Monday, May 11, 2015

Seymour Hersh Fail

Seymour Hersh has a poorly constructed article on the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Consider this paragraph: (emphasis added) -

The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. 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 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’
Those are two different things - knowing about OBL's whereabouts before the US raid and knowing of the US mission to capture/kill him.   Hersh raises questions about the second, but two of his three quotes deal with the first.

Carlotta Gall did not raise any question about whether Pakistani officials knew of the US mission.  Her question was about knowing OBL's whereabouts before the US raid:
Soon after the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s house, a Pakistani official told me that the United States had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The information came from a senior United States official, and I guessed that the Americans had intercepted a phone call of Pasha’s or one about him in the days after the raid. “He knew of Osama’s whereabouts, yes,” the Pakistani official told me. The official was surprised to learn this and said the Americans were even more so. Pasha had been an energetic opponent of the Taliban and an open and cooperative counterpart for the Americans at the ISI. “Pasha was always their blue-eyed boy,” the official said. But in the weeks and months after the raid, Pasha and the ISI press office strenuously denied that they had any knowledge of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
In trying to prove that the ISI knew of Bin Laden’s whereabouts and protected him, I struggled for more than two years to piece together something other than circumstantial evidence and suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge.
Durrani's interview with al Jazeera is available online though officially blocked in the US, and all that comes from there that this is a person who has no morals in the pursuit of his goals.  Why one would trust any information from him, I don't know.  In any case, he does not deal with the issue of whether Pakistani officials knew beforehand of the US raid.

That leaves Imtiaz Gul, whose sources just assert "the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation" -- it is obvious that this is a conclusion driven by reasoning from some assumptions, and not from direct knowledge.

PS: Vox has a complete takedown.