I gave Nick the benefit of the doubt that he was given access to the Navy SEALs who carried out the Bin Laden hit. Nope, I was wrong. Great piece by C. Christine Fair, a Georgetown Professor, sheds more light on the fact that Schmidle was writing out of his ass:

Mr. Schmidle then recalls, in riveting detail, the harrowing movements of the helicopters and how “the interior of the Black Hawks rustled alive with the metallic cough of rounds being chambered.” When the first helicopter encountered problems, Schmidle exposits how the pilot reoptimized his plans and aimed for “for an animal pen in the western section of the compound.” He next tells his readers how the SEALs in the ill-fated bird “braced themselves as the tail rotor swung around, scraping the security wall. The pilot jammed the nose forward to drive it into the dirt and prevent his aircraft from rolling onto its side. Cows, chickens, and rabbits scurried.”

He even describes how the translator Ahmed hollered in Pashto at the locals that a security operation was ongoing to allay their suspicions about the nature of the cacophony in the cantonment town. (This detail caught my eye as the majority of persons in Abbottabad, where the raid took place, speak Hindko rather than Pashto.) He account is replete with quotes and other minute details obtained from persons seemingly involved directly in the assault and presumably speaking to him in person.

The article was in fact so detailed that it left the unmistakable impression that Mr. Schmidle had interviewed at least a few of the SEALs involved in the raid. During an NPR interview, Steve Inskeep explains that indeed Schmidle had spent time with the SEALs who were on the mission to get Bin Laden. NPR subsequently issued a correction for reasons noted below.

Ahh, Nick.

NPR issued the following correction:

We incorrectly said that reporter Nicholas Schmidle had spoken with the Navy SEALs who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Schmidle used information from others who had debriefed the SEALs; he did not speak with them himself.

Jesus Christ! The boy was writing fiction. Every thing he wrote about what the SEALs did was based on info from someone who was not there.

But wait, there’s more. Schmidle claims expertise where he has none:

Over the next few years, I watched Mr. Schmidle’s reporting. He had an eye for the key issues and he covered many important stories that others overlooked. I met him episodically in Islamabad when I came to Pakistan. In January 2008, Mr. Schmidle published a piece in the New York Times Magazine called the “Next-Gen Taliban.” In that article, he ventured into Quetta to attend an opening ceremony for the campaign office of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), which he described in anodyne terms as a “a hard-line Islamist party.”

Mr. Schmidle wrote that the men in attendance mostly spoke Pashto but “knowing Urdu, I could understand enough [of their Pashto] to realize that they weren’t rehashing the typical J.U.I. rhetoric.” That made the rest of the article immediately suspect. I knew Mr. Schmidle, and knew that his language skills in Urdu were functional at best and, even if he had superb Urdu skills (and he did not), this would not render Pashto comprehensible in the slightest. (It is not an Indo-Aryan language like Urdu and therefore has a grammar and syntax that is starkly different from Urdu.) While one may recognize some Urdu words, without grammar and syntax the content of the discussion would have been opaque to Mr. Schmidle. Indeed, Pakistanis who have spent their entire life in the country speaking Urdu cannot understand Pashto and would never make the absurd claim to do so. How could Mr. Schmidle understand, must less interpret, what was going on without knowledge of Pashto or a translator? It seemed to me that things were not as they were reported.

I was right that the New Yorker, via Schmidle, was bamboozling the American public on behalf of Obama. I just didn’t realize how shameless the effort was.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.