Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, who created a flutter last year by claiming Pakistan helped the US get Osama bin Laden, has said he has seen new evidence that cemented his beliefs about how the al Qaeda leader was killed.
“More than ever,” Hersh told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper when he was asked if he still believes Pakistan helped the US get bin Laden.
Hersh’s claim, in an article published last year, has already been rejected by the White House. US media outlets have also rejected his claim.
But he has repeated the claim in his book, “The Killing of Osama bin Laden”, published this week. Hersh told The Dawn he has seen new evidence which cemented his belief that the official US account of how bin Laden was found in his compound in Abbottabad and killed is “deceptive”.
He reiterated his contention that Pakistan detained bin Laden in 2006 and kept him prisoner with the backing of Saudi Arabia. “The US and Pakistan then struck a deal: The US would raid bin Laden’s compound but make it look as if Pakistan was unaware,” Hersh was quoted as saying by Dawn.
“I learned a lot more than I knew in the beginning,” he said.
“Pakistan is in constant alert because of India. Their radars are watching, their F-16s are up all the time,” he said, arguing that it was not possible for US helicopters to enter Abbottabad without alerting the Pakistanis.
He said former Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani and ISI chief Shuja Pasha made this deal with the Americans, which upset other Pakistani generals.
“The then head of Pakistan’s Air Defence Command was very, very upset. He was ready to go public,” said Hersh, claiming the disgruntled general was made chairman of Pakistan International Airlines after his retirement to compensate for his silence.
In another interview to the Democracy Now network of radio and television outlets, Hersh said the US and Pakistan jointly created the “myth” that “we discovered” where bin Laden was living.
“What I know is…that in August of 2010, a Pakistani a colonel…came into our embassy, went to the then CIA station chief Jonathan Bank, and said: ‘We’ve had bin Laden for four years.’”
Hersh told The Dawn this colonel was moved to the US and now lives somewhere near Washington.
“The Pakistani intelligence picked (bin Laden) in the Hindu Kush area, built the compound in Abbottabad and put him there,” he said. “Pakistani officials did so because the Saudis asked them to. The Saudis did not want Americans to interrogate (bin Laden).”
According to Hersh, when the CIA asked Pakistani officials to make the May 2, 2011 operation at bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad a surprise raid, they agreed “because they had kept OBL in custody without telling us”.
The Americans were very upset and the Pakistanis did not want to make it worse, he added.
“I wrote the name of the station chief, Jonathan Bank, something you are not supposed to do, but he did not attack me for doing this. He did not contradict my story, although if there is one guy who can end my story, it is him,” Hersh said.