01:25 - Source: CNN
Ex-SEAL speaks out on bin Laden raid

Story highlights

The former SEAL has dismissed criticism surrounding his decision to go public

Robert O'Neill initially wasn't slated to be part of team that would raid compound

"The more we trained on it the more we realized this is gonna be a one-way mission," he said

(CNN) —  

The former Navy SEAL who says he shot and killed Osama bin Laden had just returned from his 11th deployment when he was called back for the 2011 raid on the U.S.’s most wanted terrorist’s Pakistan compound.

But Robert O’Neill and his SEAL Team Six teammates didn’t know they were preparing for a raid in Pakistan. And they didn’t know bin Laden was the target.

“They sat us in a room and they said, ‘Hey we found a thing. And the thing’s in a house and the house is in a bowl and the bowl is in a country and you’re going to go to that house and you’re going to get that thing and you’re going to bring it back to us.’ And that was it,” O’Neill recounted in a Fox News interview that aired Tuesday night.

O’Neill has faced heat from other Navy SEALs who have either discredited his claims or said that it’s impossible for O’Neill to know that it was his bullets that struck and killed bin Laden.

Without directly addressing O’Neill and his claims, the military brass wrote a timely letter criticizing SEALs who take public credit for their actions.

“We do not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety or financial gain,” commanding officer B.L. Losey and force master sergeant M.L. Margaraci said in an October 31 letter to the Naval Special Warfare ranks.

O’Neill said he and his colleagues, all senior SEALs, initially assumed the target was Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhaffi as the timing coincided with the NATO intervention in the North African country.

But as planners began sharing the names of certain people linked to the raid, it clicked for O’Neill and his fellow SEALs.

“It’s bin Laden. They found him. We’re going to get him,” O’Neill recalled.

O’Neill initially wasn’t slated to be part of the team that would raid the compound itself. He was supposed to be the leader of a small team responsible for security outside the compound.

But the lead CIA analyst – who was portrayed by Jessica Chastain in the film “Zero Dark Thirty” – told O’Neill, “If you want to kill him. He’s on the third floor. 100%.”

“So I actually talked myself out of a team leader spot so I could stay on the helicopter and then go to the roof,” O’Neill said, becoming part of the unit the SEALs referred to as the “martyr’s brigade.”

“The more we trained on it the more we realized this is gonna be a one-way mission. We’re gonna go and we’re not gonna come back. We’re gonna die when the house blows up, we’re going to die when he blows up or we’re gonna be there too long and we’re gonna get arrested by the Pakistanis and we’re going to spend the rest of our short lives in Pakistan prison,” O’Neill said.

But O’Neill brushed off the criticism in an audio interview that aired Friday on CNN’s “AC360°”

“Even now, I mean, there are guys now saying that I am full of s—,” he said. “You only know what you were told unless you were in the room. And unfortunately for me, there was two people in the room, and one of us is dead and that’s Osama bin Laden.”