Who–and What–Are Behind the “Official History” of the Bin Laden Raid?

Osama-bin-Ladens-compound-007Russ Baker writes for WhoWhatWhy:

The establishment media just keep getting worse. They’re further and further from good, tough investigative journalism, and more prone to be pawns in complicated games that affect the public interest in untold ways. A significant recent example is The New Yorker’s vaunted August 8 exclusive on the vanquishing of Osama bin Laden.

The piece, trumpeted as the most detailed account to date of the May 1 raid in Abbottabad Pakistan, was an instant hit. “Got the chills half dozen times reading @NewYorker killing bin Laden tick tock…exquisite journalism,” tweeted the digital director of the PBS show Frontline.  The author, freelancer Nicholas Schmidle, was quickly featured on the Charlie Rose show, an influential determiner of “chattering class” opinion. Other news outlets rushed to praise the story as “exhaustive,” “utterly compelling,” and on and on.

To be sure, it is the kind of granular, heroic story that the public loves, that generates follow-up bestsellers and movie options. The takedown even has a Hollywood-esque code name: “Operation Neptune’s Spear”

Here’s the introduction to the mission commander, full of minute details that help give it a ring of authenticity and the most intimate reportorial access:

James, a broad-chested man in his late thirties, does not have the lithe swimmer’s frame that one might expect of a SEAL—he is built more like a discus thrower. That night, he wore a shirt and trousers in Desert Digital Camouflage, and carried a silenced Sig Sauer P226 pistol, along with extra ammunition; a CamelBak, for hydration; and gel shots, for endurance. He held a short-barrel, silenced M4 rifle. (Others SEALs had chosen the Heckler & Koch MP7.) A “blowout kit,” for treating field trauma, was tucked into the small of James’s back. Stuffed into one of his pockets was a laminated gridded map of the compound. In another pocket was a booklet with photographs and physical descriptions of the people suspected of being inside. He wore a noise-cancelling headset, which blocked out nearly everything besides his heartbeat.

On and on went the “tick-tock.” Yet as Paul Farhi, a Washington Post reporter, noted, that narrative was misleading in the extreme, because the New Yorker reporter never actually spoke to James—nor to a single one of James’s fellow SEALs (who have never been identified or photographed–even from behind–to protect their identity.) Instead, every word of Schmidle’s narrative was provided to him by people who were not present at the raid. Complains Farhi:

…a casual reader of the article wouldn’t know that; neither the article nor an editor’s note describes the sourcing for parts of the story. Schmidle, in fact, piles up so many details about some of the men, such as their thoughts at various times, that the article leaves a strong impression that he spoke with them directly.

That didn’t trouble New Yorker editor David Remnick, according to Farhi:

Remnick says he’s satisfied with the accuracy of the account. “The sources spoke to our fact-checkers,” he said. “I know who they are.”

But we don’t.

On a story of this gravity, should we automatically join in with the huzzahs because it has the imprimatur of America’s most respected magazine? Or would we be wise to approach it with caution?

Read more here.

  • Nunzio X

    I remember listening to one of NPR programs when they had a discussion about this raid (sorry, can’t remember if it was the Diane Rehm show or Talk Of The Nation.)

    There was debate about the wisdom of releasing the “fact” that hard drives, thumb drives, etc. had been found in the compound. Some thought it was foolish to “reveal” this “information” because it could alert “our” “enemies” that we were onto their plans.

    And I thought: “Just the opposite. This ‘information’ is possibly being ‘revealed’ PRECISELY BECAUSE the US government wants its ‘enemies’ to THINK we got a shitload of their info, thereby causing them to dump every operation they had in the pipeline because of fear they’d been compromised.”

    Possibly.

    The point is, the media can be and is used to disseminate bullshit all the time. Trust it NOT.

  • Nunzio X

    I remember listening to one of NPR programs when they had a discussion about this raid (sorry, can’t remember if it was the Diane Rehm show or Talk Of The Nation.)

    There was debate about the wisdom of releasing the “fact” that hard drives, thumb drives, etc. had been found in the compound. Some thought it was foolish to “reveal” this “information” because it could alert “our” “enemies” that we were onto their plans.

    And I thought: “Just the opposite. This ‘information’ is possibly being ‘revealed’ PRECISELY BECAUSE the US government wants its ‘enemies’ to THINK we got a shitload of their info, thereby causing them to dump every operation they had in the pipeline because of fear they’d been compromised.”

    Possibly.

    The point is, the media can be and is used to disseminate bullshit all the time. Trust it NOT.

  • E.B. Wolf

    It must be great to be a reporter who has their stories pretty much written for them by some PsyOps team while they collect the paycheck and any awards the story garners.

  • E.B. Wolf

    It must be great to be a reporter who has their stories pretty much written for them by some PsyOps team while they collect the paycheck and any awards the story garners.

    • Tuna Ghost

      Actually, that does sound like a pretty sweet deal.  Better than my job (teaching), anyway.  Maybe time for a career shift to spreading the government sanctioned lies.  

      • quartz99

        lol, trust me, as a teacher you make twice what a reporter of equal experience makes. My first year I made roughly 15k. I had to work a second job and ends still didn’t meet. At ten years in, a reporter will be making about 35k/yr, but only if they’re really good and can crank out stories faster than talking.

        • padraig

          I assume you mean “really good” as in “he’s a ‘really good’ little boy for his editor! have a treat” 

        • E.B. Wolf

          You must have been hosed by the paper(s) you worked for. 15k/year works out to roughly $300/week. I make $200-$250 doing part time freelance reporting on my local HS sports scene, and I haven’t even finished my degree yet.

          • quartz99

            Ten years ago, so that’s about the same when you figure inflation.

            Go take a look at salary.com. Experienced reporters make jack-all. In fact, most of them still get paid on the same scale as the guy “doing part time freelance reporting on my local HS sports scene” — the only reason they make more than you is they’re doing it full time. And the trend in newspapers has been to axe staff reporters in favor of full-time freelance/contract reporters who get paid a low per-line fee and get no benefits of any kind.

          • Siminatongue

            Oh cry me a river. Everyone knows that the journalist and or photographer job is just half the equation. What about the super powers eh, fortress’ of solitude and all that? Did you factor those in? Yeah I thought not.

    • quartz99

      Not really. The pay is crap (even for award-winning journalists), except maybe at the very heights, and it’s really a race for ratings. That’s why I’m not still a reporter or editor. 99.999% of journalists out there are just looking for a way to get the story done faster with a better chance to draw a greater viewership, because they get paid by the printed word (or line). They’re unwitting pawns. These govt. “sources” offer them what seems like an insider access and give them compelling skeletons of “fact”. Who wouldn’t jump at that? The guy wrote the story himself. He was fed the details but he still had to write it and I’d lay odds he didn’t even get paid much for it.

    • Abraham

      100% True!

  • Tuna Ghost

    Actually, that does sound like a pretty sweet deal.  Better than my job (teaching), anyway.  Maybe time for a career shift to spreading the government sanctioned lies.  

  • Anonymous

    Not really. The pay is crap (even for award-winning journalists), except maybe at the very heights, and it’s really a race for ratings. That’s why I’m not still a reporter or editor. 99.999% of journalists out there are just looking for a way to get the story done faster with a better chance to draw a greater viewership, because they get paid by the printed word (or line). They’re unwitting pawns. These govt. “sources” offer them what seems like an insider access and give them compelling skeletons of “fact”. Who wouldn’t jump at that? The guy wrote the story himself. He was fed the details but he still had to write it and I’d lay odds he didn’t even get paid much for it.

  • Anonymous

    lol, trust me, as a teacher you make twice what a reporter of equal experience makes. My first year I made roughly 15k. I had to work a second job and ends still didn’t meet. At ten years in, a reporter will be making about 35k/yr, but only if they’re really good and can crank out stories faster than talking.

  • Guest

    “Winston’s greatest pleasure in life was in his work. Most of it was a
    tedious routine, but included in it there were also jobs so difficult
    and intricate that you could lose yourself in them as in the depths of a
    mathematical problem–delicate pieces of forgery in which you had
    nothing to guide you except your knowledge of the principles of Ingsoc
    and your estimate of what the Party wanted you to say. Winston was good
    at this kind of thing.”  George Orwell, 1984

  • Anonymous

    “Winston’s greatest pleasure in life was in his work. Most of it was a
    tedious routine, but included in it there were also jobs so difficult
    and intricate that you could lose yourself in them as in the depths of a
    mathematical problem–delicate pieces of forgery in which you had
    nothing to guide you except your knowledge of the principles of Ingsoc
    and your estimate of what the Party wanted you to say. Winston was good
    at this kind of thing.”  George Orwell, 1984

  • SurelySugar

    The whole Bin Laden raid was a hoax and they killed all the seals involved (Boom) to cover it up. All this just to play a political game, and to keep their lie going.. Osama bin Laden died on ~ December 16th, 2001 and was buried in Tora Bora shorty after. 

  • SurelySugar

    The whole Bin Laden raid was a hoax and they killed all the seals involved (Boom) to cover it up. All this just to play a political game, and to keep their lie going.. Osama bin Laden died on ~ December 16th, 2001 and was buried in Tora Bora shorty after. 

  • SurelySugar

    The whole Bin Laden raid was a hoax and they killed all the seals involved (Boom) to cover it up. All this just to play a political game, and to keep their lie going.. Osama bin Laden died on ~ December 16th, 2001 and was buried in Tora Bora shorty after. 

  • Abraham

    100% True!

  • Padraig

    It matters not who wrote this drivel. The magazine and its owners are guilty of this blatant and (for a free country) humiliating propaganda. We have long been aware in the UK that whatever happens in your benighted country sure as hell will happen here soon, and if murdoch has anything to do with it it will not be long

  • Padraig

    It matters not who wrote this drivel. The magazine and its owners are guilty of this blatant and (for a free country) humiliating propaganda. We have long been aware in the UK that whatever happens in your benighted country sure as hell will happen here soon, and if murdoch has anything to do with it it will not be long

  • padraig

    I assume you mean “really good” as in “he’s a ‘really good’ little boy for his editor! have a treat” 

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    Wow Schmidle’s father, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr., the deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, has the biggest friggin ears eye have ever seen. 

    In the attached picture he is suggesting the size of penis being jammed up the ass of a gullible public.

  • BuzzCoastin

    Wow Schmidle’s father, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr., the deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, has the biggest friggin ears eye have ever seen. 

    In the attached picture he is suggesting the size of penis being jammed up the ass of a gullible public.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I have to admire the crafted appeal to boner tugging armchair warriors who live for this drivel. It had the feel of something made to stoke every SEAL fantasy ever dreamed by overweight, underbrained losers with a chip on their shoulder for glory they never achieved.

    But thats where the admiration ends. This guy should be getting stripped of all credentials for crafting a complete fiction and marketing it as factual. Other people falsify sources and get reamed for it…so why should this fuck get a free pass?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I have to admire the crafted appeal to boner tugging armchair warriors who live for this drivel. It had the feel of something made to stoke every SEAL fantasy ever dreamed by overweight, underbrained losers with a chip on their shoulder for glory they never achieved.

    But thats where the admiration ends. This guy should be getting stripped of all credentials for crafting a complete fiction and marketing it as factual. Other people falsify sources and get reamed for it…so why should this fuck get a free pass?

  • JOE

    no body no one left to tell truth !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • JOE

    no body no one left to tell truth !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • E.B. Wolf

    You must have been hosed by the paper(s) you worked for. 15k/year works out to roughly $300/week. I make $200-$250 doing part time freelance reporting on my local HS sports scene, and I haven’t even finished my degree yet.

  • Anonymous

    Ten years ago, so that’s about the same when you figure inflation.

    Go take a look at salary.com. Experienced reporters make jack-all. In fact, most of them still get paid on the same scale as the guy “doing part time freelance reporting on my local HS sports scene” — the only reason they make more than you is they’re doing it full time. And the trend in newspapers has been to axe staff reporters in favor of full-time freelance/contract reporters who get paid a low per-line fee and get no benefits of any kind.

  • Siminatongue

    Oh cry me a river. Everyone knows that the journalist and or photographer job is just half the equation. What about the super powers eh, fortress’ of solitude and all that? Did you factor those in? Yeah I thought not.

  • Siminatongue

    I actually missed that story. I’m not into fiction really. Except Terry Brooks, I’ve been reading his stuff since I was a kid. Terry Brooks this guy is not. At least the “Magic Kingdom For Sale Sold” series had a thin thread of plausibility to it. I just couldn’t suspend disbelief long enough to get through it I’m sure.

  • Siminatongue

    I actually missed that story. I’m not into fiction really. Except Terry Brooks, I’ve been reading his stuff since I was a kid. Terry Brooks this guy is not. At least the “Magic Kingdom For Sale Sold” series had a thin thread of plausibility to it. I just couldn’t suspend disbelief long enough to get through it I’m sure.

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