WASHINGTON — Navy SEALs and Special Operations commanders are upset by what they view as an unseemly quest for attention from a SEAL who went public last week.
Robert O’Neill, a former member of SEAL Team 6, told the Washington Post he was the one who killed Osama bin Laden with a shot to the forehead during the raid on the terrorist’s compound three years ago.
But former Special Ops officials, as well as those familiar with the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, accuse O’Neill of misstating key facts and wrongly taking sole credit for killing the world’s most wanted man, the Daily Beast reported.
At issue is who fired the shot—or shots—that hit bin Laden in the head.
O’Neill insists that he was the shooter. But others—including a fellow SEAL who was standing within feet of O’Neill in bin Laden’s bedroom—say the unidentified “point man” probably fired the lethal round. The “point man” was at the front of the team of SEALs as they climbed a staircase and approached the hiding bin Laden.
Sources who know and worked with O’Neill told the Beast that his version of events can’t be trusted. One former Special Ops official said O’Neill didn’t identify himself as the main shooter in the “hot wash” debriefing in Afghanistan that was conducted immediately after the raid. It was only later that O’Neill bragged about being the trigger-man to members of the public while drinking in some favorite SEAL bars in Virginia Beach, two sources told the Beast. O’Neill’s behavior prompted his superiors to remind him that the operation was classified, the former official said.
The point man, according to those who know him, is still serving with the SEALs.
Revelations from Special Ops forces risk exposing classified information, given that much of what they do is secret, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary.
“There is an expectation inside that community, a code, that they ascribe to that they will not seek recognition for what they do, they will not seek financial gain from what they do,” Kirby said Friday.
“Nothing takes away our pride and esteem for the job that those individuals continue to do,” he added. “But there’s an obligation that comes with it, an obligation not to be candid about what they do.”
A critical component of the SEAL ethos is to keep quiet.
“They’re terribly frustrated,” said Dick Couch, a Vietnam-era SEAL, referring to Special Ops leaders. “They want to be very clear this is not who we are.”
“It just makes us looks like buffoons,” he told USA Today.
O’Neill is scheduled to appear on Fox News this week to describe his role in the raid.