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SEAL Fight! Inside the Controversy over Who Killed Bin Laden

A war of words has broken out over who exactly took out the terrorist leader.


(Photo: Universal History Archive / Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013)


Who killed Osama bin Laden? And does it really matter who killed him? These are the questions which have arisen this week as doubt has been cast over what exactly happened that night in bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. There have been numerous accounts of what went down – from former SEAL Team 6 member Matt Bissonette’s book No Easy Day to last year’s Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty – but when Esquire published the tale of the man who claimed to be “The Shooter” (that’s what the story called him), you’d think the case was settled. Not so: Earlier this week, former Navy SEAL (and Maxim contributor) Brandon Webb posted a story on his website, (Special Operations Forces Situation Report) that disputes "The Shooter's" account. “The Shooter” in Esquire’s piece claims that he fired the shots that killed bin Laden after the team’s point man peeled off to apprehend two women down the hall. This is only partly true, according to Webb’s sources, who say the point man took bin Laden out, and only when the Al Qaeda leader was incapacitated – dying – on the ground, did “The Shooter” enter the scene. Esquire, for their part, stands by the story, but we spoke to Webb to try and untangle the controversy.

From your post, it sounds as if the SEAL who claimed to be “The Shooter” was a shooter, but not really the guy who took bin Laden out.
Yeah, that basically sums it up, and what is motivating people to come forward. He was there, he was in that train going up the stairs, but he wasn’t the point man who shot bin Laden and ended his life, and he’s taking more credit than he should. Guys in the community aren't happy about it.

The Esquire story makes the case that “The Shooter” has been left out in the cold by the country, without any insurance or pension, because he left the service before his twenty years were up.
That’s where I really took offense to the Esquire story, because I can point to two or three millionaires who have crushed it in the executive world and the business world after leaving the SEALs. I think in “The Shooter’s” case he probably thought, I’m going to fuck my retirement and cash in and it’s going to be easy street. I think this guy thought that he was going to make a shit load of money and then realized, holy shit, I’ve got a family to support and that I don’t have a regular paycheck anymore.

Your source also says he was kicked out of SEAL Team 6 for bragging about the mission.
Well, that’s the thing. I’ve talked to guys on active duty who have said that – besides the drama that is surrounding his getting kicked out for running his mouth at the Virginia Beach bars – he could have gone anywhere in the SEAL community. He could have finished off his tour as a BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) instructor. It’s a great community with lots of options, and he could have finished out his last four years there and got his retirement. They were encouraging him to do that. So when he left, they were like, “Dude, what are you doing?”

So is there resentment in the SEAL community that he shouldn’t have left, and now he’s trying to take credit where it isn’t due?
The guys I've talked to just want the controversy to go away. They sure as hell don’t like seeing some guy running around taking credit as the shooter when he’s not, it was a team effort, and that's what the community has always taken pride in, teamwork. I’ve heard rumors that he’s had some donors giving him seven-figure checks.

Does it bug you guys how much attention this one guy, and this one mission, has received?
Yeah, because there is so much good stuff happening within the other Seal Teams, and the Spec Ops community as a whole. In general I'd say most SEALs I speak with are tired of the drama coming out of DEVGRU. When you look at the SDV community - which is the Seal Delivery Vehicle Team, and they operate the mini submarines - those guys are doing some amazing stuff all over the world and no one is hearing about that stuff. Those guys know how to maintain OPSEC. 

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Or to check out this excerpt from Webb's memoir, Red Circle