Hersh Challenges Obama White House's Veracity On 2011 Bin Laden Raid

 

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh continued his assault on the Obama administration's veracity this week with a 10,000-word column in the London Review of Books disputing major White House claims about a 2011 raid in Pakistan that purportedly killed Osama bin Laden.
 
Among other points, Hersh alleged that the Al Qaeda leader was killed at an urban compound in Pakistan because of a tip by a reward-seeking Pakistani. This differs from the administration claim that the discovery arose from expert sleuthing by U.S. personnel.
 
Osama Bin Laden in screen shot from purported Al Qaeda videoShown at left is a widely broadcast photo purportedly of bin Laden. At right below is a U.S. Defense Department aerial photo marking (with yellow lines) the living compound where bin Laden was allegedly found in Abbottabad. The locale is a seat of Pakistani military training and other activity, much like West Point or Annapolis in the United States. Skeptics of the administration story have long wondered, among other points, why a fugitive would live in a loosely guarded compound near an ally's military facilities. 
 
Hersh's column, The Killing of Osama bin Laden, has prompted controversy, including harsh attacks by the White House and defenders of the official story. They have denounced Hersh for what they describe as his unfounded attack on conventional reporting about the raid, which President Obama and his advocates used during the 2012 election campaign to portray his Middle East policies as largely successful compared to Republican policies.
 
Separately, a team from NBC News and an author writing for the New York Purported compound of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (Defense Department aerial photo)Times this week endorsed Hersh on certain narrow points he raised. Later, NBC modified its reporting, as described by Huffington Post media critic Michael Calderone May 13 in NBC News Walks Back Report That Pakistani Officer Gave Bin Laden's Location To CIA.
 
A few others, most notably conservative scholar Paul Craig Roberts, a critic of the bipartisan foreign policy consensus in the nation's capital, have concluded that Hersh has accepted too much of the official story.
 
Roberts and the like-minded former Navy intelligence analyst Wayne Madsen and former Covert Action Quarterly Publisher Louis Wolf would concede that Hersh has good sources from his long career. But they argue that the sources must have been either misinformed or less than fully forthcoming on this matter because, the critics allege, the real bin Laden was already dead by the date of the raid in 2011 from his serious kidney disease that had required dialysis not possible in post-9/11 flight.
 
In a column this week by Roberts Seymour Hersh Succumbs To Disinformation, a phone interview with Madsen (who has reported bin Laden's death many times), they argued that the man killed in the compound was a bin Laden double used for propaganda purposes -- and that is the reason why U.S. authorities discarded the corpse with no independent authentication, including news coverage, or other standard procedures.
 
Update: Columbia Journalism Review, The media’s reaction to Seymour Hersh’s bin Laden scoop has been disgraceful  by Trevor Timm, May 15, 2015.
 
Today's column summarizes this initial coverage. Hersh has previously published columns debunking administration claims that Syria used sarin gas to kill civilians in August 2014 during the civil war. The claims were part of a failed administration effort to win congressional authority to launch formal military actions against the government of Bashar al-Assad.  
 
 
The Justice Integrity Project had previously cast doubt on the Obama claims regarding the sarin attacks, and amplified those doubts in this editor's book Presidential Puppetry. We plan to deliver more analysis shortly regarding the current controversy, whereby segments of the alternative media have long expressed skepticism regarding the much-ballyhooed raid that helped firm up Obama's foreign policy credentials sufficiently to enable his reelection in 2012. By contrast, the corporate-controlled media rely primarily on official announcements and officially controlled leaks.
 
Puppetry, subtitled Obama, Romney and Their Masters, documents how Obama had hidden intelligence ties predating his political career and omitted from his official biography, just like many other recent political leaders in both parties and prominent opinion leaders in the media, business, non-government organizations, and academia.
 
For such reasons, many military and spy reports are best understood as real-life versions of such major Hollywood movies as Zero Dark Thirty, a CIA-assisted version of the Pakistani raid released shortly before the 2012 presidential elections.
 
Hersh, best known for breaking news of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, is one of the few mainstream journalists to challenge on occasion key elements of the bipartisan consensus on war policy. However, his most recent major stories have been in the London Review of Books, not his traditional outlet of the New York Magazine, where he says he sells his work on an ad hoc basis depending on the story.
 
"I've personally known and respected Sy Hersh for years as the tenacious and hardworking investigative journalist he is," commented Louis Wolf, publisher of the once prominent investigative magazine Covert Action Quarterly. Author and former CIA officer Philip Agee co-founded the quarterly, which was published between 1978 and 2005.
 
"As journalists," Wolf continued, "we all wish we had some of his sources. But he is somewhat prone to some degree of gullibility. Frankly, he buys into more than a little of the official 9/11 story and really should know better. But just maybe he knows the biggest secret of all -- precisely how Osama survived his kidney disease and dialysis all those years in the cave/s. Before being officially killed in Abbottabad by the Navy Seals, his original demise was well documented in the Pakistani media, an event which was reported in this country by no less than Fox News." Roberts was referencing this news story: Report: Bin Laden Already Dead, Dec. 26, 2001. Among other examinations arguing that the Al Qaeda leader died soon after 9/11, David Ray Griffin published a book in 2009, Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive?
 
The public's difficulty in learning the truth about the 2011 raid stems in significant part from the federal government's clampdown on reporters, whistleblowers and leakers, aside from those officials who "leak" the official story to friendly reporters.
 
A federal court's prison sentence this week for ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling following his conviction as a spy for leaking to New York Times reporter James Risen provides a warning for all government employees, not simply those involved in national security matters. Details: 42-Month Term For CIA 'Leaker' Continues Obama Crackdown.
 
For years, the Obama administration threatened Risen with prison for protecting his sources until Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new policy of leniency for reporters at established news organizations. The parameters are unclear on whether such leniency might extend to freelancers and similar independent journalists. 
 
As reported here in such columns as U.S. Drops 13 Places To 46th On 'World Press Freedom Index,' Risen has described the Obama administration as the worst for press freedom in recent American history and warned that democracy cannot continue if reporters are not able to talk to government sources to verify official pronouncements by those in power.
 
 
 
 
Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 

 

 

Related News Coverage

Barack Obama, Bin Laden killing photo at White HouseIn 2011, the White House released a widely republished photo at right showing President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and other senior officials in the Situation Room watching the raid unfold at the Abbottabad compound.

Update:

Insurge Intelligence via OpEdNews, The bin Laden death mythology, Nafeez Ahmed, July 3, 2015. The White House's story of how U.S. special forces hunted down and assassinated arch terrorist Osama bin Laden in his secret lair in Pakistan is unraveling. The official narrative of the bin Laden raid is that for over a decade, U.S. intelligence hunted for the terror chief until a surveillance/torture-enabled breakthrough tracked him to a secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1, 2011. The role of a former ISI officer in blowing the whistle on the ISI's protection of bin Laden in August 2010 brought his concealment out into the open and triggered high-level White House discussions on how to resolve the situation: to kill or not to kill? Declassified documents, official government reports and intelligence officials confirm that since before 9/11, and continuing for the decade after, the US intelligence community was systematically stymied from apprehending Osama bin Laden due to longstanding relationships with Saudi and Pakistani military intelligence. Despite specific intelligence available to elements of the US intelligence community on bin Laden's location in Pakistan, under the protection of US allies, no action was taken to apprehend bin Laden for years. That failure to act coincided with the launch of an anti-Iran US covert operations programme around 2005, pursued in partnership with Saudi Arabia, to finance Islamist Sunni militants including al-Qaeda affiliated groups.

Washington Post, Chomsky, Woodward and 9/11 conspiracy theories: Bin Laden’s English-language bookshelf, Swati Sharma, May 20, 2015.  Noam Chomsky, Bob Woodward, U.S. foreign policy, Islam -- these are the names and topics that one would have stumbled upon if perusing Osama bin Laden's bookshelf in his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound. Four years after the bin Laden raid, the United States has declassified a list of 39 English-language books the former al-Qaeda leader had on display at his home. The non-fiction books include topics such as: U.S. conquests abroad: "America's Strategic Blunders," "America's 'War on Terrorism,'" "Obama’s Wars," "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II," "Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century," "Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower," "New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11"

London Review of Books, The Killing of Osama bin Laden, Seymour M. Hersh (shown in a file photo), May 10, dated May 21, 2015. Seymour Hersh, shown in a file photo, is writing an alternative history of the war on terror. It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals Seymour Hershassassinated 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. The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014.

Washington Post, ‘Utter nonsense’: CIA, White House blast explosive bin Laden raid story, Dan Lamothe, May 11, 2015. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the U.S. and Pakistan collaborated closely.

NBC News, Pakistanis Knew Where Osama Bin Laden Was, U.S. Sources Say, Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Robert Windrem and Andrea Mitchell, May 11, 2015. Two intelligence sources tell NBC News that the year before the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a "walk in" asset from Pakistani intelligence told the CIA where the most wanted man in the world was hiding - and these two sources plus a third say that the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was hiding all along. The U.S. government has always characterized the heroic raid by Seal Team Six that killed bin Laden as a unilateral U.S. operation, and has maintained that the CIA found him by tracking couriers to his walled complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. 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. While NBC News has long been pursuing leads about a "walk in" and about what Pakistani intelligence knew, both assertions were made public in a London Review of Books article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. Hersh's story, published over the weekend, raises numerous questions about the White House account of the SEAL operation. It has been strongly disputed both on and off the record by the Obama administration and current and former national security officials.

Andrea Mitchell screen shot

 

Huffington Post, NBC News Walks Back Report That Pakistani Officer Gave Bin Laden's Location To CIA, Michael Calderone, May 13, 2015. NBC News has walked back its Monday report that a Pakistani intelligence officer provided the CIA with Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts a year before the U.S. raid in May 2011, a claim that ran counter to the Obama administration’s narrative of events but supported a key detail in an explosive new story by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. On Monday afternoon, NBC News cited “two intelligence sources” claiming the Pakistani officer, a walk-in informant, “told the CIA where the most wanted man in the world was hiding.” Monday evening, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell -- who shared a byline on the story with investigative unit head Richard Esposito and reporters Matthew Cole and Robert Windrem –- reported the information on the "NBC Nightly News" and MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes." But NBC News has now added an editor’s note to the story that diminishes the Pakistani officer's involvement and lacks the earlier specificity. Instead of pointing the CIA to bin Laden whereabouts, NBC News now reports that the officer “provided information vital to the hunt for bin Laden." The NBC News report received significant attention and pick-up because it dropped just as the news media was debating Hersh’s bombshell in the London Review of Books and amid strong pushback from the White House. What's unclear from the editor's note is whether NBC News sources changed their stories of the Pakistani officer's involvement or if their version of events was misinterpreted by reporters. Esposito referred this reporter to an NBC News spokeswoman. The spokeswoman did not provide additional comment. Such backtracking on a major story comes at a significant moment for the network, as Esposito is leading NBC News' internal investigation into claims made by suspended anchor Brian Williams and following a shake-up of the news division. It also comes just months after NBC News walked back a report surrounding attacks on Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.

Slate, Hersh: “I Am Not Backing Off Anything I Said,” An interview with Seymour Hersh by Isaac Chotiner, May 13, 2015. In a phone interview this week, Seymour Hersh spoke bluntly in defending his blockbuster 10,000-word story for the London Review of Books. Here are excerpts condensed from the full interview:

Seymour Hersh: You probably don’t know that NBC reported, and now they have reported it on one of these dopey afternoon shows with that woman, what’s her name, the NBC woman who claims to have some knowledge of foreign policy, married to Alan Greenspan.

Isaac Chotiner: Andrea Mitchell.

Hersh: She’s comical. On her show, the administration is acknowledging walk-ins but saying the walk-ins aren’t necessarily linked to Bin Laden.

Chotiner: Are you hoping with this piece to say that you made no mistakes, or that OK there were mistakes because I am getting the ball rolling?....I just want to talk to you about your piece and journalism.

Hersh: What difference does it make what the fuck I think about journalism? I don’t think much of the journalism that I see. If you think I write stories where it is all right to just be good enough, are you kidding? You think I have a cavalier attitude on throwing stuff out? Are you kidding? I am not cavalier about what I do for a living.

Chotiner: I don’t think you are cavalier. That was not my question.

Hersh: Whatever it is, it’s an impossible question. It’s almost like you are asking me to say that there are flaws in everybody. Yes. Do I acknowledge that not everybody can be perfect? But I am not backing off anything I said.

Columbia Journalism Review, The media’s reaction to Seymour Hersh’s bin Laden scoop has been disgraceful, Trevor Timm, May 15, 2015. Seymour Hersh has done the public a great service by breathing life into questions surrounding the official narrative of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Yet instead of trying to build off the details of his story, or to disprove his assertions with additional reporting, journalists have largely attempted to tear down the messenger. Barrels of ink have been spilled ripping apart Hersh’s character, while barely any follow-up reporting has been done to corroborate or refute his claims—even though there’s no doubt that the Obama administration has repeatedly misinformed and misled the public about the incident. Even less attention has been paid to the little follow-up reporting that we did get, which revealed that the CIA likely lied about its role in finding bin Laden, which it used to justify torture to the public.

Hersh has attempted to force the media to ask questions about its role in covering a world-shaping event — but it’s clear the media has trouble asking such questions if the answers are not the ones they want to hear. While there’s no way to prove or disprove every assertion Hersh makes without re-reporting the whole story, let’s look at the overarching criticisms one by one: Conspiracy theory. Anonymous sources.  Largely ignored in this is debate is the opinion of longtime New York Times Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent Carlotta Gall. Trevor Timm is the executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports and defends journalism dedicated to transparency and accountability.

Washington Post, The ever-iconoclastic, never-to-be-ignored, muckraking Seymour Hersh, Paul Farhi, May 15, 2015. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has unearthed some of the most consequential and controversial news stories of the past half-century. Was bin Laden living in secrecy in Abbottabad, Pakistan, when Navy SEALs stormed his compound and killed him? Hersh’s latest blockbuster story aims to debunk the official narrative of the 2011 killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. No, writes Hersh; Pakistan’s intelligence service had captured the ­al-Qaeda leader years earlier and was holding him as a bargaining chip, with Saudi Arabia’s support. Did the United States find bin Laden through dogged intelligence work and by tracking his courier? No again, Hersh says; a Pakistani military official tipped off the Americans in exchange for a piece of the $25 million reward. The raid itself, he writes, was not some daring mission out of “Zero Dark Thirty”; the Pakistanis effectively stage-managed it. And bin Laden’s burial at sea? Didn’t happen, Hersh says. Instead, the SEALs tossed chunks of the terrorist leader’s body, which was obliterated by gunfire in the raid, out of their Black Hawk helicopter as they flew out of Pakistan. Hersh’s complex and somewhat disjointed weaving of all the alleged lies and deceptions — supposedly engineered by three governments and perhaps hundreds of individuals — met with swift denials. Within hours Monday, the White House, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency all dismissed his account, which is based largely on information from anonymous sources.

New Yorker Magazine, Why Seymour Hersh’s ‘Alternative’ bin Laden History Did Not Appear in The New Yorker, Gabriel Sherman, May 11, 2015. Yesterday, the London Review of Books published one of the most mind-bending pieces of national-security journalism in recent memory: Seymour Hersh’s alternative history of the Osama bin Laden assassination. Over more than 10,000 words, the legendary investigative reporter and longtime New Yorker contributor un-spooled a remarkable narrative that accuses the Obama White House of concocting a “blatant lie” to hide Pakistan’s involvement in the SEAL Team Six raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Not surprisingly, the pushback has been ferocious. One of the most interesting sub-dramas of Hersh’s exposé has to do with the article’s appearance in the LRB. Why, many people are wondering, did Hersh’s account not appear in The New Yorker, where Hersh has been a contributor since 1971? In fact, the article’s stunning claims put Hersh on the wrong side of his longtime journalistic home.

OpEdNews, Seymour Hersh Succumbs To Disinformation, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in file photo), May 11, 2105. Washington's disinformation agencies have finally managed to deceive Seymour Hersh with a concocted "inside story" that saves Paul Craig RobertsWashington's claim of having murdered bin Laden by proving that the US government is an extraordinary liar and violator of law.  Seymour Hersh has published a long account of the homicide of Osama bin Laden. Hersh concludes that the Obama regime's account of the killing of bin Laden is a total fabrication except for the fact that bin Laden was killed. I do not believe Hersh's story for three reasons. One reason is that bin Laden was suffering from disease that no one can survive for a decade. His death was widely reported in 2001. He exposes lies within lies, indecision within decision, payoffs within payoffs, and reports such a huge number of people with advance knowledge of the raid that it cannot possibly have been kept a secret. In my opinion, Washington's disinformation agencies have finally managed to deceive Seymour Hersh with a concocted "inside story" that saves Washington's claim of having murdered bin Laden by proving that the US government is an extraordinary liar and violator of law. Hersh's story does prove that the US government is a liar, but it does not prove that a SEAL team murdered Osama bin Laden.

First Look/Intercept, Sy Hersh’s bin Laden Story First Reported in 2011 — With Seemingly Different Sources, Jon Schwarz and Ryan Devereaux, May 11, 2015. R.J. Hillhouse, a former professor, Fulbright fellow and novelist whose writing on intelligence and military outsourcing has appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times, made the same main assertions in 2011 about the death of Osama bin Laden as Seymour Hersh’s new story in the London Review of Books — apparently based on different sources than those used by Hersh. Bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. Three months later, on August 7, Hillhouse posted a story on her blog “The Spy Who Billed Me” stating that (1) the U.S. did not learn about bin Laden’s location from tracking an al Qaeda courier, but from a member of the Pakistani intelligence service who wanted to collect the $25 million reward the U.S. had offered for bin Laden; (2) Saudi Arabia was paying Pakistan to keep bin Laden under the equivalent of house arrest; (3) Pakistan was pressured by the U.S. to stand down its military to allow the U.S. raid to proceed unhindered; and (4) the U.S. had planned to claim that bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but was forced to abandon this when one of the Navy SEAL helicopters crashed. Hersh’s article makes the same key claims about the bin Laden raid.

More background and opinions:

VOX, The many problems with Seymour Hersh's Osama bin Laden conspiracy theory, Max Fisher, May 11, 2015. On Sunday, the legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh finally released a story that he has been rumored to have been working on for years: the truth about the killing of Osama bin Laden. The story is riven with internal contradictions and inconsistencies.

Truthout, Exclusive Investigation: The Truth Behind the Official Story of Finding Bin Laden, Gareth Porter, May 3, 2012. A few days after US Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a "senior intelligence official" briefing reporters on the materials seized from bin Laden's compound said the materials revealed that bin Laden had, "continued to direct even tactical details of the group's management." Bin Laden was, "not just a strategic thinker for the group," said the official. "He was active in operational planning and in driving tactical decisions." Such was the official line at the time. But none of it was true. It is now clear that CIA officials were blatantly misrepresenting both bin Laden's role in al-Qaeda when he was killed and how the agency came to focus on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In fact, during his six years in Abbottabad, bin Laden was not the functioning head of al-Qaeda at all, but an isolated figurehead who had become irrelevant to the actual operations of the organization. The real story, told here for the first time, is that bin Laden was in the compound in Abbottabad because he had been forced into exile by the al-Qaeda leadership.

FoxNews.com, Report: Bin Laden Already Dead, Staff report based on news sources in South Asia, Dec. 26, 2001. Usama bin Laden has died a peaceful death due to an untreated lung complication, the Pakistan Observer reported, citing a Taliban leader who allegedly attended the funeral of the Al Qaeda leader. "The Coalition troops are engaged in a mad search operation but they would never be able to fulfill their cherished goal of getting Usama alive or dead," the source said. Bin Laden, according to the source, was suffering from a serious lung complication and succumbed to the disease in mid-December, in the vicinity of the Tora Bora mountains. The source claimed that bin Laden was laid to rest honorably in his last abode and his grave was made as per his Wahabi belief. About 30 close associates of bin Laden in Al Qaeda, including his most trusted and personal bodyguards, his family members and some "Taliban friends," attended the funeral rites. A volley of bullets was also fired to pay final tribute to the "great leader." The Taliban source who claims to have seen bin Laden's face before burial said "he looked pale ... but calm, relaxed and confident." Asked whether bin Laden had any feelings of remorse before death, the source vehemently said "no." Instead, he said, bin Laden was proud that he succeeded in his mission of igniting awareness amongst Muslims about hegemonistic designs and conspiracies of "pagans" against Islam. Bin Laden, he said, held the view that the sacrifice of a few hundred people in Afghanistan was nothing, as those who laid their lives in creating an atmosphere of resistance will be adequately rewarded by Almighty Allah. When asked where bin Laden was buried, the source said, "I am sure that like other places in Tora Bora, that particular place too must have vanished."

Slate, A Crank Theory of Seymour Hersh, James Kirchick, May 12, 2015. To understand the legendary national security reporter, you need to understand an archetype of the intelligence world: the crank. Over the weekend Seymour Hersh published his latest interminably long investigative bombshell — and it’s a doozy. Sourced almost entirely to a single “retired senior intelligence official” (with a handful of details corroborated by two “longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command”), Hersh’s story reads like a fantasia of clandestine intrigue and deception, its narrative flights of fancy peppered with angry outbursts at the Obama administration for perpetrating a “blatant lie” upon a gullible American public and spinning a “Lewis Carroll” “fairy tale.”

Justice Integrity Project, 42-Month Term For CIA 'Leaker' Continues Obama Crackdown, Andrew Kreig, May 13, 2015. The 42-month sentence imposed this week on former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for leaking information to a New York Times reporter helps tighten the lid for the public in learning information about government secrets and wrongdoing.

Justice Integrity Project, Media Helped Eric Holder Polish His Image, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 21, 2015. The media fail to report rampant abuses at the U.S. Justice Department:  An overview of how a craven and compromised Big Media protect a Puppet President, his team, and the masters they all serve. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder polished his legacy Feb. 17 with a National Press Club speech that illustrated the sharp limits of political accountability and media curiosity in the nation’s capital.

Justice Integrity Project, U.S. Drops 13 Places To 46th On 'World Press Freedom Index,' Andrew Kreig, Feb. 10, 2014. The United States experienced a major decline in press freedom over the past year according to the new annual study announced Feb. 11 by Reporters Without Borders. "2013 will go down in history as the worst year for press freedom in the modern history of the United States," said New York Times investigative reporter James Risen as he moderated a panel at the National Press Club announcing the results.  Risen said government obstruction and prosecution of whistleblowers has chilled reporting on public affairs in Washington, hurting the public and democratic values. The report cited a number of Obama administration prosecutions of leakers as a major reason for the decline in the ranking of the United States from 32th to 46th.

 

Other Recent Hersh Challenges To Washington Reporting On Middle East Wars

London Review of Books, The Red Line and the Rat Line, Seymour M. Hersh, April 4, 2014. In 2010, Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.​ Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

London Review of Books, Whose Sarin? Seymour M. Hersh, Dec. 8, 2013. Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.

Justice Integrity Project, Hersh Attacks Government, DC Media, Andrew Kreig, Sept. 28, 2013 (subscription required). New Yorker columnist Seymour Hersh harshly attacked President Obama and fellow journalists in an interview reported Sept. 27. Hersh said of official accounts about the death of Osama bin Laden: ‘It’s one big lie, not one word of it is true.’' The White House released a now-iconic photo at right showing Obama and cabinet reaction to a video of the 2011 raid. Hersh also said during his outspoken interview with Guardian reporter Lisa O'Carroll that most network broadcasters should be immediately fired to improve news coverage. The acerbic Hersh, born in 1937, is best known for breaking the story of the My Lai Massacre by U.S. troops during the Vietnam War. Editor's Note: Hersh later told the Justice Integrity Project that the Guardian reporter, presented as an interview, was drawn for the most part from a Hersh speech during the summer.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Washington Post, Ex-CIA officer convicted in leak case gets 3½ years, Matt Zapotosky, May 11, 2014. Jeffrey Sterling gave a journalist classified information about an effort to stem Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Washington Post, How judges have punished other leakers, Matt Zapotosky May 11, 2015. Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison Monday for leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter. Prosecutors asked that he face a severe penalty, while defense attorneys wanted his punishment to be in line with other recently convicted leakers. Here is a look at the sentences some of them have faced, and how their cases are similar to — or different from — Sterling’s.