New details emerged Tuesday into the raid that left Osama Bin Laden dead -- specifically how Navy SEALs had to go to Plan B after that helicopter malfunctioned.
U.S. officials, who were briefed on the operation, told the Associated Press new details that create a more thorough understanding of the mission -- and dispel a few myths that have already formed. The officials, who didn't want their names released, said the original plan called for a sneak attack on the compound.
The AP writes:
The Black Hawks were specially engineered to muffle the tail rotor and engine sound, two officials said. The added weight of the stealth technology meant cargo was calculated to the ounce, with weather factored in. The night of the mission, it was hotter than expected.
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The plan was to have the choppers hover silently over the courtyard and roof, and have the SEALs slide down ropes and enter the house without anyone inside knowing. The teams would search from top to bottom in silence. Meanwhile, at that same moment, other SEALS would quietly storm the ground floor and search bottom to top.
However, the helicopter malfunctioned:
The plan unraveled as the first helicopter tried to hover over the compound. The Black Hawk skittered around uncontrollably in the heat-thinned air, forcing the pilot to land. As he did, the tail and rotor got caught on one of the compound's 12-foot walls. The pilot quickly buried the aircraft's nose in the dirt to keep it from tipping over, and the SEALs clambered out into an outer courtyard.
The other aircraft did not even attempt hovering, landing its SEALs outside the compound.
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The element of surprise gone, the SEALs reverted to another scenario for which they had trained, blowing their way into the house with explosives. Blowing through walls and doors and barriers at each stair landing, they made their way to the top floor, where they saw Bin Laden in a hallway. He ducked into a room.
The three SEALs assumed he was going for a weapon, and one by one they rushed after him through the door, one official described.
Two women were in front of bin Laden, yelling and trying to protect him, two officials said. The first SEAL grabbed the two women and shoved them away, fearing they might be wearing suicide bomb vests, they said.
The SEAL behind him opened fire at bin Laden, putting one bullet in his chest, and one in his head.
At the White House Situation Room, word was sent that Bin Laden was dead, using the code word "Geronimo."
That was not bin Laden's code name, but rather a representation of the letter "G." Each step of the mission was labeled alphabetically, and "Geronimo" meant that the raiders had reached step "G," the killing or capture of bin Laden, two officials said.
The report also said the Obama administration knew this was going to be the only chance to get Bin Laden. The officials said the U.S. did not tell Pakistan about the raid, and knew it would be outraged at the incursion, making a future attempt impossible.
U.S. officials believe Pakistani intelligence continues to support militants who attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and actively undermine U.S. intelligence operations to go after al-Qaida inside Pakistan. The level of distrust is such that keeping Pakistan in the dark was a major factor in planning the raid, and led to using the high-tech but sometimes unpredictable helicopter technology that nearly unhinged the mission.