I had planned on ignoring the recent passing of the anniversary of Operation Neptune Spear, not because the SEAL Team Six mission that killed Osama Bin Laden wasn’t important, but rather because so much has happened since then. So many other Special Operations missions have been executed since 2011 and many have made the ultimate sacrifice. I’ve also written and commented a bit about the operation over the years so it hardly seemed like something worth re-hashing, however there is one subject that is always in the back of my mind, one that I am surprised that other media outlets have not picked up on. That is the question of what really happened to Bin Laden’s corpse.
Some of you will no doubt reply, who cares? Dead is dead. Fair enough. For the rest of you, there are some interesting details worth noting. The official story was of course that Bin Laden’s corpse was loaded onto a helicopter and flown to Afghanistan where his body was examined by various SOCOM personnel, then flown to the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier in northern Arabian Sea.
Heavily redacted internal Navy e-mails surrounding the incident were released via a Freedom of Information Act request made by judicial watch. In one e-mail Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette asks the Rear Admiral Samuel Perez, “any news of the package for us?” Perez replies that, “FEDEX package delivered. Both trucks are safely en route home base.” The FEDEX package was ostensibly a code word for Bin Laden’s corpse, but there is not any substantiating evidence of this. Due to the many redactions in the e-mails, there is no actual mention of Bin Laden’s remains nor is there is evidence that the FEDEX package is a reference to Bin Laden. It could mean anything. Was FEDEX an actual OPSKED developed by the Department of Defense for Operation Neptune Spear, or just a pet name used as short hand between to two Rear Admirals? Again, we don’t really know.
Another of the released e-mails written by Rear Admiral Gaouette describes burial at sea procedures, but again does not actually mention Bin Laden by name. Between two redacted blocks of information it reads:
“Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed. The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.”
Who was the deceased? This is never actually mentioned in the e-mails it should be noted. Furthermore, Islamic scholars later came forward to point out that the Department of Defense’s claims that this was a proper Islamic burial as they claimed is also incorrect. A Muslim would never be buried in this manner unless he had expired during a voyage at sea, which Bin Laden certainly did not. It was just another hole in a very strange story advanced by the Navy.
But the most astonishing claim made in the FOIA’d e-mails comes when a Naval Officer stationed at the Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain tells the Carl Vinson Public Affairs Officer that Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) are asking if sailors on the USS Carl Vinson knew that the burial was taking place and who it was for. The PAO replies that only about a dozen members of the ship’s senior leaders knew about it. The 5th Fleet officer than re-asks her unanswered question if any sailors witnessed the burial. The PAO replies with a one-word answer: No.
This is where the entire cover story around Bin Laden’s corpse becomes comical. The claim that no sailors witnessed the supposed burial does not make any sense unless it never occurred. What do we than make of the previous e-mail in which Rear Admiral Gaouette describes the burial? If no sailors were aware of or witnessed the burial, then who washed Bin Laden’s body and put it in a white sheet? Then who put the body in a weighted bag? Who was the military officer who read prepared religious remarks, if not a sailor? Was he from another branch of service brought in specially for this event? Who translated those remarks into Arabic? A naturalized U.S. citizen with a Top Secret security clearance? Who tipped the body into the water if not several sailors? The story being advanced by the Navy completely crumbles at this point as it contradicts itself.
Now the question remains as to what really happened to Bin Laden‘s remains. I was never able to find out more other than to be told that his corpse is here in the United States somewhere. An interesting clue came to light when a company staffed by former members of the U.S. intelligence community that provided corporate intelligence products to customers had their e-mails hacked into and subsequently released to the public. Fred Burton, a retired Diplomatic Security Services officer working for STRATFOR wrote about the Bin Laden raid saying, “Body bound for Dover, DE on CIA plane. Than [sic] onward to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda.”
Interestingly, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology shut down in September of 2011, just four months after Operation Neptune Spear. It had been open since 1862.
We still don’t have any solid information on what became of Bin Laden’s remains, but what we can be sure of is that just like several other key aspects of the narrative about the killing of America’s most wanted, is that the official story simply does not make sense.
Featured Image: A realistic sculpture of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by artists Alberto Lorente, Manolo Castro and Julio Lorente titled “He” is on display at the Superior Institute of Arts for the upcoming 11th Havana Biennial contemporary art exhibition in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, May 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)