The 'massive' bin Laden raid leak: 5 new revelations
New details emerge about the daring commando raid, the heroic war dog's name, and why exactly the SEALs' helicopter crashed
After two weeks of dribbled-out, sometimes-conflicting details about the bold U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound, "anonymous government sources have just handed the AP the entire story," says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. "Every single detail." Among other things, AP reporter Kimberly Dozier's new account reveals that the mission went very wrong, very quickly. Here, five takeaways from the "massive" leak:
1. The hero war dog's name is Cairo
Three large Chinook helicopters and two specially modified "stealth" Black Hawk helicopters flew from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to a deserted staging area about 30 miles from bin Laden's compound. The two Black Hawks — carrying 23 SEALs, one interpreter, and the tracking dog, Cairo — continued on to the compound. The Chinooks held another 24 SEALs as backups, in case something went wrong.
2. Things went wrong almost immediately
The plan was for the SEALs to quietly rappel down from the hovering Black Hawks, with one team landing outside the building and another on its roof. As the muffled copters quickly departed, the two teams would execute a "squeeze play," quietly sweeping the building from above and below until they found bin Laden. Unfortunately, one of the loaded-down helicopters "skittered around uncontrollably" in the hotter-than-expected night air, and loudly crashed into the compound walls. Plan A was dead and a Black Hawk copter was out of commission (A Chinook later joined the mission to pick up stranded SEALS). That "finally explains all the grim faces in the now-famous Situation Room photo," says Helen Kennedy in the New York Daily News.
3. Obama doesn't know who shot bin Laden
The SEALs executed Plan B, storming the house from below by blowing through walls and doors. Three SEALs finally spotted bin Laden in a third floor hallway, recognizing him just as he ducked into his room, where the SEALs found him braced behind two women. One SEAL pushed the women aside and a second SEAL shot bin Laden twice, in the chest and head. Obama has congratulated the team, says Gizmodo's Biddle, but even he "doesn't know who pulled that final shot — he didn't ask."
4. "Geronimo" wasn't a code name for the terrorist
The widely reported story that bin Laden's code name was Geronimo is wrong, the officials told the AP. Geronimo was just a call letter for "step G" in the raid plan — namely, the capture or killing of bin Laden.
5. Obama worried about leaks
"The killing of bin Laden was the best Washington secret in years," says David Usborne in New Zealand's Sunday Independent. "And it was clearly one of the best-kept ones, too." But by the day of the mission, AP's Dozier reports, the Obama team was nervous that "too many American officials had been briefed on the plan." Dozier doesn't identify these officials, notes the American Federalist Journal. "They could be at the White House, in Congress, at the Pentagon, the CIA..." Regardless, the White House worried that a leak to the press could have sent bin Laden underground for another decade.