Feb. 12: The US Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden has spoken publicly for the first time about the moment he confronted the world’s most wanted man and pulled the trigger.
Speaking anonymously, in an interview with Esquire magazine, he tells how he entered a room on the third floor of the secret Abbottabad compound and, in the blackness, through his nightscopes, came face to face with the al Qaida leader, holding his youngest wife, Amal, in front of him.
“There was bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead ... He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting ... For me, it was a snapshot of a target ID, definitely him. Even in our kill houses where we train, there are targets with his face on them. This was repetition and muscle memory. That’s him, boom, done!
“I thought in that first instant how skinny he was, how tall and how short his beard was, all at once. He was wearing one of those white hats, but he had, like, an almost shaved head. Like a crew cut. I remember all that registering. I was amazed how tall he was, taller than all of us ... [Bin Laden’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 on to 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. And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him. Holy s***.”
One of the other members of SEAL Team 6 has written a book about his experiences, and the Oscar-nominated movie Zero Dark Thirty pieces together the raid on Abbottabad.
But the Shooter, as the magazine piece describes him, was the only witness to the final moments of the terrorist who had been hunted for more than a decade since 9/11. He also reveals how the black ops team discussed what they would do if they were surrounded by Pakistani troops.
“We would surrender. The original plan was to have Vice-President Biden fly to Islamabad and negotiate our release with Pakistan’s President.
“This is hearsay, but I understand Obama said: ‘Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military?’ That was the one time in my life I was thinking, ‘I am f***ing voting for this guy.’”
His main criticism of Zero Dark Thirty is that there is too much talking from the SEALs during the mission — while, in real life, it was silent on the helicopter. “When Osama went down, it was chaos, people screaming. No one called his name. They Hollywooded it up some.”
The Shooter, who is built like a powerlifter and heavily tattooed, joined the Navy aged 19 — apparently after a girl “broke his heart” — but now faces an uncertain future after quitting 16 years into his military career, three years before qualifying for a pension. His marriage is over, although he still lives with his wife and children.
He does not want to carry a gun anymore. “I’ve fought all the fights. I don't have a need for excitement anymore. Honestly.”
A Pentagon source was unable to say whether elements of the interview included sensitive or classified material, which the source said appeared to have been conducted without the knowledge of the department of defence.