Caked with make-up and facing possible disciplinary action for publishing his book on the Bin Laden raid, Mark Owen offered up the details of the SEAL Team 6's historic raid to 60 Minutes on Sunday night. The half hour-long segment took viewers through the entire saga, from the hundreds of practice runs on a full scale reproduction of Bin Laden's compound in North Carolina to the SEALs' unloading the slain terrorist's body from their Blackhawk helicopter. Even though it's been nearly a year and a half since the raid, the story is as enthralling as ever.
The interview itself was not without its fair share of drama. CBS took four hours to disguise Owen before the interview and altered his voice during. ("You know, the enemy has a long memory," Owen said.) They had the model of Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound standing ready in a stark blue spotlight as Owen pointed out what happened when and where. The freshest details, we're pleased to say, really make the story come together.
A CIA analyst who lead the search to find Bin Laden flew to Afghanistan with the SEALs. According to Owen, she was instrumental to tracking down the terrorist:
Mark Owen: I can't give her enough credit. I mean, she, in my opinion, she kind of teed up this whole thing. And is just, you know, wicked smart, kind of feisty.
About half of the SEALs caught a little bit of shut eye on their way to the raid. Because why not?
Mark Owen: … I swear, I glance around the helicopter and half the guys are sitting there asleep on the ride in. It was an hour and a half ride. Guys gotta catch a few Zs on the way in.
Scott Pelley: Wait a minute. Your team is flying in to Osama bin Laden's compound, and they're asleep?
Mark Owen: Yeah, no, it's your time to just kind of shut your eyes, relax, you know? Mentally walk through whatever you need to walk through.
Even Navy SEALs are scared of helicopter crashes. Okay, maybe "scared" isn't the right word, but Owen describes feeling an understandable amount of concern as his Blackhawk "banked hard 90 degrees" on their way into the compound. This is the copter that they'd leave behind:
Scott Pelley: As the helicopter is going down what were you thinking?
Mark Owen: "This is going to suck," you know. "Hey, wow."
The SEALs didn't recognized Bin Laden when they shot him. They were too busy:
Scott Pelley: Did you recognize him?
Mark Owen: Nope. You know, everybody thinks it was, like, you know it's him. No. To us, at that time, it could have been anybody. Maybe this was another brother. Maybe this is a bodyguard. Maybe, it doesn't matter. The point is to just continue clearing.
A child on the scene IDed Bin Laden's body. The SEALs had a body they suspected could be the terrorist leader, but to be sure, they got one of the Arabic-speaking soldiers to talk to the women and children on the scene:
Mark Owen: So he moved out to where the women and kids were, grabs one of the younger kids. Says, "Hey, who is that inside?" She says, "Osama." "Osama who?" "Osama bin Laden."
Scott Pelley: The child?
Mark Owen: The child.
Scott Pelley: Identified him?
Mark Owen: Yep. Grabbed one of the females, again asked her, "Hey, who is that?" She said, "Osama bin Laden."
Owen took the pictures of Bin Laden's body. But it took a little clean up effort first:
Mark Owen: I figured these were the-- probably some of the most important photos I'd ever take in my life. So you know, make sure I do it right, get good angles, and all this other stuff. But, you know, you gotta clean off the face, so you-- there's-- identifiable as possible. So one of my buddies had a Camelbak with some water in it. Got some, you know, spread some water on him, took a sheet off the bed, kind of wiped the blood off and then took photos.
Like any good American would, Owen celebrated with a nice hot meal from Taco Bell. And he didn't even get anything off of the special menu!
They told us we had a couple days off. And I grabbed my keys, went and got in my truck and, you know, I put it in the book. But, you know, I hit Taco Bell on the way home, hit the drive-thru, a couple tacos. And, you know, ate it in my car right there and then drove home.
Scott Pelley: You were part of the team that killed Osama bin Laden and the first thing you do when you get back to the United States is go to Taco Bell?
Mark Owen: Two tacos and a bean burrito. It's routine.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.