60 Minutes: Mark Owen Interview
Mark Owen, a former Navy SEAL Team 6 member, has told his story in the new book No Easy Day. For his only TV interview, he agreed to chat with Scott Pelley and 60 Minutes about being the second man in Bin Laden’s bedroom when America’s most wanted terrorist was finally taken down. Learn about the Mark Owen disguise and pseudonym.
Owen was also the man who took the pictures of Bin Laden’s body as evidence and has been awarded a Purple Heart for his service. He told CBS News that his book is a tribute to everyone who contributed to the 10-year manhunt.
60 Minutes: Killing Bin Laden
Did SEAL Team 6 set out to kill or capture Bin Laden in their raid? According to Owen, their orders were to take him alive if that was possible. On May 1 2011, years of searching culminated in an improvised assassination that closed a chapter of modern American history.
60 Minutes: Mark Owen Disguise
For his 60 Minutes conversation, Owen was in disguise, in part because he did not want to be in the spotlight. His appearance was also altered for his own safety, using four hours of makeup and voice alteration. Owen was a pseudonym the man used to publish his book.
After learning about the Navy SEALS as a junior high school student, Owen knew what he wanted his future to be. He has been deployed 13 times over the years, and risen to the highest ranks, SEAL Team 6.
How was that it was happenstance that he was part of the 24-man team assigned to this Bin Laden mission. Their training took place in April 2011, and at the time they were taken by surprise at the news that their target was Osama Bin Laden.
60 Minutes: Operation Neptune Spear
Under the guidance of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the team began training for Operation Neptune Spear. Their intelligence came from a courier in Pakistan, who had led them to a suspicious compound that did not fit the neighborhood.
The Pacer was a nickname for someone observed on the compound getting exercise by walking back and forth. Owen said that surveillance noted that The Pacer seemed to be the boss, and never did any manual labor in his own yard.
60 Minutes: Bin Laden Pakistan
Bin Laden’s compound was just one mile from Pakistan’s military academy, in a populous city. Though the SEAL Team did not have any knowledge of the interior of the compound, they were prepared by years of training.
Getting into the country would be the most difficult part of the process, because the United States did not tell Pakistan what they were up to. A total of 24 SEALs and a combat dog were to be dropped from two helicopters during the mission.
After a few days of planning, the team began practicing in a specially constructed compound in North Carolina. They practiced their plan 100 times, which Mark Owen said was highly unusual. White House and military leaders even observed one of the run throughs.
60 Minutes: Obama Vs Bin Laden
After three weeks of training, they took several days off for the Easter holiday. Then they shipped out for Pakistan. But President Barack Obama kept the team on standby, pending confirmation that The Pacer was in fact Bin Laden.
A female CIA analyst who was part of the mission used her expertise about Bin Laden to draw a conclusion: she was 100% certain that they had found their target.
Once Obama gave the order that the mission was a go, he had to keep up to his schedule, which included entertaining CIA director Leon Panetta and countless reporters at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.
60 Minutes: Bin Laden Mission
Once the mission was approved, the raid was postponed due to bad weather. A day later, the helicopters started their late night journey, with a 150-mile ride. Pilots flew at high speed and remained under the radar during the fateful trip.
Mark Owen said that, during that ride, it was starting to sink in that this mission was actually coming together. Some of the other agents were sleeping during the ride, which Owen said gave them time to be fresh.
60 Minutes: Blackhawk Helicopter Emergency
Owen said he was also struck by the beauty of the Pakistani cities. A blackout in the neighborhood provided optimum conditions for the SEALs to make their move as they approached their destination.
Possible turbulence caused the helicopter Owen rode in to made a sudden 90-degree turn. That made the team think something was starting to go wrong. The rough ride continued as pilots tried to compensate for getting caught in their own lift. For a few moments, Owen worried that the mission and his life would come crashing down. That meant it was time for the SEAL Team to get creative.