Report: Military emails provide details on bin Laden’s burial at sea

Internal military emails obtained by the Associated Press are providing additional details about Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea after the terrorist leader was killed by Navy SEALs in 2011.

The emails obtained by the news organization via the Freedom of Information Act were released Wednesday by the Department of Defense. 

The emails reveal that no soldiers aboard the USS Carl Vinson saw the body of the dead terrorist leader, with only a few members of the ship’s senior officer crew witnessing the burial.


An email from a navy officer says that bin Laden’s body was washed and wrapped in a white sheet, keeping with Islamic traditions.  The body was then placed in a weighted bag.

“Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed,” says an email from Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette, dated May 2nd, according to reports. 

“The deceased's body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body slid into the sea,” Gaouette adds.

The burial was conducted with top secrecy and in emails, senior officers never referred to bin Laden by name, instead referencing him as “the package” and his handlers as “Fedex.”

Before the body was delivered to the Carl Vinson, an email from Gaouette, whom reports identify as the deputy commander of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet at the time, asked Rear Admiral Samuel Perez, commander of the Vinson’s carrier strike group if there was “any news on the package.”

“Fedex delivered the package,’ wrote Perez in response, adding that “both trucks are safely en route to home base.”

Bin Laden was killed on May 1, when Navy SEALs raided his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. 

The administration has sought to keep many details of the raid secret. 

In September Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reacted angrily to the publication of a book by a member of the SEAL team which hard participated in the raid.

Panetta said that while the public had a “right to know about this operation,” he feared that servicemembers in the future would be more likely to reveal details of ongoing “sensitive operations.” 

The AP made separate requests for photographs or video taken during the raid or burial. The Defense Department, however, said they could not locate images documenting the raid, according to reports. 

The AP report also says they were informed by the Pentagon that military officials could not find a death certificate or any report of an autopsy for bin Laden.