It was moment of high drama in the trial of Abid Naseer, the Pakistani man accused of masterminding a plot to blow up a shopping centre in Manchester. Alexander Otte, an FBI legal attache, was giving evidence for the prosecution. Zainab Ahmad, Assistant US Attorney, wanted to wring maximum dramatic effect
So on February 25, after he described being at the helicopter door as Seal Team 6 disembarked at Jalalabad airfield, and after he recounted the fact they were carrying electronic media – including SD cards, pen drives, hard drives, computers and hand-written documents – it still wasn’t quite enough for Miss Ahmad.
“Did they have a body with them?
“Whose body was it?”
“It was the body of Osama bin Laden.”
He went on to describe how he had documented and packaged all the media for transfer to the US and analysis by forensic computer experts. Mr Otte carried them back on the 17-hour flight to Andrews Air Force Base.
At another point in the trial, we were shown 17 documents – some in Arabic and some in translation – which we were told came from Osama bin Laden’s compound. They were part of several terabytes of data collected, just a small fraction of which had been declassified for the trial.
But if Seymour Hersh is to be believed, we have all been duped. The papers were forged and fabricated as part of a US cover story, to suggest that bin Laden retained influence right up until his death – when in fact he was a prisoner of Pakistan’s ISI.
‘Why create the treasure trove story?’ the retired official said. ‘The White House had to give the impression that bin Laden was still operationally important. Otherwise, why kill him? A cover story was created – that there was a network of couriers coming and going with memory sticks and instructions. All to show that bin Laden remained important.’
It is one of many details in the Hersh’s incredible account that simply doesn’t add up.
Conspiracy theories are tedious. I’m sure many people will want to point out that by forging these documents, the US was able to lock up Abid Naseer – double bonus.
But they didn’t sit in court and watch Mr Otte describe the computer gear arriving off the helicopter alongside Bin Laden’s body. I did and I believe him.