Books on the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Bergen, Peter L. Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad. New York: Crown, 2012.

Freedman, FA 91.5 (Sep.-Oct. 2012), finds that this book "is full of fascinating details and illustrates the immense pressure on national security bureaucracies to provide options to policymakers and then reduce the risks associated with their implementation." For Peake, Studies 56.4 (Dec. 2012) and Intelligencer 19.3 (Winter-Spring 2013), "Bergen has told th[e] story" of the hunt for bin Laden "very well indeed."

Bowden, Mark. The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012.

Peake, Studies 57.2 (Jun. 2013), and Intelligencer 20.1 (Spring/Summer 2013), finds that the author "adds to the well-known basics of the story background and texture about the principal characters and operational circumstances that have not been provided in other accounts.... Bowden does a fine job of conveying a sense of the pressure that dominated the planning and the controversies that resulted before the final decision was made." This book "is an impressive, finely honed story of a gutsy call and an operation professionally executed."

Hersh, Seymour M. "The Killing of Osama bin Laden." London Review of Books, 21 May 2015, 3-12. [Available at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n10/seymour-m-hersh/the-killing-of-osama-bin-laden]

Although it is not a book, this article is being placed here because it flies in the face of much of what is known about the Abbottabad raid.

Returning to his Dark Side of Camelot (1997) persona, Hersh cites a single source -- "a retired senior intelligence official" -- for the claim that bin Laden had been an ISI prisoner "since 2006; that [Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, ISI director general] knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms;" that the CIA learned of bin Laden's whereabouts "from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward..., and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration's account were false."

Peter Bergen, CNN, 11 May 2015, builds the case that "Hersh's account of the bin Laden raid is a farrago of nonsense that is contravened by a multitude of eyewitness accounts, inconvenient facts and simple common sense." See also, Alexandra Jaffe, "White House Rejects Seymour Hersh 'Baseless Assertions' on bin Laden Raid," CNN, 11 May 2015; and Dan Lamothe, "'Utter Nonsense': CIA and White House Blast Seymour Hersh's Explosive Osama bin Laden Raid Story," Washington Post, 11 May 2015.

Miniter, Richard. Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him. New York: St. Martin's, 2012.

Peter Bergen, "Sense and Nonsense about Obama and Osama," CNN, 29 Aug. 2012, concludes that based on his (Bergen's) own previous reporting about the hunt for bin Laden "and also what is available on the public record, Miniter's account of the intelligence that led to bin Laden and the decision-making surrounding the operation that killed him is a pile of poppycock served up with heaps of hogwash."

Owen, Mark [pseud., Matt Bissonnette] and Kevin Maurer. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden. New York: Dutton/Penguin, 2012.

From publisher: Mark Owen is "a former member of ... SEAL Team Six.... [A]s a Navy SEAL, he has participated in hundreds of missions around the globe, including the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean in 2009. Owen was a team leader on Operation Neptune Spear in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011."

Bergen, Washington Post, 29 Aug. 2012, finds that "Owen's account of the raid fits almost exactly with my [Bergen's] own understanding of the operation.... The only surprising thing, perhaps, ... is how soon this tell-all book was published.... [G]enerally the writing is fast-paced, and Owen and Maurer tell some good yarns in a conversational style.... Owen has, of course, only a grunt's-eye view of the bin Laden operation. There is little in the book about the decision making at the White House.... Nor is there much about how the intelligence picture that indicated bin Laden might be living at the Abbottabad compound developed."

The review by Shaffer, AIJ 30.2 (2012), is seriously marred and the reviewer's competence brought into question by completely unnecessary remarks: (1) that "the current White House" used "the hard work of the special operations community for political hay" and (2) that the "CIA helps on occasion (no, I am serious)." According to the reviewer's "friends on the inside," No Easy Day "is, indeed, the authentic and accurate story." Nevertheless, the reviewer believes "Owen" would not "have lost too much from submitting the book to the classification review process."

Pfarrer, Chuck. SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden. New York: St. Martin's, 2011.

Dozier, Associated Press, 15 Nov. 2011, reports that the "U.S. Special Operations Command [SOCOM] is calling" this book "bogus.... 'It's just not true,' [SOCOM] spokesman Col. Tim Nye said. 'It's not how it happened.'" Nye was "issuing an on-the-record denial on behalf of Navy SEAL [and SOCOM commander] Adm. Bill McRaven," who "oversaw the raid in May as head of the ... the Joint Special Operations Command." Clark comment: As far as I am aware, it is unprecedented for DoD to refer to a published work as a "fabrication," as Nye has done here.

For Bergen, Washington Post, 29 Aug. 2012, the account in Owen and Maurer's No Easy Day "is devastating to that of Chuck Pfarrer.... Special Operations Command ... issued an unusual on-the-record statement that Pfarrer's account was a 'fabrication' and that he had never spoken to the SEALs on the raid. Pfarrer's book is being reissued on Sept. 11 [2012] in paperback. Don't waste your money on it."

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