The latest version of events disagrees with our initial understanding of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout. Most significantly, it appears that the al-Qaida leader was shot very quickly and without provocation (other than his terror résumé). So much for human shields.

According to Reuters‘ re-creation of the events, here’s how it went down:

After shooting [bin Laden’s wife in the leg], the commandos pushed her to the side. Precisely what bin Laden then did, and what his reaction was when the commandos entered and shot his wife, is unclear.

But the people familiar with official accounts said the attackers did not wait for much of a reaction, and almost immediately shot the al Qaeda leader dead.

This timeline comes from a new version of events detailed by the White House and reported on by The New York Times, among others.

Here’s why it matters: If Osama bin Laden was shot without threatening anyone, then it would not be unreasonable to conclude, although we may never know for sure, that his death was an execution ordered by the U.S. government. And that is something we have a right to know about.

We’re sympathetic to the difficulty in providing information on an event carried out by an anonymous SEAL team in a secret compound halfway around the world, but when we’re this dependent on the national security state for our information, perhaps we need to order an additional supply of salt. The original narrative of bin Laden’s death turned out to be false. This version may prove to be just as inaccurate. — PZS

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