4 bin Laden details the Obama administration got wrong

Officials have revised some key details in the narrative of Osama bin Laden's death

Osama bin Laden, pictured here in 1998.
(Image credit: Corbis)

The White House on Tuesday revised the record on some key details the Obama administration had provided about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. "We provided a great deal of information with great haste," says White House spokesman Jay Carney, as quoted at Politico. "Obviously, some of the information was — came in piece by piece and is being reviewed and updated and elaborated upon." Here, four details that have changed in the official story:

1. Whether bin Laden was armed

Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan told the press on Monday that bin Laden "was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in. And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly don't know." At a Pentagon briefing, a senior defense official said that bin Laden, shielding himself behind a woman, had fired at the U.S. team. But Carney, in a Tuesday press conference, said that bin Laden "was not armed" when U.S. troops invaded his compound and shot him. Carney reiterated, though, that bin Laden had resisted.

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2. Whether he used a human shield

Brennan told the press Monday that it was his understanding that bin Laden shielded himself with a woman, and that she was killed in the raid. That detail, Brennan said, "speaks to, I think, the nature of the individual he was." The story "also made the U.S. look better," says Justin Elliott at Salon, by explaining that "if a civilian woman was killed, it was only because the terrorist mastermind was using her as a shield." But on Tuesday, Carney said that bin Laden's wife "rushed" an American "assaulter" and was shot in the leg but not killed. A different woman was killed in crossfire. And it appears that bin Laden did not use anyone as a human shield.

3. Which of bin Laden's sons was killed

In briefing reporters, Brennan said that bin Laden's son Khalid was killed in the raid. But the offical White House transcript of Brennan's remarks "had the counterterrorism adviser saying it was another son, Hamza, who perished," says Josh Gerstein at Politico.

4. How the White House followed the operation in Pakistan

In a web chat with readers of The New York Times, Brennan said that the White House had "real-time visibility" of the raid in Abbottabad. "It turns out the White House didn't even know what it knew about the raid," says John Cook at Gawker. In a Tuesday interview with PBS's NewsHour, CIA Director Leon Panetta provided a different version: "Once those teams went into the compound, I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn't know just exactly what was going on." Two days later, "they still don't," says Cook at Gawker.

Sources: Business Insider, Gawker, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Wall St. Journal

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