A published report in Britain that disputes the official U.S. account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011 drew sharp criticism Monday from the White House, which said the story was full of "inaccuracies and baseless assertions."
Investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh wrote in the London Review of Books that the account of the raid given to the public by the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon, and books by self-described participants, contained numerous falsehoods. He suggests crucial details were deliberately dramatized to benefit President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.
Hersh wrote that the "most blatant lie" was the U.S. claim that Pakistan's senior military leaders were not informed of the raid, which was carried out by Navy SEALs, before it was carried out.
He cites an anonymous "major U.S. source," whom he describes as a retired senior intelligence official, and other unnamed U.S. and Pakistani sources, to report that Pakistani leaders were not only aware of the operation, but that their intelligence service had detained Bin Laden and his family in a compound for years, and worked closely with the CIA in planning to kill him.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council, rejected Hersh's account and said there were "too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions … to fact check each one." The SEALs' cross-border helicopter raid from Afghanistan to kill Bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad was a U.S. operation "through and through," he said.
"The notion that the operation that killed [Bin Laden] was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false," Price said in a statement. "As we said at the time, knowledge of this operation was confined to a very small circle of senior U.S. officials. The President decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani Government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest cited independent assessments that Hersh's 10,000-word account was "riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods." He said a former senior CIA official who had helped supervise the raid had reviewed the story and concluded "every sentence was wrong."