The man responsible for shooting and killing Osama bin Laden during a nighttime raid on the al-Qaida leader’s compound in Pakistan is opening up about the operation, and his life in the aftermath of it, in his first interview.
The SEAL Team 6 member—identified in the interview only as “the Shooter”—tells the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Phil Bronstein in an article for Esquire that he has received little help from the government since retiring from the Navy after serving 16 years. And because he left four years short of the 20 required to get retirement benefits, he says he won’t receive anything from the government or the Navy: no health insurance, no pension, no protection for himself or his family.
“The government does provide 180 days of transitional health-care benefits, but the Shooter is eligible only if he agrees to remain on active duty ‘in a support role,’ or become a reservist,” Bronstein writes. Beyond that, he continues, the Shooter was forced to buy his own insurance, which costs him $486 a month but doesn’t cover some of the treatments he needs to relieve the pain from his war wounds. Bronstein points out that the pension the Shooter would have received if he had stayed a full 20 years would have been half of his base pay, roughly $2,197 a month—the same that a member of the Navy choir makes.
“I still have the same bills I had in the Navy,” the Shooter says. “I just want to be able to pay all those bills, take care of my kids, and work from there.”
As Bronstein writes, “Uncertainty will never be far away for the Shooter. His government may have shut the door on him, but he is required to live inside the consequences of his former career.” Recalling a chilling moment from the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” Bronstein adds, “One line from the film kept resonating in my head. An actor playing a CIA station chief warns Maya about jihadi vengeance. ‘Once you’re on their list,’ he says, ‘you never get off.’ ”
The Shooter also opened up about what it was like to kill the man CIA Director Leon Panetta called “the most infamous terrorist in our time.”
I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. 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 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 clack himself off [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.
And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him. Holy shit.
—Posted by Tracy Bloom.
The compound where Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEAL Team 6.