On Sunday evening, CBS' "60 Minutes" aired the interview with the Navy SEAL author of "No Easy Day." Under the pen name of, the Navy SEAL that helped kill Osama bin Laden described the operation in some detail.
CBS made a concerted effort to alter Mark Owen's identity, spending hours in the makeup session. Although the Pentagon said that Owen had violated his non-disclosure pledge, Owen maintains that he has not revealed any secrets and has not put Navy SEALs or tactical information in jeopardy. Owen also assured the audience that the book was not political and that the crazies on either side of the aisle are trying to make something of it.
Owen gave much of the credit to a female CIA operative, whom he called "Miss 100%." She had followed bin Laden's trail for ten years. He stated that the book was published to set the record straight and to pay tribute to the members of his team and the CIA operatives and members of the intelligence community that made the mission possible.
Owen went through the planning and training process, describing the construction of a complet model of the bin Laden compound, which was used for somewhere near 100 rehearsals. He said his team was tasked since it was available after a tour in Afghanistan.
After completion of training the team moved to an air base in Afghanistan, awaiting the call to do the mission. He toldof CBS news that the mission was a "Kill or Capture" mission and was not an assassination mission. They were advised to “capture him alive, if feasible.”
The mission was delicate and risky, since the U.S. did not inform Pakistan of the mission and the compound, which was located approximately 150 miles from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. The flight to the compound took approximately an hour and a half.
The choppers flew just above treetops to their objective area. The team comprised an external security team, which was dropped outside the compound. Their mission was to check the perimeter for any tunnels that might permit escape, secure the outside perimeter and of course watch for any enemy elements approached the compound.
One chopper, which contained Owen and his group, was to land inside the compound, while another chopper would move another group to the top of the compound, rapelling onto the roof.
Owen's team was to move into the bottom of the house and clear from the ground floor up, while the other team lowered by ropes would clear the compound from the top.
Bin Laden had been identified as the "Pacer," a nickname given due to his routine of walking in the compound.
As is often the case in delicate missions, "Murphy's Law" was in effect on that day. As Owen's chopper made its turn to set down in the compound, an apparent downdraft from the choppers rotor blades pulled it to the ground. Owen gives credit to the ability of the chopper pilots for setting the chopper down preventing it to roll. The second chopper aborted the rooftop mission and dropped its SEALs outside of the compound. At this point the mission could have become a disaster.
Arriving at the door of the house, after securing the compound, they run into a metal door that wouldn't budge. One of the SEALs with a sledgehammer tried to open it, without success. At that point shots are fired by the house occupants through the door. The SEALs returned fire, and after a while there is silence from inside. Obviously the occupants of the house were aware that the SEAL team was there.
An Arabic speaking SEAL team member called for the occupants to come out, and they heard a latch opening the door. Not knowing what to expect, the SEALswere ready to react. As the door opened, a woman with two children is at the door. They ask the woman where her husband is and she replies that the SEALs had shot and killed him.
Owen's team now clears the compound about 15 minutes after their chopper made the crash landing. They climb to the second floor and encounter Bin Laden's son Khalid, who after taking a look hides behind a door. The Arabic speaking SEAL whisper Khalid is that you and as Owen describes it, "curiosity killed the cat," and Khalid peaks around the corner at which time he gets killed.
Continuing their clearance, the team moved to another room and encountered a man and a woman. Owens said he put a handful of shots into the man and a SEAL buddy fires a few more shots, since the man was still moving. At that point they didn't know if this is bin Laden. He said he was not comfortable identifying him. He describes him as much younger and with a black beard, as opposed to the pictures he had previously seen, with a grey beard.
Bin Laden, according to Owen did not have a weapon, but they found an AK47 on a shelf. He described the man that had been responsible for so many suiciden bombers as one who was not even prepared to defend his life. Let that speak for itself he says.
Owen's Commanding Officer identified bin Laden, and they collected blood and saliva samples for DNA testing. Owen took pictures of bin Laden. They collect a myriad of things that will provide valuable intelligence on the al-Qaida network. The body is put into a body bag and placed on one chopper, while the other chopper carries the pictures and DNA samples. Admiral McRaven reports: “For God and for country, I pass Geronimo. Geronimo EKIA.” (Geronimo was the code name for Osama and “EKIA” stands for “Enemy Killed In Action.”)
Eight minutes over the time limit that would ensure the waiting CH47s would have enough fuel, they got on the choppers, after an operation that lasted 38 minutes.
Owens saw red lights flickering in the cockpit, and although he didn't know that the chopper is low on fuel, he knew red flashing lights are not good.
The chopper lands and is refuelled on the ground before proceeding across the border into Afghanistan. President Obama announces the killing of bin Laden approximately six hours after the completion of the mission, and the SEALs were able to watch it live on tv.
Upon return to the U.S., Owen dug up the keys to his truck and stopped at Taco Bell on the way home. Just another day for a Navy Seal Team.
Owen says that the timing of the release of the book was to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 and that that book is apolitical.
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