Books & Review | Cole Garner Hill
Updated: Aug 29, 2012 09:04 AM EDT

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A group of former US Special Operations Forces and intelligence operatives who offered their own take on Owen’s memoir in their own account, “No Easy Op: The Unclassified Analysis of the Book Detailing the Killing of OBL,” think Owen’s book is “very significant.” (Photo : Reuters)

Even before "No Easy Day" shot to the top of Amazon's bestseller list this week displacing "Fifty Shades of Grey" at number one, there was reason to be worried. Outside of the Associated Press, virtually no one - including the Department of Defense, until now -- has had access to the book.

The firsthand account of the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden from "No Easy Day" contradicts previous accounts by administration officials, raising questions as to whether the terror mastermind had presented a clear threat when SEALs first fired upon him.

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According to the AP, which has a copy of the book:

"Bin Laden apparently was hit in the head when he looked out of his bedroom door into the top-floor hallway of his compound as SEALs rushed up a narrow stairwell in his direction [...] Bissonnette says he was directly behind a "point man" going up the stairs. "Less than five steps" from top of the stairs, he heard "suppressed" gunfire: "BOP. BOP." The point man had seen a "man peeking out of the door" on the right side of the hallway.

The author writes that bin Laden ducked back into his bedroom and the SEALs followed, only to find the terrorist crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood with a hole visible on the right side of his head and two women wailing over his body.

Bissonnette says the point man pulled the two women out of the way and shoved them into a corner and he and the other SEALs trained their guns' laser sites on bin Laden's still-twitching body, shooting him several times until he lay motionless. The SEALs later found two weapons stored by the doorway, untouched, the author said."

(Photo: Barnes & Noble)

(Photo: Barnes & Noble)

While this contradicts the very first few accounts of the raid, it's more or less in line with what Leon Panetta told Jim Lehrer last year: that bin Laden was unarmed, and that the SEALs were responding to "threatening moves."

In the account related by administration officials after the raid in Pakistan, the SEALs shot bin Laden only after he ducked back into the bedroom because they assumed he might be reaching for a weapon.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor would not comment on the apparent contradiction. But he said in an email to Washington Post, "As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, 'We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.'"

"No Easy Day" was due out Sept. 11, but Dutton announced the book would be available a week early, Sept. 4, because of a surge of orders due to advance publicity that drove the book to the top of the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com best-seller lists.

According to Huffington Post, though Bissonnette praises the president for green-lighting the risky assault, Owen says the SEALS joked that Obama would take credit for their success. On his second night in Afghanistan waiting for final orders, sitting around a fire pit and joking about which Hollywood actors would play them in the bin Laden movie, one SEAL joked, "And we'll get Obama re-elected for sure. I can see him now, talking about how he killed bin Laden," according to Bissonnette.

After listening to Obama's speech and enduring Biden's "lame jokes that no one got (He seemed like a nice guy, but he reminded me of someone's drunken uncle at Christmas dinner)" the president invited the team to return to his residence later for a beer.

But Owen writes a few weeks later: "We never got the call to have a beer at the White House." Joking with a fellow SEAL, "Hey, did you ever hear anything about that beer?" Walt cracks: "You believed that (****)? I bet you voted for change too, sucker."

In another possibly uncomfortable revelation for U.S. officials who say bin Laden's body was treated with dignity before being given a full Muslim burial at sea, the author reveals that in the cramped helicopter flight out of the compound, one of the SEALs called "Walt" was sitting on bin Laden's chest as the body lay at the author's feet in the middle of the cabin.

The publisher says the author used pseudonyms for all the SEALs.

Beyond such embarrassing observations, U.S. officials fear the book may include classified information, as it did not undergo the formal review required by the Pentagon for works published by former or current Defense Department employees.

Officials from the Pentagon and the CIA, which commanded the mission, are currently examining the manuscript for possible disclosure of classified information and could take legal action against the author.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the author says he did "not disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way."

Bissonnette's real name was first revealed by Fox News and confirmed to The Associated Press. Jihadists on al-Qaida websites have posted purported photos of the author, calling for his murder.

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