This decision, Hersh argues in the London Review of Books, forced the military and intelligence communities to scramble and then corroborate the president’s version of events.
“High-level lying nonetheless remains the modus operandi of U.S. policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no,” Hersh wrote of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies.
Hersh based his report on a single, anonymous source. This individual, he said, is a “retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abottabad.”
Hersh’s source alleged that the Pakistani government had an active role in approving and implementing the raid on bin Laden’s compound.
In addition, the source said that the Obama administration originally agreed to announce bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike rather than shot during an active Special Forces mission.
“Obama’s speech was put together in a rush,” Hersh wrote of Obama’s announcement of Operation Neptune Spear to Americans.
“This series of self-serving and inaccurate statements would create chaos in the weeks following,” he added.
“This was not the fog of war,” Hersh quoted his anonymous source as saying.
“The fact that there was an agreement with the Pakistanis and no contingency analysis of what was to be disclosed if something went wrong – that wasn’t even discussed,” the source added.
“And once it went wrong, they had to make up a new cover story on the fly,” the source said of Obama’s advisers’ response to his speech on the raid, Hersh wrote.
Hersh’s report also accuses the Obama administration of embellishing the details of the raid itself and presenting al Qaeda as a bigger threat than it actually was before bin Laden’s death.
Hersh on Monday defended the report after a big blowback; critics have called the report thinly sourced and questions have been raised about inconsistencies within the piece.
The White House, for example, on Monday panned the report.
"There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one," White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement shared with The Hill.
“Every sentence I was reading was wrong,” former acting CIA Director Michael Morell added Monday on “CBS This Morning.”
“The source that Hersh talked to has no idea what he’s talking about. The person obviously was not close to what happened," he added. "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.”
This story was updated on May 11 at 11:54 a.m.