Hersh: Pakistanis gave CIA permission to kill bin Laden

Osama bin LadenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Journalist Seymour Hersh has cited senior American intelligence officials in claiming that the killing of Osama bin Laden was a joint operation between the United States and Pakistan. In a lengthy article published over the weekend in The London Review of Books, the veteran investigative reporter suggests that Pakistan had kept the al-Qaeda founder in prison for several years in the city of Abbottabad. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate —known commonly as ISI— had planned to turn bin Laden over to the US in its own time, in a quid-pro-quo move. But the Pakistanis’ plan had to be scrapped when bin Laden’s hideout was betrayed to the Central Intelligence Agency by a former ISI officer, says Hersh. His assertion agrees with previous accounts of the US raid against bin Laden, offered by security expert R.J. Hillhouse in 2011, and earlier this year by Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, who led the ISI from 1990 to 1992.

The unnamed sources behind Hersh’s claims are an American “retired senior intelligence official” who was privy to early intelligence concerning bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Hersh also cites “information from inside Pakistan”, as well as two other sources from America, who have been “longtime consultants to the [US] Special Operations Command”.

The initial tip about bin Laden’s whereabouts came to the CIA in the form of a ‘walk-in’ —a term used to denote someone who voluntarily contacts an intelligence outpost, usually by simply walking into an embassy or consulate and asking to speak to the intelligence officer on duty. Hersh says the walk-in was a former high official in the ISI, who told the Agency’s Islamabad station that he could lead them to the al-Qaeda founder’s location. The retired official was successfully polygraphed and was eventually able to claim the $25 million reward offered by the US Department of State for bin Laden’s head. He and his family are now living in the Washington, DC, area, says Hersh.

The walk-in told the CIA that the compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden was living was “not an armed enclave”, as Langley had initially assumed. Instead it was a prison and was under the complete control of the ISI. The latter had managed to capture bin Laden in the Hindu Kush Mountains in 2006, by paying off some of the local tribesmen who were sheltering him. Hersh also reiterates information previously reported by intelNews, namely that the government of Saudi Arabia had entered into an agreement with Islamabad to finance the construction and maintenance of bin Laden’s prison-compound in Abbottabad.

According to Hersh, the US government eventually informed Pakistan that it had uncovered and was incessantly monitoring bin Laden’s location. Along with threats, Washington offered the ISI commanders, who were in charge of bin Laden’s security, “under-the-table personal incentives” to agree to stand aside during a US raid on the compound. Under the final agreement, struck at the end of January 2011, the Americans promised to send in a small force that would kill bin Laden, thus sparing Islamabad and Riyadh the embarrassment of the al-Qaeda founder speaking out about his previously close relations with both governments. The Pakistanis even provided the CIA with accurate architectural diagrams of the compound. Accordingly, when the US forces went into Abbottabad in May of that year, “they knew where the target was —third floor, second door on the right”, says the retired US intelligence official quoted by Hersh.

The veteran journalist adds that the American planners of the operation knew well that bin Laden had been held in virtual isolation from the outside world for years, and that he was not “running a command center for al-Qaeda operations” from Abbottabad, as the White House later claimed. Consequently, the stories about “garbage bags full of computers and storage devices” that the US Navy SEALs brought back from the compound were false. Some of the SEALs took with them some books and papers found in bin Laden’s bedroom. But most of the material that was eventually acquired by the CIA was voluntarily provided to the Americans by the Pakistanis, who took control of the compound immediately after the SEALs left and eventually razed it.

Saudis paid Pakistan to shelter bin Laden, claims security expert

R.J. Hillhouse

R.J. Hillhouse

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An American academic and security expert with deep links in the intelligence community claims that, at the time of his killing by US Special Forces, Osama bin Laden was living under house arrest, following a secret arrangement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Former professor and Fulbright Fellow R.J. Hillhouse has cited “sources in the intelligence community” in alleging that the CIA discovered bin Laden’s whereabouts through a Pakistani intelligence officer. The officer, who was privy to the alleged deal between the Saudis and the Pakistanis, appeared as ‘a walk-in’, a term meaning someone who voluntarily contacts an intelligence outpost, usually by simply walking into an embassy or consulate and asking to speak to the intelligence officer on duty. According to Hillhouse, the ‘walk-in’ provided CIA officers with detailed information as to the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts, in exchange for US citizenship for him and his family and the $25 million reward offered by the US Department of State for bin Laden’s head. According to Hillhouse’s story, which was picked up yesterday by The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald, the Pakistani informant also told the Americans that elements in the government of Saudi Arabia had entered into a complex monetary agreement with senior members of Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). Under the arrangement, the ISI was paid to keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad —a military community in Pakistan, selected precisely in order to keep bin Laden under constant and close supervision. Read more of this post

New clues in case of missing Polish intelligence officer

Stefan Zielonka

Stefan Zielonka

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last month we reported on the mysterious case of Stefan Zielonka, a senior signals officer with Poland’s Military Intelligence Services (SWW), who disappeared without trace in early May. We then stated as “certain” that Zielonka had “extensive knowledge of Polish agents working overseas, including their code names and contacts”. This is now slowly being confirmed by a number of Polish news outlets, who are coming to the realization that Zielonka’s job description at SWW far exceeded those of a typical SIGINT (signals intelligence) officer. Specifically, Polish newspaper Dziennik appears to have confirmed that the missing officer trained illegals –that is, elite Polish spies operating abroad independently of embassies and thus without diplomatic immunity. Read more of this post

Suspicious silence continues in case of missing Polish signals officer

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
When we at intelNews first took note of the mysterious disappearance of Stefan Zielonka, on May 7, we decided to delay posting information about the case until more news came our way. Sadly, it hasn’t. The case of the disappearance of Stefan Zielonka, senior signals officer with Polish military intelligence, remains as mysterious as it was on May 7. Zielonka’s colleagues at Poland’s Military Intelligence Services (SWW, formerly known as Military Information Services or WSI) became suspicious after he failed to return to work following a two-week sick leave. News outlets have since reported that Zielonka “was suffering from depression and had trouble both at home and at the office”. Read more of this post

CIA holds symposium on Polish Cold War asset Col. Kuklinski

As intelNews reported on December 10, Dariusz Jablonski’s documentary War Games, about the life of Polish spy Ryszard Kuklinski, was shown at the CIA headquarters during a “Symposium on the Polish Martial Law” held on December 11. Kuklinski, a Polish Army Colonel who spied for the US and NATO from 1972 until 1981, supplied his handlers with microfilms of over 40,000 documents detailing Soviet tactical plans for Poland and the rest of Europe. Read more of this post

Film on spy Col. Kuklinski premiered in Poland

Dariusz Jablonski’s eagerly awaited War Games documentary, about the life of Polish spy Ryszard Kuklinski, has been shown for the first time at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall in Poland. The film, whose first official screening was attended by a number of Polish government ministers, will be shown at the CIA headquarters on Thursday, Polskie Radio reports. Kuklinski, a Polish Army Colonel, was an instrumental US and NATO asset during the Cold War, thanks to his crucial post as Polish General Staff’s liaison to the Warsaw Pact. Read more of this post