Ex-Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill Recounts Details of Raid
Interviewed by Savannah Guthrie on NBC's TODAY, Ex-Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill Describes Raid — and Coming Face to Face with bin Laden.
On November 14, 2014, ex-Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill made an early morning appearance on NBC’s TODAY show, where news anchor Savannah Guthrie had many questions for him, starting with:
Concern for safety: “Your face and your name are now public.”
Guthrie points out, “You can walk down the street and people might know that you're the one who killed Osama bin Laden. Are you ready for that?"
Pressed for time, Guthrie then presses for details: “Let’s talk about the raid…”
Guthrie asks O'Neill how it came to be that he went from having “more of a supervisory role outside the building" to being the one who shot bin Laden inside the compound.
O’Neill verifies, "I was perimeter security leader, but I moved to the rooftop team.” He elaborates, “After speaking with intelligence…if any house was going to blow up, this one would. The most dangerous spot would be the rooftop, and I wanted to go with my guys.”
Guthrie asks O’Neill point blank, "Is it that you wanted a chance to take a shot at bin Laden.” To which he responds, "I would take it if it came to me. I just wanted to be with my guys if something happened."
As it so happened, something did happen — O’Neill was able to take the shot.
On coming face to face with bin Laden: “What was it like?”
Guthrie asks O’Neill to recall “in those moments in the dark” what it was like being “face to face with bin Laden.”
O'Neill accounts, “I can't say what he was thinking. He was not surrendering.” He adds, “Had he surrendered, we would have taken him (alive) because of intelligence, obviously. He was not surrendering and he was a threat. I took the shot because it was my primary threat." O'Neill concludes.
Taking a moment for it to register…
Following the shooting, O'Neill says, it “took a moment” for things to register. Then it kicked in, "OK, we have a little bit of time here to collect more intelligence so we can properly defend this country further. O’Neill recalls the “wow” feeling that came with the realization, “We might get through this mission.”
Clearing the air: Conflicting accounts of who fired shot attributed to “fog of war.”
Guthrie brings up a potentially uncomfortable topic: the fact that there has been a “conflicting accounting” by another Navy SEAL who claims that he (not O’Neill) actually fired the kill shot.
Seemingly unfazed, O'Neill simply attributes the discrepancy to "fog of war." He adds, “To say this mission and the last few moments were high stress is doing a great disservice to high stress.” O’Neill sums it up by saying, “I can tell you what I saw…Osama bin Laden standing there and I shot him and I killed him. Regardless, this was a very good thing that we did."
Now a veteran, O’Neill on new mission.
It's clear O'Neill doesn't want the interview to wrap up before discussing his latest mission: helping veterans.
"I got out of the military before my 20-year mark,” O’Neill explains, “and I understand what it's like to transition without a pension.” O’Neill talks about his foundation work (with YourGratefulNation.org) and their involvement helping special operations vets with issues ranging from bills to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
O'Neill proudly announces, "We just gave our first grant out to a former SEAL Team Six member.”