Bin Laden shooting details revealed
The former US serviceman who says he fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden has revealed more details of the mission as well as other major operations which inspired Hollywood movies.
Ex-Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill said he believes the American public have a right to more details about the operation that killed the al Qaida leader and other important military adventures.
He also insisted he was taking pains not to divulge classified information or compromise the tactics SEALs use to get the drop on their enemies.
The winner of two Silver Star and five Bronze Star campaign medals said: "The last thing I want to do is endanger anybody. I think the good (of going public) outweighs the bad."
O'Neill, who last week began discussing his role in the 2011 bin Laden mission, was in Washington for a round of television and media appearances that drew both praise and criticism.
After helicoptering to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, assaulting the house and killing three men and a woman, some of the SEALs reached the third floor, where a CIA analyst had told O'Neill that bin Laden would be.
O'Neill followed an unnamed point man into bin Laden's bedroom, he said, and the point man tackled two women, believing they had a bomb, in what O'Neill calls an incredibly selfless act.
"A few feet in front of me, on two feet, was Osama bin Laden," O'Neill said. "I shot him three times in the head and I killed him."
Many are impressed by the deed, but not everyone is impressed with the telling.
"We work in secret and we pride ourselves on that, so if somebody comes out and spills this much, it angers the rest of us," Jonathan Gilliam, a former SEAL, said in an interview.
But Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles Burlingame was the pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon in the 9/11 attacks, has said that O'Neill's descriptions were gratifying to the relatives of victims of 9/11.
O'Neill's key role in the bin Laden raid was not his only brush with a high-profile operation. He was on the 2009 mission to rescue the captain of the merchant ship Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates. That episode was featured in the Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips.
And he was part of the group that helped retrieve Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of a four-man team attacked in 2005 while tracking a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. The Luttrell episode was featured in the 2013 film Lone Survivor.
Long before those operations, O'Neill came to embody the dramatic transformation of the role of US special operations over the last 13 years.
He joined the Navy in 1995, and in those pre-9/11 days, the SEALs did a lot of training with foreign forces. High-risk operations in remote locations were few and far between.
After the US went to war against al Qaida, the SEALs and other elite units were called upon for one combat mission after another - in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. O'Neill believes he killed more than 30 people.
His most fulfilling time as a SEAL, he said, came in Iraq in 2007, when he was going on multiple combat missions a night, stalking and killing insurgents and bomb-makers.
One current and two former SEALs, who declined to be named, say it is not disputed that O'Neill shot at bin Laden, but Pentagon officials say it is not clear whose shots killed him.