Despite being sworn to secrecy, members of SEAL Team 6 are still fighting it out in the press. The first front-row version of that fateful night in Abbottabad came from the book No Easy Day by Matt Bissonette, who claimed to be one of the first three men to enter Osama Bin Laden’s room when the “point man” shot the world’s most wanted terrorist fatally in the forehead. An anonymous SEAL told a different story in Esquire in February, claiming to be “the Shooter” (and, contentiously, that he was now without health care). But a new version backs up Bissonette and fights for the honor of the point man, who’s still keeping quiet.
According to CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, a noted Bin Laden expert, one SEAL Team 6 operator is calling Esquire’s version “complete B-S.” Here’s the first-person moment of truth from “the Shooter”:
He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].
In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.
But according to Bergen’s source, “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.” Furthermore, “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.”
And the back-biting gets uglier:
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.
The “point man” could presumably clear things up, but wouldn’t talk “in a million years,” multiple SEALs told CNN. Rigorous training and a strict team code aside, the internal politics will have to play out through anonymously sniping friends and enemies, like at any other job.