Andy: Thanks for the back up. Sorry I missed your initial post on the subject while I was lollygagging in France. About this helicopter point. I’ve heard that from a lot of folks as well. I think you cover the most salient issues, but I’d add a few more.
1) Finding a blown-up helicopter wouldn’t connect that many dots, even for the Pakistanis. Since when is “downed American helicopter” synonymous with “Oh no, they got Bin Laden!”? I can think of all sorts of cover stories for why there was a downed helicopter that wouldn’t require revealing that bin Laden was dead.
2) The fog of war is not just a problem for Americans. It’s a problem of war. Having al-Qaeda — and its friends in the ISI and elsewhere — wondering “what the hell happened?” for a few days, or weeks, would not be a bad thing. (Though it would hamper the White House’s new argument that Obama is committed to immigration reform because he ordered the killing of bin Laden).
3) I’m not 100 percent sure I understand why the downed helicopter changes the equation at all. Certainly there were witnesses left behind who saw Americans. Do we think no one would believe their testimony without the corroborating evidence of a U.S. helicopter tail?
4) Even if the White House concluded that the downed helicopter had blown their cover, has anyone seen any evidence that the White House ever considered keeping this a secret? Again, it seems to me that the proper assumption is that bin Laden’s intelligence trove contained everything the CIA ever wanted to know about bin Laden. And that everyone should act that way until it’s proven otherwise. So, it seems to me that the responsible course would have at least been to plan on keeping everything under wraps until analysts could figure out what’s actionable and what’s not. I’ve seen nothing that suggests this was ever even discussed by the White House.