Seymour Hersh's story, "The Killing of Bin Laden," in the London Review of Books has a fundamental problem: it's either plagiarism or unoriginal.
If it's fiction--as some have implied, it's plagiarism. If it's true, it's not original. The story was broken here on The Spy Who Billed Me four years ago, in August 2011:
On August 7, 2011, I wrote, among other things:
- The US cover story of how they found bin Laden was fiction
- OBL was turned in by a walk-in informant, a mid-level ISI officer seeking to claim $25 million under the "Rewards for Justice" program.
- The Pakistani Intelligence Service -- ISI -- was sheltering bin Laden
- Saudi cash was financing the ISI operation keeping bin Laden captive
- The US presented an ultimatum to Pakistan that they would lose US funding if they did not cooperate with a US operation against bin Laden
- Pakistani generals Kiyani and Pasha were involved in the US operation that killed OBL
- Pakistan pulled out its troops from the area of Abottabad to facilitate the American raid
- The Obama administration betrayed the cooperating Pakistani officials
- The Obama administration scrambled to explain the crashed helicopter when their original drone strike cover story collapsed
At the time, American media largely ignored the story which was picked up around the world, from London and Sydney, to Istanbul and Islamabad.
The Hersh story makes all of the points described in my 2011 pieces. The Spy Who Billed Me redux.
CNN's Peter Bergen has suggested that Hersh's work may be fiction:
[Hersh's] story about the Obama administration and the bin Laden raid that reads like Frank Underwood from "House of Cards" has made an unholy alliance with Carrie Mathison from "Homeland" to produce a Pakistani version of Watergate.
If it's a work of fiction, a love-child of the House of Cards and Homeland, I hold the rights.
However, not only did both of these shows debut well after I broke the story, so did Hersh's version.
Given the broad international coverage when I broke the story, it would have been impossible for Hersh not to know about it. If he had Googled "bin laden" "informant" "cover up" or anything related, he could not have missed it. I do not believe he is this sloppy.
I have had great respect for Seymour Hersh, arguably one of the greatest investigative journalists of our time. I do not believe his story is fiction. I trust my sources--which were clearly different than his. I am, however, profoundly disappointed that he has not given credit to the one who originally broke the story.