White House, journalists slam bin Laden report

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

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.