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Bug #30290 closed:unresolved

Story on Navy SEALs' bin Laden raid with "helmet cams" untrue?

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This bug appeared in a news report published by CBS News on May 12, 2011 by David Martin. View the original news report.
Bug Type:  Fabrication

In his report on the Abbottabad raid, CBS News' David Martin stated that "the 40 minutes it took to kill bin Laden and scoop his archives into garbage bags were all recorded by tiny helmet cameras worn by each of the 25 SEALs. Officials reviewing those videos are still reconstructing a more accurate version of what happened."

But according to an in-depth report by Nicholas Schmidle published in the New Yorker this week, "The SEALs were not wearing helmet cams, contrary to a widely cited report by CBS."

I don't have enough information to know whether the CBS News story is wrong; it provides essentially zero information about its sourcing. Schmidle's story is far more in-depth and more forthcoming about its sourcing. Especially given how central the helmet cam information was to the CBS story, it seems reasonable to ask them to corroborate it in light of the New Yorker report.

For more details, see this post:


In that post I also note several other discrepancies between the two stories:

• CBS reported that two Navy SEALs fired the shots that killed bin Laden; the New Yorker says one Navy SEAL fired the shots.

• CBS reported that 25 SEALs stormed bin Laden's compound; the New Yorker says it was 23 SEALs.

• CBS reported that the SEALs encountered bin Laden's daughters and one of his wives in the bedroom where they killed him; the New Yorker says the SEALs encountered two of bin Laden's wives there.


Mark Follman has contacted CBS News

Bug History

Aug 04, 2011 12:57 pm Open Mark Follman
Aug 15, 2011 3:03 pm Open: Under Discussion Mark Follman
Oct 26, 2011 9:01 am Closed: Unresolved admin

Discussion Leave a comment

I've reached out to Nicholas Schmidle by email asking if he can offer any additional information regarding the helmet cam issue. (His New Yorker piece says nothing about his sourcing on that particular point.) I've also contacted CBS News twice about this bug report using the general feedback form at CBSNews.com, and am in the process of looking for a more direct way to reach David Martin.

Aug 15, 2011 3:03 pm

For more on this, including responses from Schmidle and CBS News, see my story published today at Mother Jones:


Aug 26, 2011 1:10 pm