The problems with Esquire's bin Laden shooter exposé

Writer Phil Bronstein left a few things out of his profile about the heroic, "screwed" former Navy SEAL

Navy SEALs prepare for a night mission in Iraq in 2007.
(Image credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Esquire had a huge scoop on Monday, posting online an interview with probably the most famous known-unknown man in America: The Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden. The recently retired SEAL, referred to only as the Shooter, revealed some interesting new details about the harrowing bin Laden raid and the death of the al Qaeda leader. He is also, as the article's author, Phil Bronstein, says in the headline, "screwed," left by the Navy with "no pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family." (Watch Bronstein discuss how the Shooter has been forced to live "like a mafia snitch" on NBC's Today above.)

Plenty of critics are taking issue with Bronstein's account. First of all, "no servicemember who does less than 20 years gets a pension, unless he has to medically retire," and the Shooter voluntarily left after 16, says Megan McCloskey at Stars and Stripes. But the bigger flaw in Bronstein's buzzy story is that "the claim about health care is wrong." Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Shooter "is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs." Bronstein, who heads up the Center for Investigative Reporting, knows this, but he stands by his story as "both fair and accurate, because the SEAL didn't know the VA benefits existed."

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.