sources.

Interestingly enough, Porter points out that the claim, relayed by Hersh, that a retired ISI intelligence officer revealed bin Laden’s location to the CIA in exchange for a $25 million reward actually serves the interests of certain CIA muckety-mucks, including those of CIA Director Leon Panetta. They had begun to disdain the ISI for having the gall to demand curtailment of CIA espionage in Pakistan and a reduction of U.S. drone strikes. Claims of ISI complicity in hiding bin Laden first began to surface in the summer of 2011 as U.S.-Pakistani tensions over those issues increased.

In Porter’s account, the fix on bin Laden’s location was made after the ISI asked the CIA to place the Abottabad house under satellite surveillance following their investigation of the suspicious activities of a man named Arshad Khan. His cell phone number, which the ISI provided to the CIA, was the same as that of the owner of the house.

But regardless of how the CIA came to locate bin Laden–whether it was a tip-off from a former Pakistani insider seeking reward money, as reported by Hersh, or if it instead happened as described by Porter (who doesn’t raise any other disputes with Hersh’s story)–a tangled web of U.S. government lies is revealed in either account. For it was not torture–of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed or anyone else–that located bin Laden, as was initially suggested by U.S. government officials and the mainstream media, nor was it the U.S. government’s massive and indiscriminate electronic surveillance programs.

Nor was there a dramatic exchange of gunfire between bin Laden and the SEALs, as claimed in the official story. According to Porter’s reporting, bin Laden was most likely so ill that he could barely walk.

And the question remains–why was it so important to kill bin Laden rather than take him  alive? An unnamed U.S. “senior intelligence official” claimed soon after the raid that the bin Laden compound was “an active command and control center” for international terrorism at the time of the raid. But according to Porter’s reporting, bin Laden had become something of an annoyance to al-Qaeda at worst, and a joke at best. They had convinced him to relocate to Abottabad with the pretense that he could command them from there, after which they proceeded to simply ignore his impractical, half-baked proposals for more 9/11 type anti-American attacks. (A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that any claims of an unnamed source that are reported by independent journalists, and which contradict the official versions of certain events, will almost always be reflexively dismissed by the mainstream media. Official U.S. government claims that are supported by unnamed sources from within their own ranks, however, will almost always be accepted at face value.)

The CIA’s own post-raid analysis of a cache of documents seized at the Abottabad house revealed bin Laden’s self-delusion and impotence, but if they were previously so convinced that he was still a major terrorist operator, why wouldn’t they have valued him more highly alive, as a major intelligence asset?

Just what kind of objectives were met by killing him?

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This entry was posted in Barack Obama, Drone Warfare, Espionage, Guantanamo Bay and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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