Religion

No U.S. Sailors Witnessed Osama bin Laden's Burial at Sea, Emails Say

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The Defense Department has released internal emails sent between U.S. military officers after the death and at-sea burial of Osama bin Laden.

The emails are the first public disclosure of information since the al-Qaida leader’s death during the Navy SEAL raid of his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan last May.

The Associated Press, through the Freedom of Information Act, obtained the heavily blacked-out emails Wednesday. The emails reveal that no sailors watched the burial from the USS Carl Vinson — only a small group of the ship’s top leadership knew of the burial — and traditional Islamic procedures were followed.

“The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag,” the May 2 email from Rear Adm. Charles Gaouette reads, as reported by The Associated Press. “A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.”

Details of the Abbottabad raid, despite the Obama administration’s commitment to transparency, have been closely guarded by the Defense Department and the CIA, the latter of which has special legal privilege to keep its information private.

The Defense Department, in response to separate requests from the AP, said in March that photographs and video cannot be found that show bin Laden’s body aboard the Vinson. Photographs and video taken during the raid, too, do not show bin Laden, according to the Defense Department.