An article from DJHJ Media has gone viral on Facebook suggesting that SEAL Team Six may not have actually killed Osama bin Laden. The article is the latest in a series of pieces promoting a QAnon conspiracy theory that bin Laden is still alive and that the Obama administration covered up its failure to kill him by murdering members of SEAL Team Six to keep them silent. A previous article on this conspiracy theory by the same author was infamously retweeted by President Trump earlier this month. The story was widely debunked as being without evidence, with even one of the (still very much alive) members of the team that killed bin Laden taking to Twitter to set the record straight.
In this latest article, the DJHJ Media writer attempts to present out-of-context comments from a Navy SEAL as proof that bin Laden is still alive and that Obama covered up the truth. She writes: “According to a 60 Minutes program one of the men who shot and killed the target did not recognize him as Osama Bin Laden.”
The basis for this claim is a 2012 60 Minutes episode on the killing of bin Laden, which featured an interview with the SEAL, who went by the pseudonym Mark Owen. During the interview, Owen described securing the bin Laden compound, moving through the house and taking out members of the household. Owen told the CBS interviewer, Scott Pelley, that after his team dispatched two gunmen and bin Laden’s son Khalid, the lead SEAL shot someone he saw poke his head around the corner of a wall. The SEALs then moved into the room the man was in and found him still alive. The DJHJ Media article claims that at this point “The man lying on the ground is identified as Osama Bin Laden and was shot and killed.” It also quotes Owen as denying that he recognized bin Laden.
In fact, Owen told Pelley that they did not attempt to identify the man until after they finished clearing the house. The full exchange:
Scott Pelley: You stepped into the room and saw the man lying on the floor? What did you do?
Mark Owen: Myself and the next assaulter in, we both engaged him several more times and then rolled off and then continued clearing the room.
Scott Pelley: When you say you engaged him, what do you mean?
Mark Owen: Fired.
Scott Pelley: You shot him?
Mark Owen: Yeah.
Scott Pelley: He’s still moving?
Mark Owen: A little bit. But you couldn’t see his arms. Couldn’t see his hands. So, he could’ve had something. Could’ve had a hand grenade or something underneath his chest.
Scott Pelley: So, after Osama bin Laden is wounded, he’s still moving. You shot him twice?
Mark Owen: A handful of times.
Scott Pelley: A handful of times, and the SEAL in the stack behind you also shot Osama bin Laden. And at that point, his body was still?
Mark Owen: Yes.
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.
It is worth noting that Owen said earlier in the interview that the SEALs were all wearing night vision goggles, further making a split-second identification difficult. Owen stated that after the house was secured, the SEALs set about identifying bin Laden. When they reexamined the body of the man Owen described shooting in the room, they concluded that he looked like bin Laden, though Owen noted that his beard was not as gray as expected. Owen further noted that the man was noticeably tall, and that bin Laden was 6’4,” and that his facial features looked like the photos he had studied of bin Laden.
“His nose to me was something that I could kind of identify. So, you know, kind of looking at the profile shots and everything, I was like, ‘OK,’ I was pretty sure that was him,” said Owen. He hesitated to confirm this with his superiors, however, because he suspected that the president was listening in to the conversation. Instead, the SEALs brought in women and children from the house and asked them to identify the body. After receiving confirmation that it was bin Laden, the team called it in.
The DJHJ Media article also quotes extensively from a Judicial Watch article about an order for military members to destroy any copies of pictures they may have, and the federal government’s refusal to release pictures of bin Laden’s body. This information is presented as further evidence of a coverup. However, the order that Judicial Watch cited specifically states that pictures were to be turned over to the CIA, and the CIA has said it has 52 pictures and videos of the body. The CIA justified its decision to classify these images arguing that their publication might incite terror attacks.
The DJHJ Media article claims that the Navy SEAL team that killed bin Laden did not recognize him and that a coverup was put in place by the White House. However, the evidence it presents is deeply lacking; the quotes provided are taken out of context and no mention is made of the government’s justification for not publishing pictures of bin Laden’s corpse. While there was insufficient time to immediately identify bin Laden, SEAL Team Six identified bin Laden after shooting him and had other members of his household identify him as well. Readily available information—that the article even cites—indicates that picture proof of bin Laden’s corpse exists and that it wasn’t released to prevent terrorists responding to the release of gruesome pictures of bin Laden’s death with acts of terror.
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Photograph from Getty Images.