But now other reporters are coming forward to confirm portions of the report—critics included: national security blogger R.J. Hillhouse, who published similar allegations in 2011, is now accusing Hersh of plagiarism.
And Carlotta Gall, a New York Times correspondent based in Afghanistan, writes today in the Times that she too encountered evidence to support one claim made by Hersh—that Pakistan had been hiding bin Laden in Abbottabad all along:
Two years later, when I was researching my book, I learned from a high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service that the ISI had been hiding Bin Laden and ran a desk specifically to handle him as an intelligence asset. After the book came out, I learned more: that it was indeed a Pakistani Army brigadier — all the senior officers of the ISI are in the military — who told the C.I.A. where Bin Laden was hiding, and that Bin Laden was living there with the knowledge and protection of the ISI.
I trusted my source — I did not speak with him, and his information came to me through a friend, but he was high enough in the intelligence apparatus to know what he was talking about. I was confident the information was true, but I held off publishing it. It was going to be extremely 10,356-worddifficult to corroborate in the United States, not least because the informant was presumably in witness protection.
The NBC News sources who confirm that a former Pakistani military intelligence official became a U.S. intelligence asset include a special operations officer and a CIA officer who had served in Pakistan. These two sources and a third source, a very senior former U.S. intelligence official, also say that elements of the ISI were aware of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The former official was emphatic about the ISI’s awareness, saying twice, “They knew.”
Also addressed was Hersh’s claim that it was a former Pakistani military snitch looking for a reward—and not the clever tracking of a bin Laden courier—that led the U.S. to Abbottabad. Although NBC walked back a report (in a newly appended editor’s note) appearing to support this, Gall points out the claim is gaining traction elsewhere.
Finally, the Pakistani daily newspaper The News reported Tuesday that Pakistani intelligence officials have conceded that it was indeed a walk-in who provided the information on Bin Laden. The newspaper names the officer as Brigadier Usman Khalid; the reporter is sufficiently well connected that he should be taken seriously.
So far, the official response—essentially that the 10,356-word piece has “too many inaccuracies to detail”—hasn’t touched on these allegations. But national security officials have addressed other specifics, explicitly denying Monday that Pakistan was involved in the raid, which Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren deemed a “unilateral U.S. mission.”