The Changing Story of the Fight in Bin Laden's Compound

Bin Laden was not, in fact, armed, Jay Carney says

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The details of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound have changed a bit from last night to this morning to this afternoon. Contradicting yesterday's reports from Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, White House spokesman Jay Carney said today that Bin Laden was not armed when U.S. commandos raided his compound. He also said that it was "unclear" whether anybody had used a woman as a human shield, as Bin Laden was originally reported to have done.

At a briefing for television reporters on Monday night, one official told Politico's John Gerstein that, "a different guy's wife was killed," but nobody had been used as a human shield. Carney today said one woman had been killed in the crossfire as troops stormed the building that held Bin Laden. "The U.S. team found bin Laden in a room with one of his wives on one of the upper floors, Carney said. Bin Laden's wife rushed the U.S. commandos, and was shot in leg but not killed, he said. Bin Laden resisted and was shot and killed, Carney said." He didn't describe how Bin Laden had resisted, but said, "I think resistance does not require a firearm." Brennan had previously suggested Bin Laden had participated in a firefight.

There was also a report that one of Bin Laden's sons had been killed, and while Brennan said yesterday it was Khalid, the White House transcript of the briefing had the name as Hamza, Politico noted. A total of five people in the compound, including Bin Laden, were killed in the raid, Carney said.

The U.S. military has a shaky history when it comes to mismanaging early reports of its action. It's been well documented that in 2004, the U.S. Army initially covered up Corporal (and former NFL star) Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire in Afghanistan, reporting at first that he was shot by an enemy. In 2003, early reports about Private First Class Jessica Lynch's brave resistance to her Iraqi captors turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Right now it looks like the military and intelligence agencies are just getting their facts straight after a chaotic 48 hours, and not engaged in any kind of cover-up. What would be the point, anyway? This seems to be a pure win for them.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.