From the moment it was announced to the public, the tale of how Osama bin Laden met his death in a Pakistani hill town in May has been a changeable feast. But others, including top Pakistani generals, insisted that this was not the case. Then came differing stories from the SEALs who carried out the raid, followed by a widening stream of new details from government reports — including the page Abbottabad Commission report requested by the Pakistani Parliament — and from books and interviews. All of the accounts were incomplete in some way. 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. Such is the difficulty of reporting on covert operations and intelligence matters; there are no official documents to draw on, few officials who will talk and few ways to check the details they give you when they do. 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.
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Governments, in order to fulfill their national security objectives, must sometimes shroud their activities in secrecy. This is regrettable, if inevitable. It is the demands of state secrecy, their distressing effects on U. In the book, Hersh, an indefatigable investigative reporter he broke the story of the My Lai massacre in ; the CIA domestic-spying scandal in ; and the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in , documents a series of covert operations — and their sometimes-unforeseen repercussions — carried out in Syria, Libya and Pakistan by the United States and its allies during the Obama administration. Hersh leans heavily on anonymous sources in his reportage.
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He was hiding in the open. So America said. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed.