The CIA learned of Osama bin Laden’s hideaway from a Pakistani intelligence official, leading to the Special Forces raid that killed the al Qaeda leader, NBC News reported.
The U.S. government assertion that bin Laden’s courier tipped off the CIA about the location of the Abbottabad compound was a cover story to protect the Pakistani official, a Special Forces operator told the network.
The official also reportedly said that Pakistani intelligence was hiding the terrorist mastermind in the country.
“Two intelligence sources tell NBC News that the year before the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a ‘walk in’ asset from Pakistani intelligence told the CIA where the most wanted man in the world was hiding — and these two sources plus a third say that the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was hiding all along,” reported an NBC News team led by Matthew Cole.
Some level of official Pakistani connivance in bin Laden’s presence in the country has long been suspected.
The country’s military-intelligence agency is riddled with al Qaeda and Taliban sympathizers who would be willing and capable of hiding bin Laden behind the back of the country’s civilian government. They also would be in a position to retaliate against either an individual or even the country’s political leaders if any were to be seen as having helped the U.S. in the operation.
The NBC report that a Pakistani intelligence official was involved in helping the U.S. find bin Laden matches one of the more-modest claims in an article at the weekend in the London Review of Books by legendary liberal muckraker Seymour Hersh.
But NBC News cautioned that “the new revelations do not necessarily cast doubt on the overall narrative that the White House began circulating within hours of the May 2011 operation. The official story about how bin Laden was found was constructed in a way that protected the identity and existence of the asset, who also knew who inside the Pakistani government was aware of the Pakistani intelligence agency’s operation to hide bin Laden, according to a special operations officer with prior knowledge of the bin Laden mission.”
Mr. Hersh made much more sweeping and damning charges, which the White House and U.S. intelligence officials dismissed with contempt Monday.
He claimed, based on a retired general of the Pakistani intelligence service and several unidentified sources in the U.S. and Pakistan, that bin Laden had been kept as a Pakistani prisoner and that the U.S. raid on his Abbottabad compound was a staged event that the U.S. and Pakistan jointly contrived to present as a legitimate military operation. He also claimed that Pakistani anger over the raid at the time was part of the cover story and also genuine Pakistani frustration over the U.S. not coming through on some details of the bargain.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Mr. Hersh’s piece was “riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods” and reiterated the reaction of former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, who said he stopped reading the article because every sentence was wrong.