Legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is drawing a lot of ire for his recent expose on the death of Osama bin Laden, where he claimed that the U.S. government's narrative of the raid was an elaborate cover story meant to conceal Pakistan's relationship with the Al Qaeda leader.
The Pulitzer Prize winner’s stunning account appeared in the London Review of Books where he asserted that “The White House's story (about the 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden) might have been written by Lewis Carroll.”
The 10,000-word article relies heavily on an unnamed source identified as a “retired senior intelligence official” and alleges that Pakistani intelligence had held bin Laden as prisoner since 2006. The veteran claims that Pakistani intelligence services cooperated with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Navy SEALs in the raid to kill bin Laden.
White House firmly shunned the allegations, denouncing the story as “baseless” and full of “too many inaccuracies” to fact check.
“The notion that the operation that killed Osama bin Laden was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false,” said White House national security spokesman Ned Price. “This was a U.S. operation through and through.”
He further added that the knowledge of this operation was confined to a very small circle of U.S. officials and that Pakistani government was not notified until after the raid had occurred.
Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell also criticized the story, calling it “wrong.”
Hersh, however, firmly stands by his theory.
“If I worried about the reaction to what I write, I’d be frozen,” he told the Huffington Post, adding that journalists “should be very skeptical of someone who says what goes against what every newspaper and magazine believed.”
Defending his reporting methods, Hersh said he was being held to an unfair standard over his use of anonymous sources. In his view, “that doesn't diminish the credibility" of a journalist or a source because "That's just the way it is.”
"It's really an attack-the-messenger," the journalist explained. "Every day in the newspaper, how many anonymous-sourced stories do you read? Dozens of them."
He also defended his leading named source, Asad Durrani, the former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency who corroborates Hersh's account of bin Laden's death in the opening paragraphs.
"I've been around a long time. I'm long-of-tooth in this business, and I understand the consequences of what I'm saying," he added.
The journalist who exposed the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and revealed the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal during the Iraq War, called bin Laden’s death an “assassination” against the official narrative that states the terrorist leader was killed in a fire fight.