Thinking

An Open Letter to the Public Editor of the New York Times

This is an open letter to the Public Editor of the New York Times; to be published online at policytensor.com

Dear Ms. Sullivan, 

The silence of the New York Times in the aftermath of the publication of Seymour Hersh’s piece in the London Review of Books is quite extraordinary. 

The New York Times Magazine has an opinion piece by Carlotta Gall, wherein she says her independent sources in Pakistan corroborate a number of key claims made by Hersh’s sources: (1) Bin Laden was being held by the ISI. (2) That it was a “walk-in”, someone from inside the ISI, who alerted American intelligence about the Abbottabad compound. (3) That the Seals team went in with the knowledge of the ISI, with the result that Pakistani security forces made themselves scarce in the neighborhood while the operation was underway for three-quarters of an hour. 

NBC News reported that it’s independent sources also corroborate the meat of Hersh’s story. “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.’” 

Meanwhile, the Pakistani press reported that ISI officials have outed the walk-in as being Brigadier Usman Khalid, who has since moved with his entire family to the United States. 

The only report in the Grey Lady so far is Matthew Rosenberg’s piece on May 11, 2015. Rosenberg tries to discredit Hersh’s report from the get-go. Indeed, in the very first paragraph: “…alleging a vast cover-up that involves hundreds, possibly thousands, of people and goes all the way to President Obama himself.” This is inaccurate. As Hersh pointed out in an interview on Democracy Now, the operation did not involve hundreds, let alone thousands of people. Rosenberg is clearly unfamiliar with the domain of international espionage. Nor does Hersh claim anywhere that the president knew the sordid details.  

Rosenberg nevertheless gets the meat of the LRB article right: “The gist of Mr. Hersh’s report is that Pakistan harbored Bin Laden for years with money paid by Saudi Arabia. Once the United States found out the Pakistanis had Bin Laden, Mr. Hersh writes, it offered Pakistan’s generals a choice: Help the United States kill him or watch billions of dollars in American aid disappear. The Americans and the Pakistanis then worked together to plot the raid, Mr. Hersh writes.” He then proceeds to pick holes is a minor part of Hersh’s story that there was no treasure-trove of information recovered from the Abbottabad compound. This is similar to Max Fisher’s ad hominem attack on Seymour Hersh, who fraudulently claims that Hersh has become a loony conspiracy theorist, based on evidence that does not hold up to scrutiny.  

My question to you is this: Given that the New York Times is the paper of record, does it not have the responsibility to inform its reader about the killing of bin Laden? Does the absence of fair reporting not amount to self censorship? When is the newspaper going to provide its readership with an update on what we now know about the killing of Osama bin Laden? 

Yours truly, 

Anusar Farooqui

Montreal, QC

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