WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) -- A firsthand account of the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden contradicts previous accounts by administration officials, raising questions as to whether the terror mastermind presented a clear threat when SEALs first fired upon him.
Bin Laden apparently was shot in the head when he looked out of his bedroom door into the top-floor hallway of his compound as SEALs rushed up a narrow stairwell in his direction, according to a former Navy SEAL, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen in "No Easy Day." The book is to be published next week by Penguin Group (USA)'s Dutton imprint.
Owen writes that he was directly behind a point man going up the stairs in the pitch black hallway. Near the top, he said, he heard two shots, but the book doesn't make it clear who fired them. He wrote that the point man had seen a man peeking out of a door on the right side of the hallway.
"We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots. BOP. BOP," writes Owen. "I couldn't tell from my position if the rounds hit the target or not. The man disappeared into the dark room." Presumably, those are likely the shots that killed bin Laden.
The author writes that the man ducked back into his bedroom and the SEALs followed, only to find the man crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood with a hole visible on the right side of his head and two women wailing over his body.
"Blood and brains spilled out of the side of his skull” and he was still twitching and convulsing, Owen writes, according to Huffington Post.
Owen says the point man pulled the two women out of the way and shoved them into a corner. He and the other SEALs trained their guns' laser sights on bin Laden's still-twitching body, shooting him several times until he lay motionless. Only when they wiped the blood off his face, were they certain it was bin Laden.
The SEALs later found two weapons stored by the doorway, untouched, the author said.
Administration officials briefing reporters in the days after the May 2011 raid in Pakistan said the SEALs shot bin Laden only after he ducked back into the bedroom because they assumed he might be reaching for a weapon.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor would not comment on the apparent contradiction late Tuesday. But he said in an email Wednesday, "As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, `We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.'"
"No Easy Day" was due out Sept. 11, but Dutton announced the book would be available a week early, Sept. 4, because of a surge of orders due to advance publicity that drove the book to the top of the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com best-seller lists.
The Associated Press purchased a copy of the book Tuesday.
The account is sure to renew questions about whether the raid was intended to capture or simply to kill bin Laden. Owen writes that during a pre-raid briefing, an administration lawyer told them that they were not on an assassination mission. According to Owen, the lawyer said that if bin Laden was "naked with his hands up," they should not engage him. If bin Laden did not pose a threat, they should detain him.
A former deputy judge advocate general for the Air Force said the shooting was understandable according to the orders the SEALS had.
"It wasn't unreasonable for the SEALs to shoot the individual who stuck his head out," said the former JAG, ret. Maj. Gen. Charlie Dunlap, who now teaches at Duke University law school.
"In a confined space like that where it is clear that there are hostiles, the SEALs need to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety and accomplish the mission," Dunlap said.
Dunlap adds that shooting bin Laden's fallen form was also reasonable in his legal opinion, to keep the terrorist from possibly blowing himself up or getting a weapon and shooting at the SEALs.
In another possibly uncomfortable revelation for U.S. officials who say bin Laden's body was treated with dignity before being given a full Muslim burial at sea, the author reveals that in the cramped helicopter flight out of the compound, one of the SEALs was sitting on bin Laden's chest as the body lay at the author's feet in the middle of the cabin, for the short flight to a refueling stop inside Pakistan where a third helicopter was waiting.
This is common practice, as U.S. troops sometimes must sit on their own war dead in packed helicopters. Space was cramped because one of the helicopters had crashed in the initial assault, leaving little space for the roughly two dozen commandos in the two aircraft that remained. When the commandos reached the third aircraft, bin Laden's body was moved to it.
The author, a 36-year-old ex Navy SEAL who also was involved in a previous 2007 attempt to capture Bin Laden and the 2009 operation to rescue Captain Richard Phillips from pirates off the coast of Somalia, slams President Obama in the book for using the raid for political gain.
"We had seen it before when he took credit for the Captain Phillips rescue. Although we applauded the decision-making in this case, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that he would take all the political credit for this too," Owen writes.
"None of us were huge fans of Obama. We respected him as the commander in chief of the military and for giving us the green light on the mission," he continues. But even so, Owen asks, "Well, would you rather not have done this?"
Owens also writes: “We all knew the deal. We were tools in the toolbox, and when things go well they promote it. They inflate their roles. But we should have done it. It was the right call to make. Regardless of the politics that would come along with it, the end result was what we all wanted.”
Owens also reveals that he was hesitant to sign the American flag presented to President Obama when the SEALs met him at the White House because he was worried it would reveal his identity, according to HuffPo. Also, he says his pocketknife set off the metal detector alarm at the presidential mansion.
Following Obama’s speech and suffering through Biden’s "lame jokes that no one got (He seemed like a nice guy, but he reminded me of someone’s drunken uncle at Christmas dinner)" the president invited the team to return to the White House for a beer some other time.
However, Owen writes: "We never got the call to have a beer at the White House." Joking with a fellow SEAL, "Hey, did you ever hear anything about that beer?” Walt shoots back: “ You believed that shit. I bet you voted for change too, sucker."
Beyond such embarrassing observations, U.S. officials fear the book may include classified information, as it did not undergo the formal review required by the Pentagon for works published by former or current Defense Department employees.
Officials from the Pentagon and the CIA, which commanded the mission, are examining the manuscript for possible disclosure of classified information and could take legal action against the author.
In a statement provided to the AP, the author says he did "not disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way."
Owen's real name was first revealed by Fox News and confirmed to the AP.
Jihadists on al-Qaida websites have posted purported photos of the author, calling for his murder.
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