The ‘official story’ of bin Laden’s death: A timeline

What really happened here? We may never know,

What really happened in Abbottobad early Monday morning? It’s hard to know for sure, because the official story keeps changing. A timeline:

Sunday night: In his speech announcing bin Laden’s death , President Obama is brief and vague: "A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."

Monday: The first extended narratives of the killing go out of their way to amp up the drama. As Counterterrorism Chief John Brennan told reporters: "He was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in.  And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly don’t know." Rumors abound that bin Laden used his wife as a human shield, though those are later shot down.

Tuesday: The White House walks back the earlier assertion, saying bin Laden was not armed, but still a threat. From spokesman Jay Carney: "We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance. There were many other people who were armed in the compound."

Wednesday morning: The New York Times publishes a new account of the mission that makes it seem much more one-sided:

"Administration officials said that the only shots fired by those in the compound came at the beginning of the operation, when Bin Laden’s trusted courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, opened fire from behind the door of the guesthouse adjacent to the house where Bin Laden was hiding.

"After the SEAL members shot and killed Mr. Kuwaiti and a woman in the guesthouse, the Americans were never fired upon again."

Wednesday afternoon: New details emerge, attempting to justify the killing of the unarmed bin Laden. From the Telegraph:

"Mike Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, defended the decision to kill bin Laden, saying the Seals had to assume the entire building might have been booby-trapped with explosives.

"’They didn’t know if he had his finger on a button,’ he said. ‘Think of all the things that are possible with someone who has killed 3,000 people.’

"[...] Meanwhile a daughter of bin Laden who was taken into custody following the raid has reportedly claimed that her father was executed after being taken into custody."

What details will emerge today? When will will learn that bin Laden was actually in the bathroom when the SEALs attacked?

UPDATE: The new news today, unconfirmed, is that only one of the men in bin Laden’s compound was armed at all. From the AP:

Only one of the five people killed in the raid that got Osama bin Laden was armed and fired any shots, a senior defense official said Thursday, acknowledging the new account differs greatly from original administration portrayals of a chaotic, intense and prolonged firefight.


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