White House categorically denies Barack Obama lied over how the US killed Osama bin Laden

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has written an article claiming the official story of the al-Qaeda leader's death consisted of 'lies and betrayal'

Adam Withnall
Tuesday 12 May 2015 08:56
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden

The White House has strongly denied an article by a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist that claims Barack Obama lied to the public about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Seymour Hersh’s article, published in the London Review of Books, alleged that the government of Pakistan played a key role in helping the US assassinate the former al-Qaeda leader and that he was in fact an unarmed “invalid” when he was shot by US Navy Seals in 2011.

These, among other claims attributed to an unnamed retired official from the Pakistani intelligence services, directly contradict the story President Obama told of how bin Laden died in a fire-fight after a secret incursion by a small American team.

During a press conference at the White House, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed Mr Hersh’s article as “riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods”.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, 11 May

He quoted a CNN security analyst who said of the 10,000 word article: “What’s true in the story isn’t new, and what’s new in the story isn’t true.”

Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, also issued a strong denial late on Monday.

“The notion that the operation that killed Osama Bin Ladin was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false,” he said. “The president decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani Government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred. This was a US operation through and through.”

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton took personal responsibility, and praise, for the US finding and killing Osama bin Laden

Price declined to comment on any of the other assertions in the article, including that Navy Seals were given rules of engagement implying they should shoot bin Laden on sight regardless of whether he tried to defend himself and that he was “unarmed” and “an invalid” at the time.

“There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one,” he said.

A Central Intelligence Agency spokesman has also commented on the report, telling the Wall Street Journal it was “utter nonsense”. Pakistani officials are yet to comment on the article.

Locals and media gather outside the compound, pictured in May 2011, where Osama Bin Laden was reportedly killed in an operation by US Navy Seals

Among the other claims made in Hersh’s article were that rather than hiding out in a compound in Abbottabad, bin Laden had been held captive by the Pakistan military for years as “leverage” against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Mr Hersh also reported that White House claims Bin Laden was still receiving information from and giving orders to al-Qaeda, and that a cache of secret details from terror activities was found in the compound, were “lies, misstatements and betrayal”.

“The White House had to give the impression that bin Laden was still operationally important,” he quoted the official as saying. “Otherwise, why kill him?”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in