New Account of the Night Bin Laden Was Killed

The New Yorker publishes a painstaking account of the Abbottabad raid

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We've read plenty of accounts reconstructing the night of May 1--but none, or at least very few, have given us the impression of actually sitting in the Blackhawk helicopter with the Navy SEAL team as it descended on Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound. In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Nicholas Schmidle painstakingly reconstructs the events of the evening and the years of training leading up to it. Among the things included in the story:

  • The set-up for the Situation Room: White House orders Costco sandwiches while waiting on the raid. "At eleven o’clock, Obama’s top advisers began gathering around a large conference table. A video link connected them to Panetta, at C.I.A. headquarters, and McRaven, in Afghanistan. (There were at least two other command centers, one inside the Pentagon and one inside the American Embassy in Islamabad.)"
  • A Navy SEAL wraps two of bin Laden's wives "in a bear hug" to check them for suicide vests. "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."
  • Details about who was armed and who wasn't--bin Laden wasn't. "A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed."
  • How samples were taken for DNA tests. "When the rescue Chinook eventually arrived, a medic stepped out and knelt over the corpse. He injected a needle into bin Laden’s body and extracted two bone-marrow samples. More DNA was taken with swabs. One of the bone-marrow samples went into the Black Hawk. The other went into the Chinook, along with bin Laden’s body."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.