Because every morsel of information about the U.S. raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan earlier this week has been closely considered and scrutinized, the shifting nature of the White House’s story has been extra apparent. By Thursday morning, the initial tales of a 40-minute firefight between U.S. forces and those in Bin Laden’s compound seem like a distant memory as the New York Times reports that the attack by about two dozen Navy SEALs, “though chaotic and bloody, was extremely one-sided.” Far from a protracted gun battle, the Americans were only fired on by one man; though technically unarmed, Bin Laden, they say now, had two guns at “arm’s reach.”
U.S. forces were initially said to have been “engaged in a firefight throughout the operation,” according to White House spokesman Jay Carney, but new versions from anonymous administration officials say that only “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.”
Bin Laden was shot and killed, according to the latest revision, with an AK-47 and Makarov pistol close by.
The idea that President Obama was watching the whole thing, as previously reported, has also since been refuted, with CIA director Leon Panetta explaining that for about 25 minutes, the live feed from the helmet cameras stopped working. “We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials have gone so far as to call the raid “cold-blooded,” and claim that their investigation shows that those hiding in the compound never fired at Americans. “The people inside the house were unarmed. There was no resistance,” an anonymous official told Reuters.
Attorney General Eric Holder maintains the legality of the attack, saying, “It was justified as an act of national self-defense.”