There have been countless folks on the news talking about how Osama Bin-Ladin lived right next to a military academy in Pakistan, and how this apparently means that someone in Pakistan should have known he was there.
The problem with all this is that we had a slightly similar situation in the United States in 1999-2001. Several of the 9/11 hijackers not only lived in the US, two of them, al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, lived in San Diego, which is near a military base. Later, they lived with a man who happened to be an actual FBI informant, but didn't find them suspicious. Right before the 9/11 attacks, they lived almost nextdoor to the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Maryland. James Bamford has written about all this in exhaustive detail in his book "Shadow Factory". PBS's Nova program did a documentary about his book, entitled "Spy Factory", which you can watch online here: Link to Spy Factory.
It is common knowledge that Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI, has close links with groups like the Taliban, which was allied with Al-Qaeda. It goes back to the history of horrific wars between Pakistan and India, where millions have died; of course that goes back to the British Raj and colonialism. Of course it also goes back to the 1980s, when president Reagan declared the Mujahideen to be freedom fighters against the godless Communists of the Soviet Union. This goes back even further, according to Ian Johnson's book "A Mosque in Munich", which loosely links the Muslim Brotherhood to the CIA's attempts to recruit former anti-Soviet Central Asians who had been drawn into the German Army during WWII; resulting in the creation of an extremist Mosque which would later be frequented by 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. You could go further back, to the Great Game, the Crimean War, and Tolstoy's "Haji Murad", which could have been written last year not in the 1890s. But I digress. I'm not saying the CIA knew about 9/11 or any of that kind of conspiracy stuff. All I'm saying is this:
The fact that a terorrist lived undisturbed for a few years in a nice house next to a military base does not necessarily mean that the nation's government somehow approved of this, or even knew about it. Perhaps Pakistan's internal intelligence agencies are simply full of bureaucracy and incompetence, just like ours were in 1999-2001; you may recall during this time the big fear was 'China-gate', which culimnated in an innocent man, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, being charged with Espionage. They said he had sold China nuclear secrets. What he actually did was back up non-classified information to a tape drive in case LANL's computers broke again. While dozens of FBI agents, the media, and Congress were investigating this bogus line of inquiry, the 9/11 hijackers were in San Diego, right next to the Miramar Naval Air Station which is where Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis had their sunset motorcycle rides in Top Gun.
I'm just saying.
Now of course there is a possibility that someone inside the Pakistan government knew about Bin Ladin living in Abottabad. But where is the proof? Where is the evidence? How will we ever know for sure? How do you ever know what is truth and what is fiction? This question of course goes back to the ancient Greeks, and farther. I think the philosophical term used is "Epistemology". How, then will we know about the Pakistani government and Bin Ladin? Let us ask ourselves, then, how we came to know what happened with the 9/11 hijackers living in the United States and how the US government relates to this situation.
Consider James Bamford. Bamford's book revealed a good deal of detail about the pre-9/11 government understanding of the hijackers; especially Osama's communications hub in a house in Yemen. How did Bamford piece together so many details and get so much background information from various anonymous officials? Bamford's work comes out of a long tradition of a free press in the United States; something that is enabled by the legal protections afforded to this trade in the Bill of Rights of the US constitution. It goes farther than that, though; there is a long history of case law, i.e. court cases in which the judges of the nation have decided that the Congress intended the Bill of Rights to be very lenient and to grant journalists a large amount of freedom. Other important pillars of the judicial tradition are the notion that journalists should not generally have to reveal their sources, that publishing information is not a crime, etc. All of these enabled the journalism industry as we know it; without that industry perhaps Bamford would not have learned the skills and techniques he uses to write his books.
The same can be said of the other sources about information on the pre-9/11 activities of the hijackers, from CBS to various other writers and sources. The 9/11 commission was created by the pressure of citizens exercising their right to petition their government. This right is also enshrined in the US Constitution. However the commission failed to interview some of the people in the CIA's Bin Ladin group (Alec Station) about what happened before 9/11; Bamford did interview them. An independent and free press, protected by a constitution, and a body of case law, with a court system independent from the executive and legistlative branches, are what allowed citizens to examine the hijackers and their pre-9/11 activities.
In Pakistan, the curious citizen and the free press have a much harder time. The Freedom of Information Act there does not work very well. Pakistani journalists also tend to get murdered. The International Federation of Journalists said the country was just about the worst country in which a journalist could work in 2010. Now, consider James Bamford; roughly 7 years passed between 9/11 and the publication of Shadow Factory. That is in the United States, one of the most free countries for journalism. Bamford relied on networks of officials he had cultivated over many years of reporting on national security issues. He relied on the Freedom of Information act, and the protections provided by the courts to people who do work like he does. Would James Bamford have any of those pillars to stand on in the modern Pakistan? If in a free country it took 7 years to find out some of the basic facts about the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11, how long would it take a journalist in Pakistan to tease out the same information about Bin Ladin?
Perhaps the hunt for Mr Bin Ladin is over; the hunt for the truth has only begun. I shall not hold my breath waiting for it.
Why Did Bin Laden Hide In Plain Sight For Six Months?, Marcus Baram, 5-2-11, Huffington Post
Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now "he must have had some sort of protection from the Pakistani state", May 2 2011
Bin Laden's luxury hideout raises questions, By NAHAL TOOSI and KATHY GANNON, Associated Press, 5-2-11
Take my Breath Away, Berlin, Top Gun, 1987
James Bamford Q&A for Nova's "Spy Factory", including pre-9/11 hijacker whereabouts information, 2009
President Reagan on the Mujahideen (Reagan Library)
India v Pakistan (wikipedia)
Cox Report on Chinese nuclear espionage, 1999
The Cox Committee Report: An Assessment (critique of Cox report) 1999
History Guide,Greek Thought: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, Steven Kreis
Freedom of Information Act is a bad law: Naqi, Amar Guriro, Daily Times (Pakistan), August 29, 2009
International Federation of Journalists / UNESCO "Free Speech In Peril", 2010
old James Bamford biography , Random House, 2001