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The fallout from Seymour Hersh's investigative report on the death of Osama bin Laden continues, with many contending that the veteran reporter has wandered into conspiracy theory territory by claiming that the U.S. government and the Pakistani army worked together to kill the Al Qaeda leader, a plot that was covered up with a Hollywood-like narrative of Navy SEALs steeling across the border in stealth helicopters and taking bin Laden out in the dead of night.
But one aspect of Hersh's report is quietly gaining some serious attention: his claim that the U.S. was tipped off to bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad by a rogue member of Pakistan's powerful military spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. The semi-official story is that the Obama administration tracked bin Laden down by following his couriers, but Hersh claims the Americans got the intelligence from a senior ISI officer who was seeking the U.S.'s $25 million award for information on bin Laden's whereabouts.
Carlotta Gall of The New York Times, who previously reported that the ISI brass was aware of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad, writes that her "own reporting tracks with Hersh's" on this point. And Pakistan's The News, citing "well-informed intelligence circles," reports that the officer in question was one Brigadier Usman Khalid, who was subsequently given American citizenship. (Hersh claims the informant was relocated to the States with his family.)
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Which is all to say that the line from the White House, re-enacted in meticulous detail in the movie Zero Dark Thirty, may not be totally true.
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