"I killed Osama bin Laden"

Esquire sits down with the man who fired the fatal shots -- and learns the SEALs have abandoned him

By Daniel D'Addario

Published February 11, 2013 3:54PM (EST)

Esquire has published a profile of the man who shot Osama bin Laden, though the SEAL is never named in the piece. Author Phil Bronstein notes that he developed a relationship with the shooter, drinking Scotch together, and learning some startling revelations about the day bin Laden died.

Some of the things Bronstein learned include:

  • Bin Laden's shooter will be leaving the military shortly with "No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family." (His health insurance ceased at midnight the day he left the service.) He's obsessed with protecting his family as a consequence of his role in the death of bin Laden and "he has trained his children to hide in their bathtub" and his wife in marksmanship.
  • In order to further protect his family, the shooter is officially separated from his wife (though they live together) and the family is considering removing his name from the deed to their house. As his wife puts it: "Essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other."
  • The military considered various options when it came time to kill bin Laden. "They were either going to bomb the piss out of the compound with two-thousand-pound ordnance, they were going to send us in, do some kind of joint thing with the Pakis, or try what was called a 'hammer throw,' where a drone flies by and chucks one fucking bomb at the guy." The government hoped both to minimize collateral damage and to make certain bin Laden was dead.
  • Another Navy SEAL tackled two women he believed to be in suicide-bomber vests in order to allow the shooter a clear shot at bin Laden. "He thought he was going to absorb the blast of suicide vests," says the shooter. "He was going to kill himself so I could get the shot. It was the most heroic thing I've ever seen."
  • The film "Zero Dark Thirty" has some accuracy issues, per the SEAL: "The tactics on the screen 'sucked,' he says, and 'the mission in the damn movie took way too long' compared with the actual event." He had praise, though, for Jessica Chastain's character, based on a real CIA operative.
  • It wasn't just a desire for greater safety that led the SEAL to leave Seal Team Six. "I realized that when I stopped getting an adrenaline rush from gunfights, it was time to go."

Daniel D'Addario

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Esquire Navy Seal Osama Bin Laden Phil Bronstein