“He died afraid, and he knew we were there to kill him. And that’s closure,” Robert O’Neill says.
His decision to go public last week attracted scorn from serving and former Navy Seals, with some suggesting that another member of the elite Seal Team Six was responsible for the delivering the final shots that brought an end to the al- Qaeda chief’s reign of terror during a Naval special forces raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.
But O’Neill says he does not care if people believe him.
“The most important thing that I’ve learned in the last two years is to me it doesn’t matter anymore if I am ‘The Shooter.’ The team got him,” he said in an audio interview quoted by CNN.
The killing of bin Laden will go down in history, O’Neill said. “But I don’t care if I’m ‘The Shooter,’ and there are people who think I’m not. So whatever.”
The audio interview follows an interview published this week in The Washington Post, in which O’Neill, 38, publicly identified himself as the SEAL who killed bin Laden.
O’Neill told the Post that other SEAL team members were involved in the raid, including Matt Bissonnette, who detailed the group’s experiences in his memoir, “No Easy Day,” written under the pseudonym Mark Owen.
O’Neill, who had been serving as a SEAL for 15 years at the time of the bin Laden raid, had participated in other missions, but he said he feared this mission would be his most difficult.
He and other team members believed they would not return alive from the mission to get bin Laden.
“Well, you have to go pump yourself up to go die. So we would talk about this,” O’Neill said.
“…(It was a) group of guys who knew time on Earth was up, so you could be honest with each other. And we all accepted and nobody was afraid. It was really cool.”
O’Neill’s move to go public is a controversial one, as it violated an unspoken military rule, Don’t seek attention for your service.
In the audio interview, O’Neill says he believes some details about the bin Laden mission, such as how he was killed, were no longer classified because they had been repeatedly leaked in the aftermath by high-level officials.
“Once anyone says anything at that level, it’s not classified,” he said.
23 SEALs and their interpreter launched the assault on the bin Laden compound on May 2, 2011. They shot and killed bin Laden’s two bodyguards, one of bin Laden’s sons and the wife of one of the bodyguards. They also wounded two other women.