STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Did the Obama administration, including then-Vice President Joe Biden:
- "Outsource" the imprisonment of Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, to Iran;
- Arrange for bin Laden to be moved to Pakistan for a staged killing in May, 2011;
- Pay Iran $152 billion to keep its role a secret;
- Order a SEAL Team 6 helicopter shot down in August 2011 to silence the unit that carried out the raid on bin Laden?
No, that's not true. Neither of the two men making the claim has provided documentary evidence or eyewitness accounts to refute independent and official versions of bin Laden's killing nor of the 2016 payment of $400 million to Iran of a refund for a cancelled weapons deal dating back to the 1970s. Leon Panetta, who the CIA Director who oversaw the operation, told Lead Stories none of the claims is true. And, none of the SEAL Team 6 members who participated in the raid on bin Laden were among the 30 military personnel killed when a Boeing Chinook helicopter was shot down in August 2011.
The conspiracy, launched into social media at the American Priority conference at a country club owned by President Donald Trump, is summarized in a YouTube video (archived here) posted by former "Survivor" contestant Anna Khait on October 12, 2020.
Titled "Benghazi Whistleblower explains what is Coming!" it opened:
Interview with Benghazi Whistleblower Nick Noe shares his story and information that will be released through Media outlets soon. This is the BIGGEST STORY to break in American History!!"
Click below to watch the video on YouTube:
Khait interviewed Nick Noe, a self-described unsuccessful Benghazi whistleblower, at the Trump National Doral Miami, where he had given a presentation to American Priority (AMP) Conference 2020. (AMP Background information at the end of this report)
In the interview with Khait, Noe summarized claims that had been made at the AMP conference via video by Alan Howell Parrot, a self-described falconer. Parrot says, without evidence, that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and others conspired with Iran to stage bin Laden's killing, paid Iran billions to keep quiet about having held bin Laden and then arranged for a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan to be shot down in August of 2011 to silence SEAL Team 6, which carried out the bin Laden raid.
Leon Panetta, the CIA Director who oversaw the capture of bin Laden and Secretary of Defense in the years after, said in a phone interview with Lead Stories that President Trump, by re-tweeting this conspiracy theory, may undermine one of the greatest successes of the CIA and military.
Here is a lightly condensed transcript of Lead Stories' interview with Panetta:
LS(Lead Stories): Was bin Laden held in Iran by the Iranian government at any time in the years prior to the raid on Abbotabad?
Panetta: I've never heard or seen information to that effect. The Iranians did nold some of their family members, but we never had information they were holding him.
LS: Were you aware of Mr. Parrot's proposal to carry out a private "capture" of bin Laden and did you direct Gov. Richardson not to help out?
Panetta: No. I know Bill Richardson. We never had that conversation.
LS: Was bin Laden transferred to Abbotabad at the behest of U.S. officials?
Panetta: That's just absolutely false...I can tell you for a fact that we were able to follow the couriers to Abbotabad and bin Laden was there.
LS: Was he spirited out of Abbotabad just before the SEALs raid and replaced with a body double who was killed and dumped, in parts, out of the SEAL helicopter?
Panetta: I was in charge of the raid. Again, it's absolutely false. We had Abbotabad under surveillance constantly. Bin Laden and the family that were there never went anyplace.
LS: Was the January, 2016 cash payment to Iran just after the signing of the nuclear deal anything other than the refund of funds paid by the Iranian government in 1979 for U.S. military hardware?
Panetta: It was related solely to that.
LS: Finally, there's this idea that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden arranged for Stinger missiles and gave advance notice so that in August of 2011 this helicopter can be shot down by Afghan forces, killing 30 Navy SEALS. What do you make of that?
Panetta: I think it's the craziest goddam thing I've ever heard. This one really takes the cake. You're talking about the Secretary of State and the Vice President...Oh my God, it's outrageous.
Panetta said there is no chance the U.S. could have coordinated a complicated secret plot with Iran -- whose leaders referred to the U.S. as the "Great Satan" -- when U.S. envoys backed by nations around the world could barely engage with Iran to negotiate over reducing Iran's nuclear weapons capability.
Parrot's claims made in 2020 closely resemble claims Parrot makes in a YouTube video of a recorded 2011 phone conversation with, he claims, former Rep. Curt Weldon and Brian Ettinger, an oil industry lawyer who once worked for Joe Biden. Notably, in those conversations he blames evil deeds on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan. Lead Stories has reached out to Ettinger and Weldon and will update this report, if appropriate, when they respond.
In a phone interview with Lead Stories on October 14, 2020, Parrot, who conspiracy websites have described as a "CIA Whistleblower" said he never worked for the CIA:
It's these bloggers, all these fancy people who are just running with the football. They are saying things that are just patently untrue. I've never been hired or paid by the CIA, but I know a lot of them.
Parrot, whose online biography says he worked in Russia on the prevention of falcon-smuggling, said full documentation would be released October 14, 2020 to prove the conspiracy theory he and Noe made public at the American Priority conference:
It's not theory. This is all going to the President, first and foremost.That's my first duty is to deliver it to the president.
In the video of Parrot's appearance at the America Priority conference, Parrot says he has evidence bin Laden was hustled out of Abbotabad just ahead of the SEAL raid and that the man they killed was a body double.
One of the SEAL Team 6 members confirmed to have participated in the bin Laden mission quickly refuted that claim and is taking on Parrot and Noe directly in a series of Tweets and interviews with journalists. Here is a selection of Robert J. O'Neill's comments:
Very brave men said goodby to their kids to go kill Osama bin Laden. We were given the order by President Obama. It was not a body double. Thank you Mr. President. Happy birthday @USNavy-- Robert J. O'Neill (@mchooyah) October 13, 2020
Every SEAL from the UBL Mission is alive while you are reading this. https://t.co/6mvAh37Cep-- Robert J. O'Neill (@mchooyah) October 14, 2020
In an AMP video, Parrot claims he met six times with bin Laden in Iran. Parrot said his "team" was prepared to go into Iran under the guise of falcon-hunting to capture bin Laden at a remote falcon-hunting camp and then turn him over to the U.S. Parrot says he negotiated the agreement with Iran's UN ambassador, but Biden, Clinton and CIA Director John Brennan stepped in and arranged for Iran to move bin Laden to Pakistan.
During the interview with Ann Khait, Noe promises documentation of the claims. Contacted by phone October 14, 2020, Noe said he was busy with a paper to write and a full-time job and would release documents to Lead Stories after vetting Lead Stories' reporter. Noe said he was he was disinclined because the reporter lives in the state of Washington, which he said was troubling to him.
Lead Stories' efforts to independently confirm Parrot's claims were unsuccessful.
Shown in this screengrab, falconer Allan Parrot, left, describes the conspiracy to Nick Noe and Charles Woods, father of Tyrone Woods, a CIA officer killed at Benghazi.
(Source: PureSocialTV screengrab taken Tue Oct 13 22:59 2020 UTC)
There has been no civilian or official claim that any of the bin Laden raid participants were aboard the SEAL Team 6 helicopter shot down southwest of Kabul in August 2011, which makes Parrott's claim illogical: No bin Laden raider was silenced when that helicopter was shot down.
Although the U.S. government withheld some details of the killing of bin Laden, multiple independent accounts by journalists experienced in writing about counterterrorism efforts do not support Parrott's claim that Iran conspired with the U.S., one of its avowed enemies, to kill bin Laden in a way that would benefit President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
Among those accounts are:
''Getting bin Laden: What Happened That Night in Abbottabad'' a New Yorker article by Nicholas Schmidle, a Marine general's son who had reported from Pakistan and has decades of experience writing about counterterrorism.
One of the SEALs who shot bin Laden, Matt Bissonnette, published a best-seller about the raid: ''No Easy Day.''
"The Finish," by Mark Bowden, most famous for "Black Hawk Down" focused his book on President Obama's role in the killing of bin Laden.
The major attack on official accounts is found in the reporting, by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and others, that Pakistan, not Iran, had control of bin Laden for several years before the U.S. raid. Hersh, famous for digging up the truth about the My Lai Massacre during the Viet Nam War, wrote his account of the bin Laden raid for the London Review of Books.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo, no fan of Obama or Biden and therefore unlikely to undermine this conspiracy theory, has declassified documents seized from bin Laden's compound, which Pompeo says show bin Laden working in league with Iran, not being held captive by Iran. Pompeo was quoted by several independent news organizations saying at an October 2017 conference: "I think it's an open secret, and not classified information, that there have been relationships...There have been times the Iranians have worked alongside Al Qaeda" and that the declassified documents show that.
The Obama White House confirmed in 2016 that it did deliver a pallet-load of $400 million in cash to Iran's government shortly after Iran signed a deal to reduce its nuclear capability. The funds had been paid into a U.S. account in 1979 as part of an Iranian purchase of military hardware. That military equipment was not delivered because the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the funds frozen for more than 30 years under economic sanctions against Iran. Under the terms of the Iran nuclear deal, the funds were released and Obama Administration officials said at the time that with no banking relationship with Iran, it decided to pay in cash.
Lead Stories reached out to Khait on October 13 to request copies of the promised documentation of the claims and received no reply.
American Priority: Other speakers at the conservative group's gathering October 8-11, 2020 included President Trump's son, Eric, and former Trump political adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted of witness tampering and lying to federal investigators. Trump commuted Stone's sentence on July 10, 2020.
Noe's Benghazi claims: In Khait's interview, Noe, who says in 2012 he assembled after-combat reports at the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center in Ramstein, Germany, focuses on his account of being turned away by the congressional committee that had investigated the 2012 attack on American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. In that attack, Ansar al-Sharia militants killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and Information Officer Sean Smith; and two CIA operatives, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
2020-10-16T01:49:27Z 2020-10-16T01:49:27ZUpdated to include former CIA Director Leon Panetta's point-by-point refutation of the claims made by Parrot and re-tweeted by President Trump.
2020-10-15T16:44:04Z 2020-10-15T16:44:04ZUpdated to include three more tweets from Robert J. O'Neill, one of the Navy SEAL Team 6 members who captured and killed Osama bin Laden.
2020-10-14T22:58:02Z 2020-10-14T22:58:02ZUpdated to include material from Parrot's videotape of the purported 2011 conversation with Weldon and Ettinger.
2020-10-14T21:18:31Z 2020-10-14T21:18:31ZUpdated to include former Navy SEAL Robert J. O'Neill refutation of Parrot's claim that a bin Laden body double was killed.
2020-10-14T18:03:56Z 2020-10-14T18:03:56ZUpdated to include new interviews, Parrot confirms he is no CIA whistleblower