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The Navy SEAL Who Says He Shot Bin Laden Goes Public

Robert O’Neill says he is the SEAL who killed bin Laden

Newspaper headlines in New York, where people react to the news that Osama bin Laden was killed in a raid in Pakistan. (Timothy Fadek/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

The man who put two bullets in Osama bin Laden's head, ending a decade-long hunt, was ex-Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill. O'Neill told the Washington Post about his experiences during the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan:

O’Neill confirmed to The Washington Post that he was the unnamed SEAL who was first to tumble through the doorway of bin Laden’s bedroom that night, taking aim at the terrorist leader as he stood in darkness behind his youngest wife. In an account later confirmed by two other SEALs, the Montana native described firing the round that hit bin Laden squarely in the forehead, killing him instantly.

Though the story of bin Laden's death has been recounted many times before, perhaps most widely in the film Zero Dark Thirty, this is the first time the shooter has publicly put his name to the story. O'Neill decided to come forward, says the Post, because he believed that his name was going to come out soon, one way or another.

Yet O'Neill, now a motivational speaker, is being criticized by the military community for apparently trading his oath of secrecy for the celebrity of being bin Laden's killer. The Post points to a report on a site run by former special ops forces:

In a letter signed by both the senior commander and enlisted man of Naval Special Warfare Command, the SEAL leadership emphasized that the majority of SEALs spend each day living up to the label “quiet professionals.” Unspoken is the implication that the former SEAL, who is in fact, former Red Squadron SEAL Robert O’Neill, is seeking notoriety for his own story...

Rear Admiral Brian Losey, Commander of NSWC, and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci state that violators of that ethos “are neither teammates in good standing, nor teammates who represent Naval Special Warfare.” They reiterate that a central part of the ethos is not advertising the nature of their work, nor seeking recognition for particular actions.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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