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. Drill Sergeant Mom

    I wonder: if Bissonnette didn't recognize Bin Laden even if he with the other seals trained for months for this mission, why should "he" be qualified to write a book about the raid? From the interview excerpts I can only conclude that he has nothing really new to add to what we know, or what the public needs to know. Leaves us with two guesses then: he did it for the money and/or some political agenda. Since we don't know for sure, let's take the book at face value: it's a fairly boring account written by a fairly boring guy. (probably not a bad seal operative, but certainly not a writer.

    September 11, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. Loki

    Hmmmm. Maybe it was not Bin Laden....

    September 11, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. Loki

    Maybe Bin Laden was already dead. Maybe this was a staged setup.

    September 11, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. Les

    What ever happened to the 'he grabbed a woman and used her as a human shield' story? Which one is true?

    September 11, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. jes

    I am proud of what the SEALS did. I am proud of the decisions the President had to make and the mission that was completed when EVIL was rendered dead. The SEALS keep each other safe while carrying out deadly missions overseas. We should be proud of them. And peace...and dontbreed...I am a Democrat. Party affiliation has nothing to do with it. Being a concerned American does.

    September 11, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      Agreed. This is what Mission Accomplished looks like.

      September 11, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      You need to understand that we caused a lot of this by attacking palestine. Most of us are to young to remember but in the sixties we destabilized several governments in the Middle East. cause and effect.

      September 11, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      Alex, your point is that we caused this because "we attacked Palestine." I can't really assume I know what your talking about, but I assume it means that "we caused this because Israel exists."

      Problem with your reasoning is that even if Israel didn't exist, Islam would fear the West and have plenty of reasons to attack us. They include:Freedom of the press, freedom for women to wear revealing clothing, freedom to worship religions other than Islam, and most of all, freedom of women, which presents the greatest of all possible threats to Islam.

      Quit trying to make Israel the scapegoat. Islam fears Western tradition with very good reasons. To them, it could mean the death of Islam.


      September 11, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |

    All i care about, in terms of the rest of the world and what they think is this: IF YOU ATTACK US.... YOU WILL DIE. Not pretty or nice or civil or compassionately or anything else associated with the humane. And if your friends, wives, lovers or kids get in the way... too bad so sad. Don't give a fiddler's good God-damn. If that distresses you or upsets your sensibilities..... don't aim your violence our way. Because we CAN and WILL amplify what you send and return it to you and yours.

    September 11, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Charms

      Michelle...that was loaded!

      September 11, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      You do realize that they consider us the aggressor because of the sixties, right?

      September 11, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • jon e

      This is the dumbest, most arrogant comment I've ever read on CNN. You say "attack us and you will die". I'm fine with that. But then you say anyone who happens to be in the way will die too with no respect for other humans lives? And you wonder why we are shed in such a negative light around the world? People like you are the first to say some ridiculous crap like that, then turn around and be the first to cry why when our own innocent civilians get brutally murdered. In your fantasy world a US innocent life is worth more than a foreign innocent life, and for that belief you do not even deserve to live in our country. That's an absolute Nazi mentality and I hope everyone you know understands your beilefs on this subject. You disgust me and everyone else who's either personally served or has a family member who has served in the Military. We fight for our country, but not for people like you.

      September 11, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |

      My baby just came back from Afghanistan and I have endured a year of consumate terror that he might never return so, save your diatribe for someone who didn't send her sons to risk their lives for this country. Point in fact; they slaughtered OUR non-combatants in the trade center and then they partied and cheered publically to celebrate the massacre. That makes them animals in my opinion. And there's no Geneva Convention rules for how you can kill animals.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Seth Colton

      Michelle GOT BALLS! 🙂

      MY sentiments exactly!!! You can be my Wing-Man anytime!

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

      Michelle, the only people I recall celebrating were some Israeli's that were caught on video.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. maias

    Interesting to see the anger in some of the comments that Bissonnette's book might put the lives of people still on active duty at risk.

    But where was the condemntion when the Drudge Report broke a news blackout by revealing that Prince Harry was serving in Afghanistan? The article brought to an end an agreement with the media that the Prince's deployment to Helmand be kept quiet in the interests of his safety and that of the soldiers with they would become top priority targets for insurgents.

    September 11, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      Evidently you missed it, Maias. What does that say about you?

      September 11, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Pditty

      Since when are americans bound to a prince?

      September 11, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. Pete

    This Seal should give his profits to a fallen Seal group fund to help those who perished in battle if there is one...Could you just see if this country today was run by that Mormon moron Romney,Bin Laden still alive,stronger than ever and a draftdodger sending your loved ones to war when his own sons refused to enlist.Romney just makes me want to puke,an elitist that ran to France in the guise of a Mormon missionary so he wouldn't serve in Vietnam.How cowardly and he wants to be Commander in Chief,he's no better than the crap under my brothers combat boots and he was a tunnel rat in Vietnam,so to all you republican losers out there,yes we are more safer,but its not because of your expresident ,its because of this vigilant one

    September 11, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Neon

      he is donating most of the proceeds to such charities.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Daniela

    Wonderful job!!!One terrorist less, kill them all please. They made our lives miserable!!!

    September 11, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      You realize that many things the US has done are considered terroristic.

      September 11, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega


    September 11, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • jon e

      Exactly. Aim shoot kill and keep it moving to the next one. Can't wait to read this and every other story like it- death and destruction to those who dare commit acts of violence against our great nation.

      September 11, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Kevin

    I'm sorry, but he started to make me sick.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. Pete

    On this sad day could you see this country if Mormon moron Romney ran it,can you say Bin Laden would be alive and well.Can you see a draftdodger as Commander in Chief sending your loved ones to war when he ran to France to avoid Vietnam,his five sons never enlisting either.I'm glad I have a Commander in Chief who had the stones that made that decision that did end BinLadens life,Gates or nobody else could.This president listened to his advisors that's why he did it,he trusted their intel,that's why I feel safer today,not because of what that idiot did as a president over 10 years ago!!He started this mess and I'm glad this presidents here to clean it up!!

    September 11, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ralph

    Before you criticize, picture yourself in that compound, which probably has the most ruthless killer on the planet in it. You only have split seconds to act if you are going to survive the encounter. No one knows what they would do in those few seconds they have to kill, or be killed. Thank you SEALS for a job well done. Writing the book is another issure. I was glad to read it, but it probably should never have been written.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tim

    Whoa...weird Taco Bell plug at the end of this article.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. Realist

    I find it hard to believe that a supposed group of the most highly-trained, specialized soldiers we have couldn't make a positive ID on the man we have been hunting for 10 years, even after the "operation" was over. And we just dump his body without proof? WAKE UP! Even when we caught Saddam Hussein (for reasons still unclear), we had videos, pictures, and witnessed footage of his execution. Are you people really willing to believe that we conducted a covert operation within Pakistan and then SUDDENLY had the biggest violation of NDA agreements, just to "give everyone the story" (without any shred of proof)?

    Here's a scenario: MAYBE this operation was fabricated to win public support for the most abhorrent display of American imperialism in modern history? To legitimize 10 years of wasteful spending and selfish ambitions from a government that has become accustomed to feeding the public disinformation? I find it sickening that our government would exploit the selflessness, courage, and patriotism of the United States Military to satisfy their own selfish agenda around the world, all while maintaining nobility in the public eye. I almost find it worse that the majority of citizens still have blind faith in a system that has failed them...

    September 11, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Robbert

      You obviously have not read the book. They didn't recognize him at first because he had dyed his beard black and he'd been shot in the head. The book continues that they finally postiively identified him by taking DNA samples and closely comparing physical features against lots of pictures. They also took many photographs at the scene to ensure they could positively identify him later on.

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