White House, journalists slam bin Laden report

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White House, Journalists Pan Hersh's New Bin Laden Theory

An explosive report from a veteran prize-winning journalist on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been panned by the White House and many fellow reporters.

The essay penned by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh alleges the administration lied about crucial details of the raid for years.

Hersh's account contradicts the official story in many ways. He asserts bin Laden was a captive of the Pakistani intelligence service when he was killed, and that Pakistan and the U.S. orchestrated the raid together - a collaboration President Obama betrayed when he went public with bin Laden's death.

If true, the report would be another bombshell revelation from Hersh, who cemented his reputation with investigations into the My Lai massacre in 1969 and the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal in 2004.

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White House, journalists slam bin Laden report
U.S. President Barack Obama stands after addressing the nation on TV from the East Room of the White House to make a televised statement May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. Bin Laden has been killed near Islamabad, Pakistan almost a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and his body is in possession of the United States. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images)
In this Dec. 24, 1998 file photo, Muslim militant and al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden speaks to a selected group of reporters in mountains of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. The Americans who raided bin Laden's lair met far less resistance than the Obama administration described in the aftermath, according to its latest account. The commandos encountered gunshots from only one man, whom they quickly killed, before sweeping the house and shooting others, who were unarmed, a senior defense official said. (AP Photo/Rahimullah Yousafzai)
In this handout image provided by The White House, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the national security team receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama later announced that the United States had killed Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh gestures during a panel discussion on "The Challenges of Reporting About Iraq" at the Associated Press Managing Editors annual conference in San Jose, Calif., Friday, Oct. 28, 2005. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
In this May 5, 2011 file photo, local residents and media are seen outside the house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Aqeel Ahmed)
This frame grab from video obtained exclusively by ABC News, on Monday, May 2, 2011, shows a section of a room in the interior of the compound where it is believed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was tracked down and shot to death in Pakistan, Monday, May 2, 2011, by an elite team of U.S. forces, ending an unrelenting manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade. (AP Photo/ABC News)
This frame grab from video obtained exclusively by ABC News, on Monday, May 2, 2011, shows a section of a room in the interior of the compound where it is believed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was tracked down and shot to death in Pakistan, Monday, May 2, 2011, by an elite team of U.S. forces, ending an unrelenting manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade. (AP Photo/ABC News)
This frame grab from video obtained exclusively by ABC News, on Monday, May 2, 2011, shows a section of a room in the interior of the compound where it is believed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was tracked down and shot to death in Pakistan, Monday, May 2, 2011, by an elite team of U.S. forces, ending an unrelenting manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade. (AP Photo/ABC News)
In this May 2, 2011 file photo, taken by a local resident, shows the wreckage of a helicopter next to the wall of the compound where according to officials, Osama bin Laden was shot and killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Secret until now, stealth helicopters may have been the key to the success of the Osama bin Laden raid. But the so far unexplained crash of one of the modified Black Hawks at the scene apparently compromised at least some of the aircraft's secrets. (AP Photo/Mohammad Zubair)
In this May 2, 2011 file photo, a tractor trolley carries the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed next to the wall of a compound where according to officials, Osama bin Laden was shot and killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The Americans who raided bin Laden's lair met far less resistance than the Obama administration described in the aftermath, according to its latest account. The commandos encountered gunshots from only one man, whom they quickly killed, before sweeping the house and shooting others, who were unarmed, a senior defense official said. (AP Photo/Aqeel Ahmed, File)
In this May 6, 2011 file photo, President Barack Obama greets military personnel prior to addressing troops, Friday, May 6, 2011, at Fort Campbell, Ky. After an extraordinary week of events in the United States and abroad, one thing is clear: Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of American forces has the potential to ripple out into global affairs in countless ways _ political and military, diplomatic and cultural, and of course national security in the United States. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
A newspaper vendor displays papers heralding the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
US Marines of Regiment Combat Team 1 (RCT 1) watch TV as President Barack Obama announces the death of Osama Bin Laden, at Camp Dwyer in Helman Province, on May 2, 2011. US President Barack Obama said on May 1, 2011 that justice had been done after the September 11, 2001 attacks with the death of Osama bin Laden, but warned that Al-Qaeda will still try to attack the US. (Photo by Bay Ismoyo via AFP/Getty Images)
Reacting to the death of Osama bin Laden, the House Democratic leadership lauds President Obama as they comment on the operation that took down the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S., at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, May 2, 2011. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Crowds gathers outside the White House in Washington early Monday, May 2, 2011, to celebrate after President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
People celebrate in Times Square after the death of accused 9-11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was announced by U.S. President Barack Obama May 2, 2011 in New York City. Bin Laden was killed in an operation by U.S. Navy Seals in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Newspapers left by visitors grace the fence overlooking the crash site of Flight 93 following the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan May 2, 2011 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 10 years after September 11, 2001 construction is underway to erect a formal memorial at the crash site. Last night U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
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But both officials and fellow journalists cast doubt on his account Monday as the story began to make headlines around the world.

"The source that Hersh talked to has no idea what he's talking about," CBS's Michael Morell said.

Arizona Sen. John McCain told MSNBC, "I simply have never heard of anything like this, and I've been briefed several times."

Most of the criticism of Hersh's work comes from his repeated citation of a single, anonymous source whose role within the actual mission is vaguely defined. The report has also drawn fire for contradicting established facts and relying on what critics call implausible conclusions.

Some of the criticism has come from reporters whose work backs up the official story. CNN's Peter Bergen, who visited the compound and witnessed evidence of a firefight, calls Hersh's story - which denies the firefight ever happened - "a farrago of nonsense."

Hersh does have his defenders, however, most notably The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald, who criticized journalists for mocking Hersh's claims while swallowing the administration's initial story of the raid - some of which was later walked back.

Hersh has published previous exposés for the London Review of Books on the use of sarin gas in Syria, as well as Turkey's involvement in the conflict, which have also been met with skepticism.


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