When President Obama met with members of the U.S. Navy's SEAL Team Six, following the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, he asked them to identify the man among them who fired the shots that had dispatched the al-Qaida leader.
According to the book “No Easy Day,” written by former SEAL Matt Bissonnette, under the pseudonym Mark Owen, the SEALs refused to tell the president which of them it was. Bissonnette later told CBS: “Pulling a trigger is easy... It's not about who that one person was, it's about the team... Who cares who the one person is. Doesn't matter.”
The team spirit that previously characterized the SEAL team now appears to be a relic of the past as former members of the elite U.S. unit are now locked in a public dispute over which of them fired the fateful rounds that ended Bin Laden's life.
In an interview with the Washington Post this week, former Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill, 38, publicly identified himself as the man who shot Bin Laden. In his interview, he confirmed that two other SEALS, including Bissonnette, fired shots at the al-Qaida leader.
A SEAL whose identity still remains secret was the first man to reach the top of the stairs leading to the third floor of Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
In a contradictory narrative, Bissonnette wrote in “No Easy Day,” that the so-called 'point man' was the SEAL who killed the al-Qaida leader.
“Two different people telling two different stories for two different reasons,” Bissonnette said in an interview with NBC News. “Whatever he [O'Neill] says, he says. I don’t want to touch that.”
SOFREP, a news and community site run by a former Navy SEAL, broke the news of O'Neill's identity, ahead of planned interviews with the Washington Post and Fox News, in which he was to go public with his identity.
Following the publication of an anonymous profile of O'Neill in Esquire magazine, questions were raised on SOFREP about whether, in the heat of battle, O'Neill had really been responsible for the lethal shots. The alternative version is that shots fired earlier at Bin Laden and thought to have missed were in fact fatal, according to a report in The Guardian.
According to the site, public revelations about the Bin Laden raid had led to a rift in the tight-knit community of America's special operations warriors. “Accusations were flying on social media forums, lines in the sand have been drawn, and friendships have been ended,” a post on the site said.
Rick Woolard, a former SEAL team commander told The Associated Press that active-duty SEALs are “pretty much very disappointed and I'd have to say angry with guys who have used their deeds and those of their companions for personal gain."
Bissonnette is currently under criminal investigation for possibly revealing classified information in his book, and during paid speaking engagements.