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The Hersh OBL Report: A stalemate


Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has written an article that directly contradicts the White House's official account of the SEAL Team Six raid that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden. If true, this is a staggering slap in the face of White House officials, further discrediting an administration already known for its lack of transparency.

However, in this article, Hersh has committed an unfortunately common journalistic sin. He's written a piece filled with weighty accusations without revealing any credible sources. According to Hersh, "The major U.S. source for the account that follows is a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad."

That's it. A faceless, retired intelligence official. Entirely anonymous. Fictional for all we know.

His only other source is a book written by someone in a Pakistani think tank. "In his book, 'Pakistan: Before and after Osama,' Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who—reflecting a widely held local view—asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation."

Again, vague information from a questionable source. But here's where this gets really sad: Neither side—Hersh nor the Obama administration—can prove their version of the story without revealing sources or revealing classified information. Hersh has presented little more than a glorified supposition with this article, but it can't be disproven by the Obama administration without revealing sensitive documents, which they won't do. What's left is a stalemate, leaving interested readers with no conclusive answer, but plenty of fodder for speculation.

This is dangerous, irresponsible journalism. It accuses without adequate evidence, blends supposition and opinion and packages it as fact. Even if what Hersh posits in his article later proves to be true, his dearth of credible sources leaves too much room for doubt to be taken at face value.

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