It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.According to Hersh, bin Laden was not hiding in Abbottabad, he had been placed under house arrest by the Pakistanis, in a compound guarded by ISI soldiers. His whereabouts were not determined by tracking his couriers, but were betrayed by a Pakistani intelligence official who wanted the $25 million reward. Although initially the CIA did not tell the ISI what they had learned, they eventually brought the Pakistanis on board, getting their cooperation by threatening to cut off US aid.Whatever happened to bin Laden's body -- Hersh does not seem sure -- it certainly was not buried at sea.
To me the most important claim in Hersh's story is that Osama's whereabouts were betrayed by a Pakistani source. This means that the long-running American argument about how much the "enhanced interrogation" of various al Qaeda figures contributed to finding bin Laden is a complete farce; if Hersh is right, it was irrelevant.
UPDATE: Some good criticism of Hersh here. Apparently the New Yorker rejected this story several times. The reason I was drawn to Hersh's account is that I simply do not believe that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad without the knowledge and consent of the ISI, or at least powerful elements within it. Didn't believe in in 2010 and still don't believe it.