There’s the official narrative of the death of Osama bin Laden and then there’s a plethora of alternative narratives, notably from Seymour Hersh. Jonathan Mahler tries to make sense of the competing stories for the New York Times Magazine:
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…[Mark Bowden’s] book, “The Finish,” was published in the fall of 2012, and the story it tells is one that is by now familiar. The C.I.A., working in the shadows for many years, had identified a courier whom agency officers eventually traced to a large compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Agents studied this compound for months via distant satellite cameras but couldn’t be certain that bin Laden was inside. If he was — a 55/45 percent proposition, Obama said later — the president did not want to let him slip away. The safe play was to reduce the compound to dust with a bomb or missiles, but this would risk civilian casualties and also make it impossible to verify the kill with any certainty.