The Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden is speaking out.
The shooter, who is not identified by name, spoke to Phil Bronstein, the executive chair of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The piece appears in the March edition of Esquire magazine and recounts the historic nighttime raid in May 2011 at Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bronstein spoke to Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Monday.
The piece reveals chilling details, including the silent helicopter trip to the terrorist mastermind’s compound, walking through a dark hallway on the third floor of bin Laden’s home, and coming face to face with the most wanted man in the world.
In the piece, the Navy SEAL said bin Laden “looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting…He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap!”
Bronstein said he found the SEAL Team Six shooter through mutual friends, and had several conversations on the phone before eventually having dozens of meetings over the course of a year. He received confirmation of the man’s identity from, among others, the point man of the operation.
The former Navy SEAL, who retired last year, talked about his uncertain future and fears that his identity would be exposed (he even told his children to never say the name ‘Osama bin Laden’). The piece also recounts how the SEAL left the military after 16 years with no medical insurance for his family, no pension, no comprehensive assistance in transitioning to civilian life, and no provision for security against any retaliation by al Qaeda.
The piece is not just about the raid, Bronstein told Matthews. “It’s what happens to these guys afterwards. Not a pretty picture, oftentimes, abandoned somewhat by the government, not absorbed in the private enterprise system… He’s a guy who wanted to portray the human side of that.” The shooter struggled to return to normal life–the piece depicts his wife finding him with a bottle of Ambien pills and his gun contemplating suicide when he got home after a mission.
Matthews asked Bronstein what a high-level sniper like Bin Laden’s killer is supposed to do after he leaves the service. Bronstein said that a special-ops serviceman like the shooter learn “resolve, he learns patience, he learns grace and decision-making under pressure. He learns all the things, in other words, that many of our CEOs would love to have.” But, Bronstein said, “there has to be a mechanism for transitioning.”