A former member of America's elite and secretive SEAL Team Six stepped out of the shadows -- but still apparently in disguise -- to make his first public appearance to talk about the historic raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The ex-team member, who recently wrote a book about the mission called "No Easy Day" under the pseudonym Mark Owen, said in a CBS News' "60 Minutes" interview that his team practiced repeatedly for the mission in a mock-up replica of bin Laden's Abbottabad compound and after a practice run in front of what Owen called "VIPs," top Navy officials asked each member of the team if they were ready.
"And I'm pretty sure, to a man, we all said, 'Yes, absolutely,'" said Owen in excerpts of the interview broadcast tonight on "CBS Evening News With Scott Pelly." CBS said that in addition to the pseudonym, Owen was appearing in disguise for their interview. Owen left the service in April, according to military records provided to ABC News.
Copies of Owen's book, leaked today to two news outlets, describe the gruesome scene when Osama bin Laden died and offer details that appear to contradict some of the "official" account, according to the news organizations that obtained copies of the book.
"Blood and brains spilled out of the side of his skull," a passage in the book says, according to The Huffington Post.
In the book, the author said he was right behind the "point man" who first shot bin Laden after the al Qaeda leader poked his head out of a doorway on one of the upper floors of the complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. At the time, it wasn't immediately clear if those shots had connected.
"We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots. BOP. BOP," Owen writes of the May 2011 raid, according to the Huffington Post and The Associated Press, which also obtained a copy. "I couldn't tell from my position if the rounds hit the target or not. The man disappeared into the room."
It wasn't until several SEAL Team Six members entered the room that Owen learned some of the first shots hit their mark and that Osama bin Laden was the man bleeding and twitching on the ground with an apparent shot to the head. Still, Owen and another SEAL pointed their laser sights at his chest and "fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless."
The reported account appears to differ from earlier versions of the raid given by U.S. officials, including that of White House spokesperson Jay Carney, that the SEALs had entered the room before bin Laden was shot, that one of bin Laden's wives charged the SEALs and that bin Laden had "resisted" before he was killed, even if he was unarmed.
"No Easy Day" does say that two women were in the room when bin Laden died, but they were wailing over his body when the SEALs entered, the AP reported. White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment to The Associated Press on the discrepancies, but told the news organization, "As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, 'We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.'"
Owen also reportedly writes that the SEALs were told in a pre-raid briefing the mission was not an assassination and that bin Laden should be detained should he pose no threat.
Reports on the leaked copies came just hours after the book's publisher, Dutton, announced it was moving up the publishing date to Sept. 4 from its original intended release on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The move came after the book became the center of widespread controversy over possible national security breaches.
Officials from the White House to the Department of Defense to the CIA have said they were unaware of the book and had not reviewed it for possible leaks at the time of the first media reports. A Department of Defense spokesperson said Monday the department had received a copy of the manuscript and had begun reviewing it for potential security issues.
Owen also said he was aware the book could be used as a political pawn near the end of a tight presidential election.
"My worry from the beginning is, you know, it's a political season. This book is not political whatsoever," Owen told CBS. "You know, if these -- crazies on either side of the aisle want to make it political, shame on them. This is a book about Sept. 11, and it needs to rest on Sept. 11. Not be brought into the political arena, because this-- this has nothing to do with politics."
Dutton said Owen plans to donate a majority of the proceeds from his book to charities that help the families of fallen Navy SEALs.