NBC corroborates central claim in alternative bin Laden raid story

On Sunday, Seymour Hersh published a detailed report that contradicted the Obama administration’s account of how the CIA tracked down and eventually killed Osama bin Laden.

Hersh’s account was met with legitimate skepticism by journalists around the country, who pointed to Hersh’s recent penchant for conspiracy theories and heavy reliance on one anonymous source as reason to believe that he could have easily been suckered into publishing a story that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny.

On Monday, however, NBC News’s investigative team reported that they were able to corroborate Hersh’s central claims: that Pakistani intelligence knew where bin Laden was hiding, and that the CIA learned of Osama bin Laden’s location via a walk-in informant roughly one year before the raid.

[UPDATE: NBC News has now updated its story to say that, contrary to its earlier report, the walk-in “provided information vital to the hunt for bin Laden, he was not the source of his whereabouts.”]

It is also important to note that the NBC story also relies on anonymous sources, albeit three instead of one. Nevertheless, their willingness to corroborate Hersh’s primary allegation against the administration — the intelligence used to learn of bin Laden’s location — as quickly as they did lends credence to the notion that there’s at least some kind of there there.

However, NBC did not go as far as Hersh did to say that the Obama White House necessarily engaged in the kind of conspiracy Hersh alleges:

President Obama in the situation room discussing the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, via The US Embassy - New Zealand / Flickr

President Obama in the situation room discussing the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, via The US Embassy – New Zealand / Flickr

The new revelations do not necessarily cast doubt on the overall narrative that the White House began circulating within hours of the May 2011 operation. The official story about how bin Laden was found was constructed in a way that protected the identity and existence of the asset, who also knew who inside the Pakistani government was aware of the Pakistani intelligence agency’s operation to hide bin Laden, according to a special operations officer with prior knowledge of the bin Laden mission. The official story focused on a long hunt for bin Laden’s presumed courier, Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

NBC went on to note that American security officials have continued to emphatically deny the rest of the claims Hersh made in his story, including the claim that Pakistan had prior knowledge of the raid. However, the administration has not yet denied the specific claim of the existence of the “walk-in asset” who provided the lead to bin Laden’s location.

This being the case, NBC’s story can be squared with the administration’s account: Under this scenario, the walk-in asset provided the United States with bin Laden’s location, but the United States did not notify Pakistan of the raid out of suspicion that Pakistani intelligence was working with al Qaida and could not be trusted. In this version of the story, the administration lied to conceal their source, but the rest of the raid could have happened as they said it did.

Fishy, but not damning.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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13 Responses to “NBC corroborates central claim in alternative bin Laden raid story”

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  2. Badgerite says:

    Protecting an asset in intelligence is a legitimate governmental action. And printing knowledge of the assets existence is irresponsible. An action that could put that person, if they exist, in danger.
    There is a time and a place for everything. This would not be the time for this kind of expose, even were it to be completely true.

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  4. HKDaniel says:

    This whole episode reeks of Swift Boat. Lets take a positive outcome for the Dems and make it dirty. Sy’s been punked by the Rove crowd. And so have YOU Jon.

  5. DoverBill says:

    Wicked witch is dead
    Did we not all wish it so
    End of dumb story

  6. The_Fixer says:

    Like I said the other day, the truth will fall somewhere in between. However, I still am very, very skeptical of Hersh’s major claims. I got that “somethin’ ain’t right” feeling after reading most of his article on the subject and analysis afterward.

    I wonder how much more we’ll learn before this story peters out? Yes, I think it will do just that, too.

  7. MoonDragon says:

    If memory serves me correctly, back around ’03, a circle jerk involving Judith Miller, Ahmad Chalabi, and a source of dubious provenance known as “Curve Ball” helped get us into a little dust up in the Fertile Crescent region. That the source cited by Hersch turned out to be accurate with his material regarding Bin Laden’s location would not absolve the people involve in what could have turned into an act of war from seeking a second, confirming source. Don’t know if they did or didn’t. Just sayin’ that anyone who’s ever been involved in military procurement knows the pitfalls of single source, be it intelligence or parachutes that are being procured. And with walk in volunteers of info, looking a gift horse in the mouth might be a wise move.

  8. SouthOhioGipper says:

    Ya know what? YES. We are morally superior and exceptional. The proof is the fact that we’re 4% of the global population yet we have access too and consume 25% of the global economic resources on the planet. So yes.. I’d say that gives us the right to pretty much tell whatever nation we want what to do, what economic system to adopt,etc.

    If you want to sell your products to Americans, you have to do it our way. It’s our money to spend, and our globalized economy to protect, secure and expand.

  9. devlzadvocate says:

    Our government always lies to us. Anyone who questions the official government story on anything is just a kooky conspiracy theorist. They can keep their heads, Just waterboard them to find out what they don’t know. What’s new with Kim?

  10. gratuitous says:

    As long as we achieve a desirable goal, what do we have to worry about any messiness in the means, right? Sure, there are others around the globe who might use our means to achieve their ends (of which we might not approve), but they’re not exceptionally exceptional, like the United States. So they’re terrorists, and we’re the land of the free and home of the brave.

    Now, what about Kim Kardashian? Americans need to know!

  11. 2karmanot says:

    Well duh, Benghazi #snark

  12. nicho says:

    Our government would never lie to us — and has never lie to us. Anyone who questions the official government story on anything is just a kooky conspiracy theorist. Off with their heads. Hey, did you hear about Kim Kardashian?

  13. Houndentenor says:

    I’m reminded of the story that circulated in early 1992 that Bush pere had flown to Tehran (or somewhere) to meet with Iranian officials in the summer of 1980 to make sure they didn’t release the American hostages until after the election. That was a serious charge (and often believed because of the later Reagan administration dealings with Iran). But such a claim requires evidence and it was all based on the story of a single person. How could a vice presidential candidate disappear for several days without anyone noticing? He couldn’t. And he didn’t. The entire story was a fabrication.

    Let’s break this down. Everyone involved would have to be lying, including a number of people who are not Democrats and not particularly fans of the current president. Seriously? Like all conspiracy theories this falls apart from even the most basic of questions.

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