White House modifies earlier reports of Bin Laden raid


Early reports from the White House on the details of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden are now confirmed to have been partly inaccurate.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, in a briefing to reporters taking place as I type this post, has confirmed that bin Laden was not armed, as initially stated. Carney says bin Laden "resisted," but had no weapon. How did he resist? Carney defers to the Pentagon, does not answer.

Early White House accounts of bin Laden's wife having been killed, and being used as a "human shield" to protect the Al Qaeda mastermind, are now confirmed to be false. This is notable: the idea of a bad guy using a woman's body (his wife's!) to deflect bullets is an emotionally charged visual, to say the least, and created a flutter of dramatically charged tweets and headlines and pundit rants yesterday. How did this false "human shield" detail happen, and become so widely repeated in the news cycle? Carney attributes this to "the fog of war."

Carney reads from a prepared Department of Defense statement: "In the room with Bin Laden, a woman, Bin Laden's wife, rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed."

At least one "gruesome" photograph of bin Laden dead exists, says Carney, but none have been released yet. There are concerns that doing so would be "inflammatory," and no decision to release has been made—[Update: a photo of Osama bin Laden's death will be released, the CIA later stated.]

Did torture lead the US to bin Laden's hiding place? "No one piece" of information did, says Carney, it was an array of data gathered in different methods over time. Has Obama changed his views on torture? "No."

The US is analyzing computers and various storage devices seized during the raid to gather more intelligence.

Regarding the relationship between the US and Pakistan, Carney explains it in Facebookese (and this is a direct quote): "It's complicated."

Related reading: Here, Politico picks apart how the White House has tweaked the official story since news first broke. And the New York Times has the tick-tock here, the most compelling account I can find. 79 commandos, 4 helicopters, in and out in less than one hour.

Even the NYT's account would appear to have inaccuracies now: They report that "Geronimo" was code name for bin Laden, but CNN cites an administration official later clarifying that this was the code name for the operation, not the man himself.

The takeaway for all of us, perhaps, is to be skeptical of first accounts, no matter where they come from, and to repeat the oft-uttered Wikipedian refrain. "Citation, please."

Update, 1139am PT: The NYT Lede blog has been liveblogging this morning's press briefing, and has the prepared statement from which he read. And Anthony de la Rosa at soupsoup has the statement here ("Official Department of Defense Narrative of Bin Laden Operation Events").

(PHOTO: A man pauses to take photos of newspapers left on a fence at the World Trade Center site in New York, May 3, 2011 after U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan early Monday. REUTERS/Mike Segar)