CIA's Mike Morell Says Seymour Hersh Article On Bin Laden Killing Secrets Is "All Wrong"


Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell responds to claims made in award-winning American journalist Seymour Hersh's new book, "The Killing of Osama bin Laden," that alleges the White House lied about certain key details of the 2011 mission to kill the al Qaeda leader. Hersh originally broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1969 and his 2004 reporting on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal gained worldwide attention.

Hersh claims that while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account (especially with regard to Pakistan's role) were false.

According to the London Review of Books, Asad Durrani, who was head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the 1990s, says that "bin Laden had been a prisoner [of the ISI] at the Abbottabad compound since 2006." The U.S. found out about it in August 2010 when a defector offered to sell the location for $25 million, not through interrogation of a courier as portrayed in "Zero Dark Thirty." Hersh claims that Pakistani intelligence had captured bin Laden some time before 2006, and intended to sell him to the U.S. at the most profitable possible time. Also called into question is what the official story was intended to be: before one of the U.S. helicopters crashed, the initial plan "was to be announced a week or so after the fact," that "bin Laden was killed in a drone strike somewhere in the mountains." Instead he was "buried at sea" aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.

MIKE MORELL, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR: It is all wrong. I started reading the article last night. I got a third of the way through and I stopped. Because every sentence I was reading was wrong. The source Hersh talked to has no idea what he was talking about... The person was obviously not close to what happened. The Pakistanis did not know. I talk about in [my] book how 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. The Pakistanis did not know, this article is wrong.

About two-thirds into the article, Hersh claims:

The retired intelligence official said that the CIA’s internal reporting shows that since bin Laden moved to Abbottabad in 2006 only a handful of terrorist attacks could be linked to the remnants of bin Laden’s al-Qaida. ‘We were told at first,’ the retired official said, ‘that the Seals produced garbage bags of stuff and that the community is generating daily intelligence reports out of this stuff. And then we were told that the community is gathering everything together and needs to translate it. But nothing has come of it. Every single thing they have created turns out not to be true...

In his address announcing the raid, Obama said that after killing bin Laden the Seals ‘took custody of his body’. The statement created a problem. In the initial plan it was to be announced a week or so after the fact that bin Laden was killed in a drone strike somewhere in the mountains on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border and that his remains had been identified by DNA testing. But with Obama’s announcement of his killing by the Seals everyone now expected a body to be produced. Instead, reporters were told that bin Laden’s body had been flown by the Seals to an American military airfield in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and then straight to the USS Carl Vinson, a supercarrier on routine patrol in the North Arabian Sea. Bin Laden had then been buried at sea, just hours after his death. The press corps’s only skeptical moments at John Brennan’s briefing on 2 May were to do with the burial. The questions were short, to the point, and rarely answered. ‘When was the decision made that he would be buried at sea if killed?’ ‘Was this part of the plan all along?’ ‘Can you just tell us why that was a good idea?’ ‘John, did you consult a Muslim expert on that?’ ‘Is there a visual recording of this burial?’ When this last question was asked, Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, came to Brennan’s rescue: ‘We’ve got to give other people a chance here.’

‘We thought the best way to ensure that his body was given an appropriate Islamic burial,’ Brennan said, ‘was to take those actions that would allow us to do that burial at sea.’ He said ‘appropriate specialists and experts’ were consulted, and that the US military was fully capable of carrying out the burial ‘consistent with Islamic law’. Brennan didn’t mention that Muslim law calls for the burial service to be conducted in the presence of an imam, and there was no suggestion that one happened to be on board the Carl Vinson.

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