There was, naturally, furious pushback from the White House and the CIA.
A CIA official told The Washington Post that Hersh’s story is “utter nonsense,” while White House spokesman Ned Price said it had “too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions” to fact-check each one, and the premise that bin Laden was killed in “anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false.”
But as with many of these matters, such as the JFK “grassy knoll” conspiracy, the last word likely won’t come for many years later — if ever.
One LRB reader, already tired of the debate, wrote a letter to the editor last week.
Regarding Seymour Hersh’s story, the facts are these:
1. Osama bin Laden orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.
2. The CIA found out where he was living.
3. US Navy Seals killed him.
End of story. Most Americans don’t give a flying [expletive deleted] about the details of the venture.
Francis X. Archibald
Hilton Head, South Carolina
The LRB editors responded: “At the most recent count, Seymour Hersh’s piece had received more than two million page-views online.”
(“Two million page-views”? Well, that changes everything. As the old reporters saying goes, sometimes great stories are “too good to check.”)
But wait. Francis X. Archibald? Couldn’t be the recently retired head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service. You’d think he’d have needed agency sign-off on this.
So we checked, first with the agency.
CIA public affairs director David Boyd wrote back:
“As a general matter, CIA doesn’t confirm or deny whether the Agency’s Publications Review Board (PRB) has had interaction with any particular author. It is important to note, however, that the PRB is charged with reviewing materials to determine whether they contain classified information. The PRB does not review materials for editorial content, accuracy or style.”
Somewhat, but not entirely, helpful.
So we did a little further checking. A reasonably good source tells us the letter-writer was Archibald’s father — also Francis X. Archibald.