September 10th, 2012
11:07 AM ET

I didn't recognize bin Laden, SEAL who wrote 'No Easy Day' says

The new book "No Easy Day" by former U.S. Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, who wrote under the name Mark Owen, gained widespread attention because of his firsthand account of how he and other members of SEAL Team Six killed Osama bin Laden.

On Sunday night, Bissonnette shared more of the intimate details of the mission in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes."

Bissonnette wore heavy makeup and his voice was disguised as he described what he said was not just a "kill-only" mission, but a chance to capture the mastermind of the September 11 attacks alive, if possible.

FIRST ON CNN: Pentagon double checked actions of SEALs during bin Laden raid

"We weren't sent in to murder him. This was, 'Hey, kill or capture,'" he told interviewer Scott Pelley.  Bissonnette said that in the weeks leading up to the mission, the SEALs trained on a full-size model of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where they would eventually kill bin Laden. It was rare, Bissonnette said, to get 100 chances to train on a mock-up like that for three weeks.

Bissonnette said that while it was the most important mission he would ever be a part of, much of what the team members did was routine, until the moment they could finally exhale, knowing they had killed their biggest target.

Below are some of the most interesting exchanges between Bissonnette and Pelley, according to CBS transcripts, about the preparation for the mission, the raid itself and his reaction to it all when it was finally over.

On how they cleared the house as they hunted for bin Laden after taking early fire:

Matt Bissonnette: Guys start making their way up the stairs. And it's quiet. It's pitch black in the house. No lights. All night vision. Get to the second floor. Intel had said, "Hey, we think that Khalid, his son, lives on the second floor."

Scott Pelley: This is Osama bin Laden's son?

Bissonnette: Yeah. The guy in front of me who is point man, he sees the head pop out and disappear really quick around the corner. He's like, "OK, you know, what - who is it? What do you think?" "Yeah, I don't know." He literally whispers, not amped up, not yelling, not anything. He whispers, "Hey, Khalid. Khalid." He whispers Khalid's name. Doesn't know if it's Khalid or not. Khalid literally looks back around the edge of the hall. And he shoots him. What was Khalid thinking at that time? Look around the corner. Curiosity killed the cat. I guess Khalid too.

Pelley: Somebody started shooting at you from inside the house? And the bullets were coming through the door?

Bissonnette: Yep. Immediately, my buddy who was standing up started returning fire. I could - yeah, I kind of rolled away from the door, blindly returned fire back through. You couldn't see what was on the other side. And then it went quiet. Thankfully, the SEAL that was there with me, that initially returned fire with me spoke Arabic. So he immediately started calling out to the people inside. Started hearing the metal latch on the inside of the door. Are they gonna come out with a suicide vest? Are they gonna throw a hand grenade out? Are they gonna, you know, spray their AK? Door opens up, a female holding a kid, couple kids right behind her.

Pelley: You got your finger on your trigger and you're looking at a woman with her children?

Bissonnette: Yeah, yeah. Split second. I mean, we had just received fire. My buddy's speaking Arabic. And he's asking her, you know, "Hey, where's your husband? What's going on?" She - and - and she replies back to him, "He's dead. You shot him."

On how they killed bin Laden,  but weren't sure it was him:

Pelley: Khalid is dead on this landing. The point man is stepping past Khalid. And now, you're No. 2 in the stack. You're right behind the point man?

Bissonnette: Yep. I'm kinda trying to look around him. Hear him take a couple shots. Kind of see a head - somebody disappear back into the room.

Pelley: The point man had seen someone stick his head out a door and shot him just the way he'd shot Khalid.

Bissonnette:  Yup.

Pelley: What did you do then?

Bissonnette:  Inside the room, I could see a body laying on the ground. Over him was two females, real close to the door. They looked up and saw the point man. He steps into the room, literally rushes the two women, grabs one under each arm, and pushes them back against the far wall. So if they did have a suicide vest on, and they did blow themselves up, that they wouldn't - that wouldn't affect the rest of the guys.

Pelley: But it would have killed him?

Bissonnette: Yeah.

Pelley: You stepped into the room and saw the man lying on the floor? What did you do?

Navy Seals: A battle for the conscience

Bissonnette: Myself and the next assaulter in, we both engaged him several more times and then rolled off and then continued clearing the room.

Pelley:  When you say you engaged him, what do you mean?

Bissonnette: Fired.

Pelley: You shot him?

Bissonnette: Yeah.

Pelley: He's still moving?

Bissonnette: A little bit. But you couldn't see his arms. Couldn't see his hands. So, he could've had something. Could've had a hand grenade or something underneath his chest.

Pelley: So, after Osama bin Laden is wounded, he's still moving. You shot him twice?

Bissonnette: A handful of times.

Pelley: A handful of times, and the SEAL in the stack behind you also shot Osama bin Laden. And at that point, his body was still?

Bissonnette:: Yes.

Pelley: Did you recognize him?

Bissonnette: Nope. You know, everybody thinks it was, like, you know it's him. No. To us, at that time, it could have been anybody. Maybe this was another brother. Maybe this is a bodyguard. Maybe, it doesn't matter. The point is to just continue clearing.

On how they initially confirmed they had just killed bin Laden:

Bissonnette: So he moved out to where the women and kids were, grabs one of the younger kids. Says, "Hey, who is that inside?" She says, "Osama." "Osama who?" "Osama bin Laden."

Pelley: The child?

Bissonnette: The child.

Pelley:  Identified him?

Bissonnette: Yep. Grabbed one of the females, again asked her, "Hey, who is that?" She said, "Osama bin Laden."

Pelley: Does a cheer go up among the SEALs? You start shaking hands? Patting each other on the back?

Bissonnette: Not - nothing. It's all business. We're on the clock here. So, we call up the commanding officer. He comes upstairs. Looks at the body. We give him what we have so far of - hey, here's what he looks like, take a look. He's tall. Woman and kid confirm it. He took one look. He said, "OK, I think that's him."

On what Bissonnette made of bin Laden not making a final stand:

Bissonnette: And some people would argue that, you know, why did that point man take those shots? Well, immediately, the first door we went to, my team was engaged by enemy fire through the door. So automatically, we know we're going into an enemy compound, shots being fired back at us immediately. AK found next to Khalid on the stairs. All those boxes have been checked that if a guy sticks his head around the corner, he very easily could have a gun. You don't wait to get that AK or the grenade thrown down the hall or the suicide vest. So in the split second, that's when he engaged.

Pelley: He did have a gun. But he didn't use it. And I wonder what you make of that?

Bissonnette: I think in the end, he taught a lot of people to do - you know, martyr themselves and he masterminded the 9/11 attacks. But in the end, he wasn't even willing to roger up himself with a gun and put up a fight. So I think that speaks for itself.

On how he saw the news announced to the world - and then modestly celebrated

Bissonnette: Yeah, we watched it live. It was - they had some TVs set up in the hangar that we were at. And, literally still in your camouflage uniform, our gear kind of set to the side, and we heard it was coming on. We went and gathered around and watched the address.

Pelley:  What did you think?

Bissonnette: Now the world knows that we've got him.

Pelley:  When you landed back in the United States, what did you think of all the media coverage?

Bissonnette: It was all surreal because, you know, this had all been so hush-hush leading up to it. We went and did it. And now it was the biggest news story ever. We got on a bus. They drove us back to work. I didn't even go in. They told us we had a couple days off. And I grabbed my keys, went and got in my truck and, you know, I put it in the book. But, you know, I hit Taco Bell on the way home, hit the drive-through, a couple tacos. And, you know, ate it in my car right there and then drove home.

Pelley:  You were part of the team that killed Osama bin Laden and the first thing you do when you get back to the United States is go to Taco Bell?

Bissonnette: Two tacos and a bean burrito. It's routine.

Read more about the book, the debate over it being published and the bin Laden raid:

SEAL's Osama bin Laden book sheds light on Ambien use in military

Pentagon: SEAL's book has classified info, didn't follow protocol

Former SEAL worried about new book

Excerpts from SEAL's book about Osama bin Laden killing

soundoff (634 Responses)
  1. gdouglaso

    Forgive me for my crassness, but a bullet to his head would enhance Bin Laden's appearance to me.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      Get real! If you walk up to an old HS classmate 10 years later in total darkness, you can tell me you will recognize your classmate? Od course not! This is exactly some of the stupidity that is out there. Apparantly Reality has never been shot at or in a very high stress (life threatening) environment, in the dark, like seeing a robber in your house late at night and no lights on! I would shoot and woukld not hesitate because one second of hesitation would cost me my life. Being stupid can kill you, look at the Darwin Awards, you are right up up there!! Awake up to Reality to reality.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. viranka

    the media need to be put on A SHORT LEASH when it comes to sensitive, classified and security information.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. Andrew

    True American Hero's who carried out this mission. The only downfall to it is the current, ignorant President had the audacity to take credit for it.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Brett

      He gets some credit. He was the Commander in Chief and personally gave the order. It was a highly risky mission in a sovereign nation that didn't authorize our presence there. Various members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff advised against it, because it was risky. It's like saying General Patton shouldn't get credit for battles won in WWII because he didn't personally fire the munitions. It's absurd. The President went public because the Pakistani president said he had to announce the mission, for fear of looking unaware of an unauthorized intrusion into his country. The President wanted to get in front of the story. He wasn't announcing it because he wanted to brag about what he did. He wanted to get accurate facts into the public before the Pakistanis spun it less charitably. But, feel free to clutch your simple-minded view of the world, like a security blanket.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Andrew

    President Obama must go

    September 11, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      I agree. Worst President ever except for maybe Jimmie Carter

      September 11, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • arlene

      Who cares if he saw him or not. It is done and over with. Lets move on. Stop living in the past, there are far more important things out there to think about.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Jswicc

      So I have always wondered, how much are you being paid to post? If that is how you feel at least wait for a story that somehow show out president in a bad light, or at least a good light. Not a story that as so little to do with the man.

      FYI

      September 11, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • American

      There's always some rightwingnut who turns a good story into his personal political crusade.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. edgey

    Andrew, if Obama hadn't ordered the mission in the first place then the kid couldnt be a hero, right?

    September 11, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      You act like Obama was responsible for this mission. Yes, he took credit for it, but he has absolutely nothing to do with this mission. Our Intel found out where he was living, and carried out this mission. All Obama had to do was give the go ahead. How could he not in that situation, anyone could make that call. Obama's policies are terrible and ruining this country

      September 11, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Retired Army Officer

      That's right Andrew......anyone could've made the call. But Romney wouldn't have made the call.

      It's a matter of fact, he had stated that he wouldn't go in to Pakistan to get BinLaden.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • CaptainObvious

      Andrew,

      No President picks up an M16 and marches to the front line. But they are commander in chief. Obama kept things running to allow the intelligence and military to do it's job. That is his job.

      As far as "anyone could make that call": No, no they couldn't. We are talking about a covert mission into a sovereign country which is both a theoretical ally and nuclear armed. Without 100% confirmation. That is not the action of a Dove. Clinton would not have pulled the trigger on that mission. Carter would not have eiher. Romney seems to be waffling on the subject. Both Bushes and Reagan would have, and Obama did.

      Despite the Dove-like campaign rhetoric that occured when he was elected his actual presidency has been fairly center-hawkish. There is an element of the Republican party that now just hates Obama regardless of policy... even when it is a policy that they ought to like. Easiest way for Obama to implement gun control if he so desiredwould be to join the NRA. The far right would immediately fall all over themselves to ban guns entirely.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • JohnW

      Andrew, if you tried really hard you might be able to be more wrong, but probably not. You say anyone would have ordered that mission. The fact is he was advised against it by nearly everyone, and he had the guts to go against the advice and order the mission anyway. Does he get all the credit? No, but he deserves a fair amount of it.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sanjosemike

    Notes to Alex: The ME does not particularly need America to be destabilized: Don't forget the war between Shi'a and Sunni, which has been going on since 632. The Iran vs. Iraq War had NOTHING to do with the US. When Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, we did house troops in SA. But we removed them as soon as we could. We no longer have any troops there...for years.

    Even as I type this, Iran is now seeking nuclear weapons to enforce Shi'a on the rest of the Arab World. (Israel is just a side issue to Iran).

    The primary issue in Islam is:Who will rule in the new Caliphate? Sunni or Shi'a. The Iranians are doing everything they can to decide that. This again has nothing to do with the US.

    sanjosemike

    September 11, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. New Yorker

    Barak Obama is really Barry Soetoro

    September 11, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Up Your's, Chickenhawks!

      So?

      September 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Barry G.

    Good shot!

    September 11, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. TruthHurts

    He didn't recognize him coz he wasn't Osama, Duh.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. seyedibar

    Bin Laden has been dead for nearly a decade. Al Zawahiri beat the SEAL team to it years ago. But I guess the SEAL team's story makes for a better tv movie, so let's go with that.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Tommy Boy

      And I assume that you can identify your source, sir?

      September 11, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. Steve

    I still say osama bin laden is alive and well and probably living at the white house, while looking for a part time job with Homeland Security.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tommy Boy

    As a retired member of the United States Navy, it is my opinion that Mr. Bissonnette, and others in a similar role, should keep their collective mouth's shut. Loose lips sink ships, sir.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      exactly. Great job, but he should not be doing the interviews and putting others including himself in danger.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. PeterD

    President Obama is NOT Doing His Job So We American People Have Responsibility to Let Him Go.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. joe dokes

    Did anyone *really* think the details would remain hidden forever? It's too big of a story. The details just seem to illustrate the professionalism of the SEALS. Reminding the world that they're bad asses certainly doesn't hurt either.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. James

    Bissonnette, thank you for your dedication and service. NOW ZIP IT

    September 11, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
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