Osama bin Laden hid in his bedroom for at least 15 minutes as Navy SEALs battled their way through his Pakistani compound, making no attempt to arm himself before a U.S. commando shot him as he peeked from his doorway, according to the first published account by a participant in the now-famous raid on May 2, 2011.
The account, in a book by one of the SEAL team leaders, sheds new light on the al-Qaeda chief’s final moments. In the account, bin Laden appears neither to surrender nor to directly challenge the special forces troops who killed his son and two associates as they worked their way to his third-floor apartment. A White House narrative of the raid had acknowledged that bin Laden was unarmed when he was killed but suggested that he posed a threat to the U.S. commandos.
The depiction of an apparently passive bin Laden is among dozens of the revelations in the book, No Easy Day, which chronicles the raid in minute and often harrowing detail, from the nearly disastrous helicopter crash in the opening seconds to the shots fired into bin Laden’s twitching body as he lay apparently dead from a gunshot wound to the temple.
The book also has provided fresh ammunition for partisans in the long-simmering controversy over the Obama administration’s handling of the raid’s aftermath. Author Matt Bissonnette’s account, written without Pentagon or White House approval, is being published at a time when the administration is cracking down on unauthorized leaks while also fending off accusations that it sought to exploit the success of the raid by offering unusual access to filmmakers.
Republicans have sought to diminish Obama’s most significant counterterrorism achievement by accusing the White House of selectively leaking details about the raid to ensure a favorable portrayal of the president. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has decried such leaks as contemptible and called for an independent investigation. The White House has denied authorizing the release of classified information for political gain.
Bissonnette, who retired last year, writes that the commandos knew instinctively that their successful mission would be exploited for political purposes. We just got this guy re-elected, Bissonnette quotes one of his SEAL comrades as saying of Obama in the hours after the team returned to their base in Afghanistan.
At the same time, Bissonnette credits Obama for having the courage to order the raid, and he describes being impressed by the president’s understated speech announcing the al-Qaeda leader’s death to the world.
In a CBS Evening News clip, Bissonnette said the book was not intended to be political.
You know, if these crazies on either side of the aisle want to make it political, shame on them, he said. This book is about September 11th and it needs to rest on September 11th, not be brought into the political arena.
The book, which Bissonnette wrote under the pseudonym Mark Owen, is scheduled for publication next week.