Spec-Ops Command: SEAL raid book 'a lie'

November 15, 2011 - 6:25 PM
Bin Laden Raid Book

FILE - In this May 5, 2011 photo, Pakistani army troops guard the perimeter of the walled compound of a house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The U.S. military is denouncing a former Navy SEAL’s book that claims to describe the “real” version of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, taken from alleged eyewitness accounts. Laden with conspiracy theories and attacks on the White House, Chuck Pfarrer’s “SEAL Target Geronimo” claims the SEAL team shot bin Laden within 90 seconds of arriving at his Pakistan hideout. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Special Operations Command is calling a former Navy SEAL's alternate version of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden a bogus work of fiction.

"It's just not true," U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye said. "It's not how it happened."

Laden with conspiracy theories and attacks on the Obama White House, Chuck Pfarrer's book, "SEAL Target Geronimo" claims an alternative version of the raid in which the SEAL team shot bin Laden within 90 seconds of arriving at the Pakistan compound where the al-Qaida mastermind was holed up.

Pfarrer claims the White House issued a fictional and damaging account of the raid that made the SEALs looks inept. He says President Barack Obama's speedy acknowledgement of the raid was a craven political move that rendered much of the intelligence gathered on the raid useless.

Pfarrer's account broke into Amazon's top 20 book sales list last week, and Pfarrer has appeared on Fox News, CNN and in other venues to promote it.

"I have truth on my side," Pfarrer said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I spoke to the guys on the ground and in the secondary bird," he said, referring to the aircraft carrying a second SEAL team as a backup rescue squad.

"This is a fabrication," Nye countered, issuing an on-the-record denial on behalf of Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven, who took command of all special operations in midyear.

In his previous role, McRaven oversaw the raid in May as head of the military's elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command. Nye said McRaven was concerned the book would lead Americans to doubt the administration's version of events.

Pfarrer had no access to any troops connected to the mission, Nye said. He said there will be no investigation into whether individual SEALs spoke to Pfarrer because his account is so off-base.

Among his other claims, Pfarrer insists the stealth helicopter that the White House said crashed within moments of launching the raid actually crashed later. He says the SEALs were able to launch their raid as they had planned it, by landing atop the building while another team surged from below.

Pfarrer also said the way the White House described the SEALs shooting bin Laden — that he was unarmed but trying to evade them — is "murder." He said his version, which has bin Laden reaching for a gun, makes the killing legal.

Officials involved in the raid say Pfarrer is out of date on the post-9/11 laws of war, which sanction targeting al-Qaida with deadly force.

Pfarrer defended the book as a patriotic way to laud the "heroes of the bin Laden mission." He said he is fighting a losing battle with cancer, and that the book profits will help pay medical bills.

He claims he is still part of the fighting SEAL network, even intimating that he was part of the bin Laden raid preparation.

"It was my privilege to help troops and platoons train for submissions and run parallel HVT (high-value target) missions," Pfarrer writes.

"That is categorically incorrect," Nye said.

Pfarrer responded that he conducted training for the SEAL Team 6's parent organization, the Naval Special Warfare Command, through his defense security company Acme Ballistics. He refused to describe how it was related to the raid, saying the contracts are classified.

Pfarrer frequently claims that his accounts come from a top secret world, and that a reader must take his word on faith.

But Pfarrer gets a multitude of facts wrong in describing events that are part of the public record.

For instance, Pfarrer states that Obama appointed McRaven as the first Navy SEAL to head JSOC in April of this year. McRaven was actually appointed to that post in early 2008 by President George W. Bush. He states that the Army Special Forces Green Berets were established in 1962, instead of 1952. When U.S. special operations forces rehearsed for the famous Son Tay Raid in Vietnam in 1970, they trained at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, not Offutt in Nebraska.

And a jet bombing run, not a drone strike, killed Iraqi al-Qaida ringleader Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2006.

Special operations leaders have stepped forward to say Pfarrer is at best misinformed and at worst a profiteering self-promoter.

"The reaction is stunned, chagrined, disappointment," said retired Navy SEAL Rear Adm. George Worthington.

Pfarrer has made a two-decade career in Hollywood with books and screenplays taken from his roughly eight years as a junior officer with the SEALs. His current book includes romantic descriptions of the SEAL raiders.

"When a room is entered, SEALs go into a state like satori — a wide-awake Zen consciousness," Pfarrer wrote. "All of the SEAL's senses are magnified."