Details of bin Laden raid leaked first by Obama aides

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The most detailed account appears to be an article titled “What happened that night in Abbottabad” in the Aug. 8, 2011, issue of the New Yorker. Citing authorized interviews, it offers direct quotes from Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser for strategic communications; Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan; and Marine Gen. James Cartwright, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman. It also includes statements from a “senior Obama adviser.”

The article’s sequence of events closely mirror what Mr. Bissonnette wrote: The Black Hawk helicopters’ route, how the SEALs entered the compound, how they moved from room to room, the weapons used, how security was maintained around the perimeter, the killing itself, the radio broadcast to Washington that confirmed the death, the hunt for intelligence documents, and the “exfil,” or flight back to base.

Mr. Bissonnette’s book describes the same events, only in first-person with the author’s thoughts and actions at the moment. The New Yorker author has said he did not interview any of the 24 men on the mission itself.

For instance, when the SEALs entered bin Laden’s room, two of his wives protected the gravely wounded al Qaeda leader.

The New Yorker author wrote: “Fearing that one or both women were wearing suicide jackets, he stepped forward, wrapped them in a bear hug, and drove them aside. He would almost certainly have been killed had they blown themselves up, but by blanketing them he would have absorbed some of the blast and potentially saved the two SEALs behind him. In the end, neither woman was wearing an explosive vest.”

Wrote Mr. Bissonnette: “Swinging his gun to the side, the point man grabbed both women and drove them toward the corner of the room. If either woman had on a suicide vest, he probably saved our lives, but it would have cost him his own.”

The New Yorker article relies on quotes from a “special operations officer.”

For example: “‘Special operations is about doing what’s not expected, and probably the least expected thing here was that a helicopter would come in, drop guys on the roof, and land in the yard,’ the special-operations officer said.”

When the New Yorker article was published, the members in SEAL Team Six surmised it was just another series of leaks from the White House, the source close to the SEALs told The Times.

But later, word spread that a planner for the raid, but not an actual participant, had been authorized to talk to the New Yorker.

Kenneth McGraw, spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, told The Times in an e-mail: “Whoever gave you that information is wrong. No such interview took place, and USSOCOM has never authorized anyone to discuss that mission.”

Asked if the New Yorker received an authorized briefing from a mission planner, a magazine spokeswoman told The Times that the author’s “aggressively reported story relied on numerous sources. However the New Yorker has a policy of not discussing confidential sources.”

Next, ‘The Finish’

The New Yorker article was hardly the first account of the raid based on interviews with Obama officials. On May 3, 2011, two days after the operation, the New York Times ran a large graphic showing the compound, a description of the SEALs movements and how the raid was executed.

Internal administration emails reveal that officials showed a detailed model of compound to moviemakers, with specific rooms identified.

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