Investigative journalist defends bin Laden story

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh on Monday defended his 10,000-plus-word expose alleging the Obama administration mischaracterized many details surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden.

{mosads}”I’ve been around a long time,” Hersh said on CNN’s “New Day,” adding, “I understand the consequences of saying what I’m saying.”

“I’m waiting for the White House to deny the story,” he added later.

Hersh’s piece, published Sunday in the London Review of Books, alleges that the narrative pushed by the Obama administration following the 2011 death of bin Laden was mainly false.

The article alleged that Pakistan knew the whereabouts of the former al Qaeda mastermind and that U.S. leaders mischaracterized the raid leading to bin Laden’s death as including a “firefight.”

It also paints President Obama as rushing to take credit for the death of bin Laden a year before reelection, forcing the military and intelligence communities to offer complementing details to form the narrative.

Hersh based much of his account on a “retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.”

“I don’t think that’s correct to say one anonymous source,” Hersh said on CNN. “The story says clearly that I was able to vet and verify information with others in the community. It’s very tough for guys still inside to get quoted extensively.”

CNN host Chris Cuomo challenged Hersh on many details in the account, such as the Navy SEALs who raided the Abbottabad compound training at a former nuclear test site in Utah, as originally suggested.

“If I’m wrong about Utah, that’s just a mistake, because I know exactly where they were in Nevada. But sometimes, my geography gets lousy,” Hersh said.

The story has since been updated to reflect that the SEALs trained in Nevada.

Cuomo also pushed Hersh for additional details of how a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer could simply walk into the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and offer information on bin Laden’s whereabouts.

“I don’t know the details of how he walked in,” Hersh said.

While the White House has not commented on the story, one former administration official has panned it.

“Every sentence I was reading was wrong,” Michael Morell, the former, two-time acting director of the CIA, said Monday on “CBS This Morning.”

“The source that Hersh talked to has no idea what he’s talking about,” Morell said. “The person obviously was not close to what happened. 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 raid to try to start smoothing things over,” Morell added.

“Nobody’s perfect. Of course everybody’s done bad stories,” Hersh, a regular contributor to The New Yorker who has won many journalism awards, said on CNN. 

Hersh added, however, that he was “not out on a limb” on his most recent story. 

— This report was updated at 9:44 a.m.

Tags Osama bin Laden Seymour Hersh

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