The retired Navy Seal who says he shot Osama bin Laden in the forehead has publicly identified himself amid a debate among the special operations community about breaking silence about their secret missions.
Robert O’Neill, 38, told the Washington Post that he fired the two shots that killed the al-Qaida mastermind in Pakistan in 2011.
He first recounted the story to Esquire magazine last February, which identified him only as “the shooter”.
One current and one former Seal have confirmed that Mr O’Neill was long known to have fired the shots that killed the leader of the international terror group responsible for the September 11 attacks.
Mr O’Neill told the Post that shots were also fired by two other Seal team members, including Matt Bissonnette, who described the raid somewhat differently in his book, No Easy Day.
His lawyer said Mr Bissonnette was under federal criminal investigation over whether he disclosed classified information in the book.
Mr O’Neill discussed his role in the raid during a private meeting with relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks before the recent opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
He is due to be featured in lengthy segments next week on Fox News and told the Post he decided to go public because he feared his identity was going to be leaked by others.
The actions of both Mr O’Neill and Mr Bissonnette have drawn scorn from some of their colleagues. In an open letter, Rear Admiral Brian Losey and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci urged Seals to lower their public profile in comments widely perceived as being aimed at Mr O’Neill and Mr Bissonnette.
“At Naval Special Warfare’s core is the Seal ethos,” the letter says. “A critical tenant of our ethos is: ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions’.”