SEAL Team 6 is famous for killing Osama bin Laden, daring rescue missions, and covert operations, but a new report says that some in the elite military unit have participated in gruesome atrocities (video below).
Matthew Cole writes in The Intercept that some of the SEALs engaged in corpse mutilations, unjustified killings, attempted beheadings, skinnings and a level of violence -- in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places -- that some SEAL Team 6 sources equated to war crimes.
The sources told Cole that this extraordinary violence -- even against innocent people -- began when SEAL team member Neil Roberts was killed by al-Qaeda fighters, who attempted to cut his head off, in Afghanistan in March 2002.
The incident became known as "Roberts Ridge," and reportedly created a revenge mentality in some SEALs.
Sources told Cole that most members of SEAL Team 6 did not take part in the atrocities, but the violent misconduct among some was consistent, and that senior leaders knew about it, but did not do much to stop it.
"You can’t win an investigation on us," a former SEAL Team 6 leader told Cole. "You don’t whistleblow on the teams … and when you win on the battlefield, you don’t lose investigations."
Cole told Democracy Now! on Jan. 10 about a brutal practice that some SEAL Team 6 members did called "canoeing":
I would say one of the, if not the darkest secret in the last 15 years is that over the course of the war, SEAL Team 6, as well as other elements of JSOC, were involved in something called canoeing, which is a form of firing a bullet in the top of the forehead that splits the head open in the most gruesome manner and leaves, frankly, the brain matter exposed, and looks like a—puts the head, the top of the head, in the shape of a V, with a negative space that looks like a canoe would fit in there or that a canoe went through it. And it can happen incidentally in battle, and it does happen incidentally in battle.
What I found was that for a period of years SEAL Team 6 was photographing—they photographed their dead for documentation and preservation. And for a period of years, canoed dead took up an enormous amount of space in those—in that catalog. And it was not mathematically possible. And what my sources said were, it became a sport. You shoot a person when they’re dead or dying, at very close range, for the sake of seeing the gruesome results.
Cole believes that bin Laden was executed in this manner, which may explain why his body has never been seen.