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‘The Killing of Osama Bin Laden’ by Seymour Hersh details

Governments, in order to fulfill their national security objectives, must sometimes shroud their activities in secrecy. This is regrettable, if inevitable. But secrecy can also be employed as a kind of intellectual asphyxiant, used to choke off a population’s interrogational faculties by depriving it of the capacity to make informed judgments about its government’s short-term activities and long-term aims. “Secrecy is a form of regulation,” wrote Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1998. “At times, in the name of national security, secrecy has put that very security in harm’s way.”

It is the demands of state secrecy, their distressing effects on U.S. foreign policy — and ultimately their subversion of the democratic process — that unify the four essays in Seymour Hersh’s “The Killing of Osama Bin Laden,” all of which were previously published in the London Review of Books. In the book, Hersh, an indefatigable investigative reporter (he broke the story of the My Lai massacre in 1969; the CIA domestic-spying scandal in 1974; and the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004), documents a series of covert operations — and their sometimes-unforeseen repercussions — carried out in Syria, Libya and Pakistan by the United States and its allies during the Obama administration.

Hersh leans heavily on anonymous sources in his reportage. This is understandable, given his subject matter, but how you read the book will depend on the faith you place in these sources and in Hersh’s own judgment about their veracity. I think the record here is mixed, at best.

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