The reconstruction, by author Nicholas Schmidle, provides previously undisclosed details about the raid, as well as about the planning that went into it.
You can — and should — read the story here.
You can also settle for some of the newsier nuggets below. (But we hope you don’t.)
- Members of SEAL Team 6 had surreptitiously entered Pakistan on 10 to 12 occasions before the raid in Abbottabad. Most of those missions were to the country’s tribal areas. The operation in Abbottabad marked the farthest special operations troops had ever ventured into Pakistan and also the team’s first serious attempt since 2001 at killing “Crankshaft,” the target name for bin Laden. (“Geronimo,” you might recall, was the code word used by the SEALs to indicated they had identified their target.)
- Once national security officials determined that bin Laden was probably in the compound, they reviewed several possible scenarios to capture or kill him. They considered having special operations troops land outside Abbottabad and sneak into the compound on foot. They also weighed tunneling under the compound.
- The SEALs, once on the ground in Abbottabad, blew through several gates to get inside bin Laden’s compound. The sound of the explosions — or perhaps the sound of the crashing helicopter — drew a few “curious Pakistanis” to the scene. A Pakistani-American translator who was part of the SEAL team told them in Pashto: “Go back to your houses. There is a security operation underway.”
- The first SEAL to find bin Laden feared that one or both of the wives trying to shield the al-Qaeda leader were wearing suicide jackets. After shooting one of them in the calf, the SEAL dove on them in case they set off explosives, in an attempt to save two other SEALs. Neither woman was wearing a suicide jacket, and right after they were taken to the ground, one of the SEALs shot bin Laden twice. “There was never any question of detaining or capturing him — it wasn’t a split-second decision,” a special operations officer told Schmidle. “No one wanted detainees.”
- The SEALs took bin Laden’s body back to the Afghan city of Jalalabad, where a CIA officer and Adm. William McRaven, who had overseen the operation, could see the corpse with their own eyes.
- When President Obama met members of the SEAL team at Fort Campbell, Ky., McRaven and team members walked him through the operation, using a red laser pointer on a three-dimensional model of the compound to highlight what had happened. The team presented Obama with an American flag that had been on board one of their helicopters.