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Bin Laden shooter dispute sparked by Esquire interview

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Bin Laden shooter dispute

(CNN) — In February, Esquire magazine published a lengthy profile of “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden.” The story did not identify the killer by his real name, referring to him only as “the Shooter.”

The Shooter told Esquire that the night bin Laden was killed he had encountered al Qaeda’s leader face-to-face in the top-floor bedroom of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden had been hiding for more than five years.

The Shooter explained that when he found bin Laden in his bedroom the al Qaeda leader was standing up and had a gun “within reach” and it was only then that the Shooter fired the two shots into bin Laden’s forehead that killed him. That account was in conflict with the account from another raid participant in a wildly successful book “No Easy Day.”

Now, another member of the secretive SEAL Team 6, which executed the bin Laden raid, tells CNN the story of the Shooter as presented in Esquire is false. According to this serving SEAL Team 6 operator, the story is “complete B-S.”

On behalf of Esquire Magazine, publicity firm DKC News issued the following statement Tuesday:

“The Esquire article, The Shooter: The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden, in the March 2013 issue, is based on information  from numerous sources, including members of Seal Team 6 and the Shooter himself, as well as detailed descriptions of mission debriefs.  We stand by our story.”

SEAL Team 6 operators are now in “serious lockdown” when it comes to “talking to anybody” about the bin Laden raid and say they have been frustrated to see what they consider to be the inaccurate story in Esquire receive considerable play without a response. Phil Bronstein, who wrote the 15,000-word piece about the Shooter for Esquire, was booked on CNN, Fox and many other TV networks after his story came out.

Twenty-three SEALs and their interpreter assaulted the bin Laden compound just after midnight on the morning of May 2, 2011. They shot and killed bin Laden’s two bodyguards, one of bin Laden’s sons and the wife of one of the bodyguards and they also wounded two other women.

The first three SEALs to make it to the top floor of bin Laden’s compound where he was believed to be living were “the point man,” “the Shooter” profiled by Esquire, and Matt Bissonette, the SEAL who wrote “No Easy Day” under the pseudonym Mark Owen.

What actually happened the night of the raid, according to the SEAL Team 6 operator who I interviewed, is that the “point man” ran up the stairs to the top floor and shot bin Laden in the head when he saw what looked like bin Laden poking his head out his bedroom door. The shot gravely wounded al Qaeda’s leader.

Having taken down bin Laden, the point man proceeded to rush two women he found in bin Laden’s bedroom, gathering them in his arms to absorb the explosion in case they were wearing suicide vests, something that was a real concern of those who planned the raid.

Two more SEALs then entered bin Laden’s bedroom and, seeing that al Qaeda’s leader was lying mortally wounded on the floor, finished him off with shots to the chest.

This account of bin Laden’s demise is considerably less heroic than how the Shooter is presented in Esquire, in which he says he shot bin Laden while he was standing up and only after he saw that al Qaeda’s leader had a gun within reach.

The SEAL Team 6 operator who spoke to me says there is no way the Shooter could have seen a gun in bin Laden’s reach because the two guns that were found in bin Laden’s bedroom after al Qaeda’s leader was killed were only found after a thorough search of the room and were sitting on a high shelf above the frame of the door that opened to bin Laden’s bedroom.

The SEAL operator also points out there was a discussion before the raid in which the assault team was told “don’t shoot the guy [bin Laden] in the face unless you have to” because the CIA would need to analyze good pictures of bin Laden’s face for its facial recognition experts to work effectively. Yet the Shooter in the Esquire story says he shot bin Laden on purpose twice in the forehead.

The SEAL Team 6 operator also tells CNN that the Shooter was “thrown off” of Red Squadron, the core of the SEAL Team 6 group that carried out the bin Laden raid, because he was bragging about his role in the raid in bars around Virginia Beach, Virginia, where SEAL Team 6 is based. In the Esquire article, Shooter complains that he is receiving no pension, since he left the military four years before the minimum twenty required to be eligible.

CNN spoke with Phil Bronstein, the Esquire writer, who says he passed on CNN’s written questions about the Shooter’s role in the bin Laden raid to his story’s main character. The Shooter has not responded to those questions and Bronstein, himself, declined to be interviewed on-the-record for this story.

According to present and former members of SEAL Team 6, the “point man” who fired the shot that likely mortally wounded bin Laden will never “in a million years” speak publicly about his role in the raid. All laud the point man for his courageous decision to throw himself on the two women in bin Laden’s room.

The new account of the night of the bin Laden raid provided by the serving SEAL Team 6 operator is essentially the same as in Bissonnette’s “No Easy Day.” Bissonnette says he was one of the first to run into bin Laden’s bedroom and he saw that the point man’s shots had mortally wounded bin Laden, and Bissonette then shot the dying al Qaeda leader as he lay on the floor.

Present and former members of SEAL Team 6 say they regard Bissonnette as more credible than the Shooter.

In a previous CNN.com story about the Esquire profile, I noted that I was the only outside observer allowed to tour bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound before it was demolished in late February 2012.

During that tour I looked around the bedroom where bin Laden was killed. The Pakistani military officers who were guiding me pointed out a patch of dark, dried blood on the low ceiling of bin Laden’s bedroom. This patch of congealed blood seems to be consistent with the Shooter’s story that he fired two shots at the forehead of a “surprisingly tall terrorist” while he was standing up. At the time, the precise location of bin Laden when he was shot was not a matter of dispute.

But the blood patch could also be consistent with the account that it was the “point man” who first shot bin Laden. The point man is 5 feet 6 inches tall and was shooting upward at a tall man as he poked his head out of his bedroom.

The compound is, of course, now gone, so it is no longer possible to reconstruct what happened the night of the raid based on forensic evidence, although it is possible the Abbottabad Commission, a panel that was appointed by the Pakistani government to look into the raid, could shed some light on this question should its findings ever be publicly released.

Finally, by all accounts, it was a confusing situation the night of the bin Laden raid in Abbottabad. One of the SEAL team’s helicopters had crashed and there was then a firefight with one of bin Laden bodyguards. All the electricity in the bin Laden compound and indeed the surrounding neighborhood was off on a moonless night and the SEALs were all wearing night vision goggles that allowed them only quite limited vision.

What seems incontrovertible is that the point man,the Shooter and Bissonnette were the first three SEALs to assault bin Laden’s bedroom. But to determine exactly which of them killed bin Laden may never be possible.

What is certain is that it was a team effort.

Five days after the bin Laden raid, members of the SEAL team who killed al Qaeda’s leader briefed President Obama. According to those in the room, the SEAL team commander explained to the president, “If you took one person out of the puzzle, we wouldn’t have the competence to do the job we did; everybody’s vital. It’s not about the guy who pulled the trigger to kill bin Laden, it’s about what we all did together.”

35 comments

  • USA_VET

    WHO CARES!! HE'S DEAD!!
    That's what we all seemed to want and that's what we got.
    WHY would anyone ever want to jeopardize someones safe and well being of themselves or there families is beyond me.
    Put it to bed you Jackasses!! These MUST be the same people that would have built a memorial for the SOB if we didn't do the burial at sea.
    We lost family in World Trade Center building 2 and we will NEVER NEVER forget!!

  • Guest

    Job well done? Show me and others proof that Bin Laden is even dead. I believed this whole episode to be a hoax as soon as the next AM we were all told 'burial at sea' and no photos. Sorry, but I don't believe this story at all. Mussellini (sp) was hung upside down from a lampost riddled with bullets. It only took 42 years to see the missing few frames of the Zapruder 8mm film showing JFK getting shot in the head from behind the fence on the grassy knoll. Where is some evidence? Don't give me 'muslim jive' here. Thanks.

    Bruce the non-believer

    • Jeff

      You're not particularly intelligent are you? You're just one of those self-absorbed guys who thinks he's the only one with the answers while the rest of us are morons. Not everything is a conspiracy.

    • Dan

      Wow. Were you born stupid? OH … WAIT… Sorry we all apologize. The government just admitted it was all a hoax. you were right. also the moon landing was fake. Sorry… God now I just feel so gullible.

  • AIRBORNE!!!!!

    That is THEIR JOB. Outstanding planning and tactical acquisition of the principle. CUDOS TO OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM. Unless you have been part of an "ELITE MILITARY GROUP", you have NO idea of what took place. Yes, I have been there.

    AIRBORNE!!!!!!

  • Harold

    Bin Laden has been dead since 2002/ this entire JOKE was nothing more than a PR stunt for the puppet in charge/ so continue toy bow down to the New World Order you SLAVES. We got you right where we want you. The US economy will IMPLODE. get ready to go to FEMA camps you gubament nut huggers.

    • Charles

      Where is your evidence to your clams??????? If your so open to write what you did then why dont you provide your factual evidence to the contrary!!!!!!!!

      • Harold

        1.) Benazir Bhutto

        2.) CIA shipping the heroin out of Afghan land

        3.) I'm a 101st war veteran who was out there while the bought media/government is feeding you slaves a shit sandwich (this country will not go unpunished for the 100+ MILLION innocent Iraqis we've murdered)

        4.QE infinity (Economy is going down)

        5.) None of you realize whats right in front of you. 9/11 was an inside job and was the New World Order's new "Pearl Harbor" to get majority of the public to willingly give up their rights for so called "security"

        6.) Homeland security is not for brown people with Turbans its for the American people that's why Veterans and Gun owners are number 1&2 on the DHS report of "who is a suspected terrorist"

  • martin

    There are 2 conflicting stories because they never killed Bin Laden in Pakistan. Its just another bs government false flag operation like 9/11. Wake up people.

  • Vet

    The so called Shooter, never had any business writing a book or doing interviews. He should be kicked out of the military. Period!!

    • Randy

      The so called shooter has the right to freedom of the press! Its a constitutional right to do so! Unless of course you dont recognize that right! Nevertheless..whether you recognize it or not..its still his right to write his book.

      • Matt

        He signed that right away when he signed his nondisclosure agreement that comes with doing any job involving classified information/capabilities. The only time you should violate that is to report a "Law of Armed Conflict " violation and there is an unbiased process for reporting violations.

    • Joe

      He wrote the book for some kind of income in the future. These men in the seals are special and gifted men. HEROS. What is our Goverment doing for these men, nothing, that should be the story not who shot him. There were 23 men there all equally responsible

  • Gary Kennon

    Probably a total hoax,from the twin towers,with thousand's dead ,an international war with 250,000 dead,1,000,000 wounded,billion's of $ spent,Bin Laden dead,but no body,wake up people of planet earth,how could anybody believe this crap?

  • Rev

    Goat Humper he is and hope hes dead, but really lets put it to bed, and anything surrounding politics and government is all BS

  • Feelsorryfor america

    I read these posts and can't believe what I am hearing. . Do you people really live HERE in America? Where is your loyalty to your country, the one from which you live in, and acquire all of the freedoms that you get from it. The country that allows you to write these posts. I know there are plenty of bad apples in our government, but to truly believe that the government could pull off such a "HUGE" stunt like the world trade center incidents without somebody, somewhere blowing the whistle on them. Not to mention; Bin Laden was more than happy to the credit for September 11th. Wow, if you believe the United States went through this much trouble and financial hardship, just to attack Hussain and Laden…..then please, PLEASE leave our country. IMMEDIATELY!!!!! Cause, It would be greatly appreciated by all!!!

  • Biswambar Man Amatya

    That was a team spirit and team effort. Not individual one. Why worry now? But think of present day's situation and future expectation. Let us live happily and let them live happily too

  • UGotAProb_WellFuqqU

    Ahh the brave soldiers of America. Setting the example in shoot first, ask questions later.

    So much for Rules of Engagement.

  • TRenney

    He said…they said…we said…Jebus: everyone STFU already. The whole thing is a case study of irony as to why we are hated. I'd be a whole lot prouder to be an American if we weren't chuck full of pompous bragging idiot's.

  • AL Tru

    Translation of Funeral Article in Egyptian Paper:
    al-Wafd, Wednesday, December 26, 2001 Vol 15 No 4633
    News of Bin Laden's Death and Funeral 10 days ago
    Islamabad –
    A prominent official in the Afghan Taleban movement announced yesterday the death of Osama bin Laden, the chief of al-Qa'da organization, stating that binLaden suffered serious complications in the lungs and died a natural and quiet death.
    The official, who asked to remain anonymous, stated to The Observer of Pakistan that he had himself attended the funeral of bin Laden and saw his face prior to burial in Tora Bora 10 days ago.
    He mentioned that 30 of al-Qa'da fighters attended the burial as well as members of his family and some friends from the Taleban. In the farewell ceremony to his final rest guns were fired in the air. The official stated that it is difficult to pinpoint the burial location of bin Laden because according to the Wahhabi tradition no mark is left by the grave. He stressed that it is unlikely that the American forces would ever uncover any traces of bin Laden

  • Vietnam Combat Vet

    What part of of the word "Team" do some of these former members of Seal Team Six seem to not understand? Not a single one of these Team Members could have done this alone. Now it's all about money for books, movies and appearances on Fox News

  • johnny

    Stupid sheeple! OBL was dead years ago and was in a hospital getting dialysis on 9 – 1 – 1, so how copuld he hide in the Tora Bora caves (another guv'ment lie) for 10 years? The killing of OBL was n Obama publicity stunt and ther is NO proof, no DNA, no dead body or no LIVE body. If you believe he was dumped at sea to "honor muslim tradition" I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. OBL was war-ciminal Bush's embodiment of the mythology of terr*r. He even looked like the devil.

    Wiki "PNAC" and "the new Pearl Harbor," then YouTube "WTC7," "Dr. Alan Sabrosky," and "Loose Change," and Netflix "Reflecting Pool" for some hard TRUTH. We've been HAD! Wake up, sheeple!

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