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Feb. 14, 2013
Notes from the Pentagon

Who killed bin Ladin?
A second Navy SEAL who reportedly fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden is challenging an earlier version of events that said the al Qaeda leader was killed by a commando outside bin Laden’s room.

The new account of the May 2, 2011, raid by a member of the ultra-secret SEAL Team Six was disclosed Monday in a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting and Esquire magazine.

The commando, identified in the account only as “Shooter,” described in detail how he and another SEAL entered a room on the third floor of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There they saw a tall man believed to be bin Laden standing in the dark using his wife as a shield.

“I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about 10 inches],” the SEAL says in the magazine story.

“He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a [suicide bomb] vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to [blow himself up].

“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! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.”

Shooter, however, left some room for doubt and recalled in a debriefing after the raid that another SEAL, who was in charge of security for the squad on a third-floor landing, also claimed to have shot bin Laden first.a “I don’t think he hit him. He thinks he might have,” Shooter said.

That account was first disclosed in the book “No Easy Day” by Mark Bissonnette, a member of the SEAL raid who used the pseudonym Mark Owen.

“We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots. BOP. BOP,” Mr. Bissonnette wrote.

“The point man had seen a man peeking out of the door on the right side of a narrow hallway about ten feet in front of him. The man disappeared into the dark room.”

After the commandos reached the room, they found bin Laden fatally wounded, lying at the foot of his bed as two women were crying over him.

Two more shots were fired finishing him off, Mr. Bissonnette wrote.

Shooter’s account is closer to the version of events initially put out by the White House after the raid and then revised to say that bin Laden did not use a woman as a shield.

“We have no information to offer you to corroborate these new assertions,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory said. “Neither the article … nor the book are official accounts.”

The Pentagon’s missile-defense program scored a success when a Standard Missile-3 interceptor hit a medium-range target missile over the Pacific Ocean Tuesday.

The missile interceptor was identified as a SM-3 Block IA, the system currently in use.

The successful intercept took place at 11:10 Hawaii p.m. time, after the target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The test involved the use of orbiting space-tracking and surveillance-system demonstrators that first detected and then tracked the target. They relayed data to the USS Lake Erie, the missile-defense ship where the SM-3 was fired five minutes after the target missile launch.

“The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space and released its kinetic warhead,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “The kinetic warhead acquired the target reentry vehicle, diverted into its path, and, using only the force of a direct impact, engaged and destroyed the target.”

The successful test was the 24th hit in 30 attempts since 2002 for the SM-3.

The test was part of what the Pentagon calls the Aegis ballistic-missile defense system, based on the Aegis battle-management system deployed on most warships. It is designed to knock out short-range to immediate-range missiles in mid-flight, as well as short-range missiles close to their targets.

The SM-3 is the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plan for missile defenses in Europe that calls for an evolving system of increasingly more powerful interceptors.

That program came under fire from a General Accountability Office study done for Congress in January. The study said the advanced version of SM-3, which the administration hopes will be able to protect the United States from missile attack by 2020, was not properly analyzed and may not provide the promised protection of the U.S. homeland.

The GAO briefing reviewed classified Pentagon programs for missile defenses and concluded that the Pentagon failed to conduct a formal analysis of alternatives to developing an enhanced SM-3, known as the Block IIB, that would be able to shoot down missiles targeted at the United States from Iran.

That missile is currently in “concept definition,” and it is not certain whether it will be liquid- or solid-fueled, the GAO said.

“The amount of commonality among the SM-3 Block IIB and prior SM-3s will not be known until a contract is awarded for development of the missile,” the GAO said in briefing slides obtained by Inside the Ring.

The GAO also reported that the Pentagon’s informal studies of alternatives to the SM-3 Block IIB uncovered “key gaps.” For example, the Pentagon did not compare the effectiveness of the Block IIB versus the long-range ground-based interceptors initially planned for Europe.

The the long-range interceptor is deployed in Alaska and California and proposed for Europe by former President George W. Bush. The Obama administration rejected putting them in Europe to appease Russian objections that the interceptors might be used against Moscow’s missiles.

The GAO slides reveal that plans to put SM-3 Block IIBs in Poland and Romania may not be effective in protecting the United States.

It states that “a location in the North Sea is a better location than either Romania or Poland for defense of the U.S. homeland, although this option if liquid propellants are used has significant safety risks and unknown, but likely, substantial cost implications.”

A Missile Defense Agency spokesman declined to comment on the GAO study.

DHS gets cyberpower
President Obama announced during his State of the Union speech that earlier Tuesday he had signed a new executive order aimed at bolstering defenses to protect vital American computer networks from cyberattack.

A White House fact sheet reveals the big winner in the bureaucratic battle over who can best protect U.S. critical infrastructure, most of which is privately owned, is the Homeland Security Department and Secretary Janet A. Napolitano, whom libertarian critics have dubbed “Big Sis” over concerns of government intrusion and restrictions on Internet freedom.

Under the order on critical infrastructure security, Homeland Security gets the lead role, although the National Security Agency and the military’s Cyber Command are widely viewed as having the best expertise and experience in defending and countering cyberattacks.

“It is the policy of the United States to strengthen the security and resilience of its critical infrastructure against both physical and cyber threats,” the order says.

A key provision is the statement that “the secretary of Homeland Security shall provide strategic guidance, promote a national unity of effort, and coordinate the overall federal effort to promote the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”

Critics both inside and outside of Homeland Security say the department cannot handle the responsibility because it lacks a professional cadre of cybersecurity specialists and is too reliant on outside contractors, most of them retirees from the intelligence community.

The directive lists a series of bureaucratic reporting requirements for government, including the creation of a “near real-time situational awareness capability for critical infrastructure” — an intelligence-gathering effort to identify threats and vulnerabilities.

That system must be demonstrated within the next eight months.

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, head of the U.S. Cyber Command and NSA director, told reporters Wednesday that the executive order is a first step.

“This executive order is only a down payment on what we need to address the threat,” Gen. Alexander said. “This executive order can only move us so far, and it’s not a substitute for legislation. We need legislation, and we need it quickly, to defend our nation. Agreeing on the right legislation actions for much-needed cybersecurity standards is challenging.”

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