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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg August 22, 2012

Group blames Obama for linking CIA to a Pakistani doctor

Some former special forces soldiers and CIA officers have produced a video that accuses President Barack Obama of trying to score political points by leaking sensitive intelligence information.

The 20-minute video from the group Special Operations OPSEC (short for Operations Security) focuses on the administration’s actions surrounding the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The group claims it isn't favoring a candidate, but it's clear Obama is being targeted.

The video makes many points, including one about the arrest by Pakistan of a local doctor recruited by the CIA.

"With wanton disregard," OPSEC member Jamie Williamson, a retired Special Forces colonel, says in the video, "this administration leaked information, deliberately or otherwise, that led to the identification of the Pakistani doctor that helped us in achieving our goals and killing bin Laden."

Retired Maj. Gen Paul Valley follows up. "I’m not sure we have anybody in senior leadership today that understands the propriety and how risky it is on leaks," he says.

Former CIA officer Fred Rustman delivers the final summation. "What was done was stupid," Rustman says. "But it was more than stupid. It was done with malice aforethought. It was done for a political purpose. And that’s what I find terrible."

We are checking several claims from the video. We've previously examined the claim that the Obama administration invited filmmakers to the White House and revealed intelligence sources and methods. We ruled that Mostly False.

In this item, we'll check the claim that the Obama administration leaked the doctor's name.

We got no reply to several requests to the OPSEC group for facts that support their claim about the Pakistani doctor. From what we can tell, there aren’t any.

Raid details emerge

In the weeks after the raid, U.S. officials shared many action-packed details of the operation. The public learned about the number and type of helicopters used and the crash landing that endangered the entire mission. The administration released diagrams of the bin Laden compound where gun battles took place and the room where bin Laden was killed.

The OPSEC video suggests that the administration went even further, releasing information that led to the identification and imprisonment of the Pakistani doctor.

Early on, U.S. officials said that a bin Laden courier led intelligence officials to bin Laden’s house. What the U.S. did with that information was left vague. Citing an unnamed government source, the Boston Globe reported two days after the raid that "They began monitoring the site day and night with pilotless surveillance aircraft and other tools."

By June, the public knew the name of the bin Laden courier and that the CIA had set up a safe-house near the bin Laden compound. The details were sketchy but it was clear that the CIA had established an operation in Abbottabad.

Pakistan responds and finds a nurse

The raid chilled relations with Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, because U.S. officials suspected that some Pakistani officials had been less than forthcoming in helping the U.S. track down bin Laden.

Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence, often called the ISI, is the country’s FBI and CIA rolled up in one. The bin Laden raid was something of an embarrassment for the agency and top Pakistani officials.

According to Saeed Shah, a reporter for McClatchy and the British newspaper the Guardian in Abbottabad, the ISI moved quickly to track down people who might have helped American intelligence agencies keep an eye on the bin Laden compound.

"The ISI arrested anyone associated with the house," Shah told PolitiFact.

One person they arrested was a nurse.

"She boasted about having been inside the OBL house," Shah said, adding that the boast "made its way through the community and eventually to me."

The ISI questioned and released the woman. It turned out she had been working for Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who was later arrested and jailed. The nurse likely led the ISI to Afridi, but it's also possible they would have been tipped off due the odd nature of a project Afridi was running.

To help the CIA, Afridi had set up a fake vaccination program as a ruse to get DNA samples from the bin Laden household. A close match with a son or grandchild of bin Laden would show that family members lived in the house. Bin Laden was known to keep his family with him so if they were there, chances were good that bin Laden was too. Shah reported that Pakistan had connected Afridi with the CIA and had arrested him.

Shah said he learned about Afridi from the nurse and residents of Abbotabad who knew about the vaccination program.

"There was no U.S. leak on Afridi," Shah told us.

To the contrary, he says, "the U.S. administration tried to stop me publishing the story, both the CIA and the State Dept, by approaching my editors at McClatchy," Shah said, "and also by appealing to me directly by telling me that it would put Afridi's life at risk."

Although news reports after Shah's initial story cited a U.S. government official for confirmation, the evidence indicates that Shah's reporting came from Pakistani sources and residents.

Featured Fact-check

CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen reached the same conclusion. "It is obvious that this information was leaked not by the Americans but the Pakistanis who have done their own investigation of the bin Laden raid," Bergen wrote in a CNN opinion piece.

According to Pakistan’s report on Afridi, right after the raid, his CIA handler advised him and gave him the means to leave the country. Afridi thought he didn’t need to. He is now serving a 33-year sentence -- not for helping the CIA, but for shady dealings with some local tribesmen.

Our ruling

The Special Operations - OPSEC Education Fund said, "This administration leaked information, deliberately or otherwise, that led to the identification of the Pakistani doctor that helped us in achieving our goals and killing bin Laden."

The OPSEC group provides no evidence to support its claim, and journalists close to the scene in Abbottabad say it was the Pakistanis, not the Americans, who identified the doctor. The bin Laden raid triggered the ISI investigation, not anything said by U.S. officials.

In fact, the CIA had urged the doctor to leave the country and when Pakistan provided the name of the doctor, US officials tried to prevent it being published.

We see no evidence that it was the Obama administration that leaked the name. We rate it False.

Our Sources

Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, Dishonorable Disclosure, August 15, 2012

McClatchy, Pakistan holds doctor who tried to collect bin Laden DNA, July 11, 2011

The Guardia, CIA organized fake vaccination drive to get Osama bin Laden’s family DNA, July 11, 2012

McClatchy, Pakistan detained, then released many many after bin Laden raid, June 28, 2011

Email interview with Saeed Shah, August 20, 2012

McClatchy, Arrests in Pakistan may include neighbor who lived behind bin Laden, June 15, 2011

Bloomberg News, Pakistani doctor who helped locate bin Laden jailed for 33 years, May 23, 2012

Newsweek Pakistan, Guilty as charged?, August 4, 2012

New American, Rand Paul to block appointment of American ambassador to Pakistan, August 7, 2012

CNN, Are ‘Swift Boat’ attacks on Obama bogus?, August 19, 2012

The Christian Science Monitor, Did harsh interrogation tactics help US find Osama bin Laden?, May 5, 2011, accessed via Nexis

The Boston Globe, Arduous journey Bin Laden raid capped two-year operation, May 3, 2011, accessed via Nexis

BBC, Osama bin Laden’s death: How it happened, June 7, 2011

The New Yorker, Getting bin Laden, August 8, 2011

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More by Jon Greenberg

Group blames Obama for linking CIA to a Pakistani doctor

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