How inside is the new 'insider' account of bin Laden raid?
Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
November 4th, 2011
11:46 AM ET

How inside is the new 'insider' account of bin Laden raid?

MacMillan USA

By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

A still-unpublished book claiming to tell the inside story of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, which the author says is based on interviews with those on the raid, is already generating controversy inside the secretive world of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Every member of the Navy SEAL team on the raid has been questioned by superiors about whether they spoke to author Chuck Pfarrer, a former Navy Seal, about the mission in violation of orders, a U.S. official told CNN.

The official, who has direct knowledge of the questioning, told CNN that the SEALs all denied speaking with Pfarrer, whose book, "SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to kill Osama bin Laden," is scheduled to be released next week.

The book has several chapters on other SEAL missions and history, but much of the focus is on Bin Laden.

In a telephone interview with CNN, Pfarrer said he spoke directly with several SEALs on the top-secret operation.

"I certainly did," talk to them Pfarrer told CNN, describing the conversations as "face to face." Pfarrer told CNN he also spoke to contractors who worked on preparing for the mission.

The team, known by many as "SEAL Team Six" is one of the most secretive units in the military.  Its operations are rarely discussed and are some of the most secretive conducted by the American military.  Even though administration officials quickly released information about the raid soon after bin Laden's death was announced by President Barack Obama, commanders with the U.S. Special Forces Command, or USSOCOM, ordered the unit not to speak about it.

"Neither USSOCOM nor any of its elements have provided access to or given permission for any member or members of Special Operations Forces to be interviewed about the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden," said command spokesman Ken McGraw.  "To the best of my knowledge, neither USSOCOM nor any of it elements have reviewed the book "Seal Target Geronimo."

Two other U.S. military officials also confirmed to CNN that no military personnel were granted permission to talk to Pfarrer.

Pfarrer said he engaged in 'dramatic reconstruction" of some events in the book where he directly quoted top officials involved in the attack including Admiral William McRaven, who at the time commanded the Joint Special Operations Command that ran the operation.

In one example, Pfarrer details what he described as a classified meeting between McRaven, a top CIA officer and the commanding officer of SEAL Team Six whom he calls "Scott Kerr."

Pfarrer said he is protecting the man's identity by giving him a false name and that Kerr is a composite character, although Pfarrer quotes him directly.  Only those three men were in the room, according to the book. Pfarrer quotes McRaven directly detailing security arrangements at the compound, orders by the CIA to begin planning an attack and the use of satellites by the National Reconnaissance Office.

The meeting took place in a secure conference room three stories underground at JSOC headquarters at Fort Bragg North Carolina, Pfarrer's book claims.  A military source told CNN there is no such underground facility.

Pfarrer quotes McRaven as saying the "National Reconnaissance Office has parked a satellite over the place. They got a measurement on his shadow.

He's over six feet tall." While administration officials had described the use of satellites to assess who was in the compound, the estimating of his shadow was a technique that was not revealed.

In other instances, Pfarrer disputes the official accounting of events. U.S. government officials have said that both helicopters carrying troops into the compound landed on the ground even though the initial plan called for them to slide down on ropes from a hovering helicopter.  The change of plans came after the first helicopter crashed into a compound wall. After that crash the SEALs quickly got out and began the mission from the ground, the government has said.

Pfarrer says his sources are adamant that the crash happened after the SEALs unloaded and that the other helicopter had, in fact, hovered over the roof, the SEALs roped down, got into the upper floor of the building and killed Bin Laden within two minutes.

Pfarrer says he wrote the book because he felt civilian administration officials "lost control of the narrative" in their initial public statements about the mission.

Military officials have told CNN that they will decided any any violations of national security have occurred when they see the book and decide whether the matter needs to be investigated.

Pfarrer, who said he doesn't want journalists to try to figure out the identity of his sources, told CNN "there's going to be a huge hunt to figure out who talked to Chuck and who didn't."

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