By Jeremy Herb
A book written by a Navy SEAL who took part in the Osama bin Laden raid said the al Qaeda leader was unarmed and already shot when the SEALs entered his bedroom, contradicting the Obama administration’s account that he had reached for a gun when he was shot.
In the book, No Easy Day, the author wrote that as the SEALs ascended the staircase to bin Laden’s room, the point man saw a man poke his head out the door, according to reports from the Huffington Post and Associated Press, who purchased early copies of the book.
The SEAL members found bin Laden on the floor, twitching and convulsing, according to the reports, and after moving two women away from bin Laden the SEALs “trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless.”
The book clashes with accounts from Obama administration officials that bin Laden was armed and reached for a weapon when he was shot, which could raise questions about whether the SEALs were told to kill or capture the terrorist leader.
According to the reports, the author writes that an administration lawyer “made it clear that this wasn't an assassination.”
“I am not going to tell you how to do your job,” Owen recalls the lawyer saying. “What we're saying is if he does not pose a threat, you will detain him.”
The Obama administration declined to address the specifics in the book. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor responded to questions with a statement: “As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, 'We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.’”
Owen writes that the depictions of the raid offered in its aftermath bordered on comical for being so inaccurate.
“The raid was being reported like a bad action movie," he says. “At first, it was funny because it was so wrong."
The bin Laden raid has sparked political criticism from Republicans, who have accused the White House of using the killing of bin Laden for political gain and providing special access to filmmakers making a movie about the raid.
The book gets into the politics of the raid, stating that none of the SEALs were huge fans of Obama. Before the raid, one of the SEALs joked that “we’ll get Obama reelected for sure,” Owen writes.
“We all knew the deal. We were tools in the toolbox, and when things go well they promote it,” he writes. “They inflate their roles. But we should have done it. It was the right call to make. Regardless of the politics that would come along with it, the end result was what we all wanted.”
No Easy Day, which was first revealed to the public last week, has sparked controversy over a member of the SEALs talking about a classified raid and writing under a pseudonym.
The book was not given to Pentagon or CIA officials for review, although they have since received a copy and are reviewing it. Defense officials warned that the author could face criminal charges if classified information is contained, and he had already violated a Pentagon directive by not submitting a book containing sensitive information for review.
Of course, the buzz over the book has boosted its sales — it is already No. 1 on the Amazon.com best-seller list.
The publisher, Dutton, moved up the release date one week, to Sept. 4 from Sept. 11, and boosted the first printing to 575,000 copies, citing the “overwhelming excitement” surrounding it.
Dutton released a statement from the author addressing the controversy. “No Easy Day is a book that I'm proud to have written,” Owen says. “My hope is that it gives my fellow Americans a glimpse into how much of an honor it is to serve our country. It is written with respect for my fellow service members while adhering to my strict desire not to disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way."