The local commando community is not pleased that the man who says he killed Osama bin Laden is planning to reveal his identity and talk about his experiences in an upcoming Fox network documentary.
“I think most of us view it as not being particularly good,” said Tucker Campion, a retired Navy SEAL now living in Pinellas County. “We would rather be known as quiet professionals. We don’t want all that notoriety.”
On Nov. 11 and 12, Fox News Channel will air “The Man Who Killed Usama Bin Laden,” a two-part documentary featuring “an exclusive interview with the Navy SEAL who says he fired the shots that killed terrorist leader Usama Bin Laden,” according to a Fox media release, using an alternate spelling for the jihadi’s name. The retired SEAL, “who will reveal his identity and speak out publicly for the first time, describes the events leading up to and during the historical raid that took place on May 1st, 2011.”
Telling his story to Fox Washington correspondent Peter Doocy, “The Shooter,” who is still unnamed, “will provide an extensive, first-hand account of the mission.”
The Fox documentary won’t be the first time that “The Shooter” has talked about the bin Laden raid. In 2013, he told his story, anonymously, to Esquire.
In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.
But revealing his identity on top of telling his story has the SEAL community wary about “The Shooter’s” appearance on TV, said Campion.
“I spoke with a couple of my friends who were recently retired,” he says. “They are not excited about all of the coverage by the media. Our history has been quite quiet. We don’t make a big deal of the things we do. We try to stay away from the spotlight and would rather give credit to others.”
This isn’t the first time a public discussion about the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has created controversy.
The 2012 publication of “No Easy Day,” a book about the raid co-authored by one of its participants, retired Navy SEAL Mark Bissonnette, incurred the wrath of the Pentagon, which said Bissonnette was in breach of two non-disclosure agreements he signed with the Navy and that it was considering taking legal action against him. Lawyers for Dutton, a member of the Penguin Group which published the book, fired back, saying Bissonnette “is proud of his service and respectful of his obligations. But he has earned the right to tell his story; his abiding interest is to ensure that he is permitted to tell it while recognizing the letter and spirit of the law and his contractual undertakings.”
Officials from U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, declined comment about “The Shooter.” Retired Adm. William McRaven, the former Socom commander who planned the raid when he commanded Joint Special Operations Command, also declined comment, through a former staffer, retired Army Col. Stu Bradin.
The Pentagon said that while former or retired service members “are free to speak with the media and exercise their First Amendment rights, it is important for all former service members to adhere to their signed Non-disclosure Agreements when they seek to openly discuss classified or sensitive information, or make claims about their active duty operations or accomplishments,” said spokeswoman Amy Derrick-Frost.
“If in fact this individual was associated with the military unit that carried out the (Bin Laden) raid, which is yet to be determined, he is still bound by his Non-Disclosure Agreement to not discuss classified information, especially in a nationally televised interview,” Derrick-Frost said. “We urge any former SEAL to abide by the SEAL Ethos, particularly the core tenant, ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.’ ”
Fox officials declined to answer questions about the documentary, deferring to its media release issued Tuesday.
For Steve Rutherford, a retired SEAL now living in Tampa, the biggest concern over the documentary is for “The Shooter” himself.
“My concern is for him as an individual, dealing with a world in the condition it is now,” said Rutherford, who retired in 2011 as a commander, having served on SEAL Teams 1 and 5 among other Naval Special Warfare units. “With the amount of crazies there are out there now, especially after what happened in Canada, he is really taking a lot of risk by doing this.”
Rutherford said his secondary concern is the classified nature of the mission and whether “The Shooter” violated any secrecy agreements he had.
But Rutherford said enough time may have passed.
“I am a former quiet professional,” said Rutherford. “Life on the outside is different. My big concern would be whether he is jeopardizing the guys actively doing stuff and I do not see that as a big risk at the moment. Obviously, we are concerned with balancing the national security with our own ability to live and thrive and do the things we have to do now as civilians. He has freedom of speech like the rest of us.”
That “The Shooter” would reveal his identity is “very surprising to me,” said Campion, who served between 1980 and 2000, and was a commander with SEAL Team 5. “I am kind of shaking my head why that would occur.”
Publicity surrounding “The Shooter” is a “blessing and a curse” for the SEAL community.
“It was a very big event,” he said. “We have to realize that it is going to want to be covered. It will be covered. Maybe more people will realize some of the special things special operations forces do. It will end up being a neutral thing for us.”
Aside from the disdain the SEAL community has for those who bask in the spotlight, there is another concern, said Campion.
“This will absolutely bring out the fakes,” said Campion, who used to work with a group that outed those who falsely claimed to be SEALs. “Look at all the ones who came out after (bin Laden) was killed. We used to say the number was 10 to 1, fakes to real. That number jumped to 20 to 1 after the bin Laden raid. A media event like this, a lot of people will see it and hear about it and there will be more fakes ready to jump onto the bandwagon.”
Campion said he will watch the documentary “for entertainment value.” Rutherford said he might, eventually.
“I am not going to set time aside to watch it,” said Rutherford. “He is one of many guys who had to pull the trigger. A lot of guys put their lives on the line, like myself. A lot of guys didn’t come back.”
Former Socom commander Doug Brown, who once led all commandos, said there are two reasons he bristles at the notion of someone coming forward to claim a kill shot on bin Laden.
“We’re the quiet professionals,” said Brown. “One of the hallmarks of special operations is to be able to perform these kinds of missions without giving away details and putting other people doing missions around the world at risk. So anything that violates that, is probably not a good idea.”
There is another reason as well.
“I don’t think you want everyone who performs a sensitive mission to come forward and take credit,” said Brown. “We do a lot more missions than just killing bin Laden, And there’s a lot of people involved in a mission like that. It’s the guys who get you to the target, who do the planning, produce the intelligence. It just happens to be you are the final guy in a long string of hard work that was done by thousands of people to get you to that point where you can then execute whatever the mission is.”