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SEAL Team Six Author Reveals More Details of bin Laden Raid in First Interview

Sunday, 09 September 2012 04:43 PM

The Navy SEAL who helped kill Osama bin Laden was tasked with photographing his body and told CBS News’ Scott Pelley that he washed blood from the dead al Qaeda leader's face to get the best photos he could.

The former SEAL Team 6 member, who uses the pseudonym Mark Owen but has been widely identified as Matt Bissonnette, was scheduled to appear in his first interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night. Excerpts were released earlier in the day Sunday.

CBS News said that they had employed a makeup artist to disguise Bissonnette’s appearance and sound manipulation was used to mask his real voice for his 60 Minutes interview. His book, "No Easy Day," went on sale this week.

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“I figured these were the-- probably some of the most important photos I'd ever take in my life,” Bissonnette told Pelley. “So you know, make sure I do it right, get good angles, and all this other stuff. But, you know, you got to clean off the face, so...[its] identifiable as possible. So one of my buddies had a CamelBak with some water in it. Got some, you know-- spread some water on him, took a sheet off the bed, kind of wiped the blood off and then took photos.”

“Wiping the blood off of Osama bin Laden's face? And you shot pictures of his face in a profile. Can you describe what they look like,” Pelley asked, talking about photos that still have not been released to the public.

“They're pretty gruesome,” Bissonnette said.

Bissonette also told Pelley that a “wicked smart” woman was at the center of the plan to kill bin Laden. She had been tracking the terrorist leader for 5 years.

Only referred to as "Jen," she was convinced bin Laden was hiding at the compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, where he was found.

She travelled with the SEALs to Afghanistan ahead of the raid and briefed them on what they were likely to find. "I can't give her enough credit. In my opinion she kind of teed up this whole thing," Bissonnette said.

Bissonnette described Jen as "wicked smart, kind of feisty." She was 100 percent sure that bin Laden was hiding in the Abbotabad compound, according to Bissonnette. President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have said they were only 70 percent sure bin Laden would be found at the compound, it was later revealed. Bissonnette said that all of Jen’s predictions proved to be exactly right.

Bissonnette denied suggestions that the timing of his book had anything to do with November's election. In the book, several of the soldiers joke that they had just re-elected Obama with the bin Laden operation.

Obama and other Democrats made numerous mentions of the operation at last week's convention. But he said the book had always been planned for release around the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks and had nothing to do with the election, according to a report Sunday in the London Daily Mail.

The new book’s account contradicts key elements of the official telling of bin Laden's death. The Obama administration said bin Laden was killed after he ducked back into his bedroom, raising fears he was reaching for a weapon.

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According to the SEAL who was there, though, bin Laden was shot when he looked out of his bedroom door. When the SEALs entered his room he was on the floor, clearly badly injured, Bissonnette said. They then shot him again.

But the chief of U.S. special forces has re-examined the claims of Bissonnette and still stands by the administration’s account.

Admiral William McRaven took the personal step of contacting all of the members of the Navy SEAL Team Six that stormed the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound of bin Laden, to rebut claims made by Bissonnette that contradicted the official account of the May 2011 raid.

But Kevin Maurer, one of the co-authors of "No Easy Day," said: "After spending several very intense months working with Mark Owen (Bissonnette) on this book, I know that he wrote this book solely to share a story about the incredible men and women defending America all over the world.

"Any suggestion otherwise is as ill informed as it is inaccurate.

"What’s more, Mark has an unshakable respect for the US military, in particular the men he served with.

"That’s why not one negative word was written about anyone he served with."

Despite the fact that bin Laden was unarmed, the SEALs had come under heavy fire as they made their way through the house to reach him and bin Laden showed no signs of surrendering.

Here's a portion of the "60 Minutes" transcript:

Scott Pelley: Was the plan to kill Osama bin Laden or capture him, before you went in?

Mark Owen (Bissonnette): This was absolutely not a kill-only mission. It was made very clear to us throughout our training for this that, "Hey, if given the opportunity, this is not an assassination. You will capture him alive... if feasible."

Pelley : That was the preferred thing?

Owen : Yes.

Pelley : To take him alive, if you could?

Owen: Yeah, yeah. I mean, we're not there to assassinate somebody. We weren't sent in to murder him. This was, "Hey, kill or capture."

They would fly from Afghanistan in two modified Black Hawk helicopters to bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Pakistan didn't know they were coming so the helicopters, flown by the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, flew at tree-top level on a moonless night to avoid Pakistani air defenses. They reached the target and prepared to slide down ropes into the compound when everything went wrong in Owen's chopper.

Owen: And then, all of a sudden, we banked hard 90 degrees, and then we-- once we went hard 90-- it was very apparent that something was wrong.

Something about the downdraft hitting the complex of walls below caused the heavily loaded helicopter to falter in the air.

Owen: These pilots are the best in the world. You don't get better than these guys. And, typically they just, boom, they move right in and they stick it. It was like parking a car for these guys. And it was a rough ride. So something was obviously going on.

Owen: Tail rotor and everything happened to miss this wall here. And then we were just kind of sliding and falling out of the sky this way. At this point, I was pretty sure we're-- definitely going in.

Pelley: Going to crash?

Owen: Yeah.

Pelley : As the helicopter is going down, what were you thinking?

Owen: "This is going to suck." You know? "Hey, wow."

Even though the Pentagon's and Bissonnette's versions diverge at the point of encountering bin Laden, Pentagon officials told CNN that it was possible that the former SEAL simply never saw bin Laden standing because he was a few seconds behind the lead team members.

It still has not been made clear if the initial shots fired by the leading SEAL member hit bin Laden when he looked out of his room. The officials told CNN that they believe the shots missed.

Bissonnette's decision to publicly come forward and tell his story has reportedly led to him being ostracized by his former special forces comrades.

'The guys who run their mouths are typically not invited back to these things,' a retired senior Navy officer familiar with the SEAL culture told The Washington Times.

'These guys are not really welcomed in many places in the ‘spec’ war community. The entire SEAL community has made these guys unwelcomed at their gatherings.'

A rival book alleges that Bissonnette had ‘bad blood’ between his former colleagues and commanders because he was kicked out of the unit.

"No Easy Op" claims that the soldier was ‘ostracized’ when he inquired about leaving the Navy to start a business and was sent home suddenly before quitting.

Special: Get Mark Owen's "No Easy Day" SEAL book for just $4.95 — Save $22. This incredible offer won't last long. Go Here Now.

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