WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden hid in his bedroom for at least 15 minutes as Navy SEALs battled their way through his Pakistani compound, making no attempt to arm himself before a US commando shot him as he peeked from his doorway, according to the first published account by a participant in the now-famous raid on May 2, 2011.
The account, in a book by one of the SEAL team leaders, sheds new light on the Al Qaeda chief’s final moments. In the account, bin Laden appears neither to surrender nor to directly challenge the special forces troops who killed his son and two associates as they worked their way to his third-floor apartment. A White House narrative of the raid had acknowledged that bin Laden was unarmed when he was killed but suggested that he posed a threat to the US commandos.
The depiction of an apparently passive bin Laden is among dozens of the revelations in the book, ‘‘No Easy Day,’’ which chronicles the raid in minute detail.
The book also has provided fresh ammunition for partisans in the long-simmering controversy over the Obama administration’s handling of the raid’s aftermath. Author Matt Bissonnette’s account, written under the pseudonym Mark Owen without Pentagon or White House approval, is being published at a time when the administration is cracking down on unauthorized leaks while also fending off accusations that it sought to exploit the success of the raid by offering unusual access to filmmakers.
Republicans have sought to diminish Obama’s most significant counterterrorism achievement by accusing the White House of selectively leaking details about the raid to ensure a favorable portrayal of the president. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has decried such leaks as ‘‘contemptible’’ and called for an independent investigation. The White House has denied authorizing the release of classified information for political gain.
Bissonnette, who retired last year, writes that the commandos knew that their successful mission would be exploited for political purposes.
At the same time, Bissonnette credits Obama for having the courage to order the raid, and he describes being impressed by the president’s understated speech announcing bin Laden’s death to the world.
‘‘None of us were huge fans of Obama,’’ Bissonnette writes. ‘‘We respected him as the commander-in-chief of the military and for giving us the green light on the mission.’’
In a ‘‘CBS Evening News’’ clip from a segment of ‘‘60 Minutes’’ scheduled to air Sunday, Bissonnette said the book was not intended to be political.
‘‘You know, if these crazies on either side of the aisle want to make it political, shame on them,’’ he said. ‘‘This book is about September 11th and it needs to rest on September 11th, not be brought into the political arena.’’
The book is scheduled for publication next week. It presents what is by far the most intimate account of the assault on bin Laden’s hideout, including weeks of training at a secret base in North Carolina.
Bissonnette asserts in an author’s note that he revealed no classified information in the book. He says he took ‘‘great pains to protect the tactics, techniques, and procedures’’ of US special forces teams and to conceal the identities of his active-duty comrades.
Still, his decision to write an unauthorized account has drawn criticism from Pentagon officials who decried the break with a time-honored tradition of secrecy by the elite SEAL unit that carried out the raid.
But on Wednesday, as news media published the first excerpts from the book, such criticisms were absent. Defense officials, who received a copy of the manuscript Saturday, declined to take issue with Bissonnette’s account and gave no signals that they intend to take punitive action.
The Navy has no rule requiring former service members to submit a book for prepublication review.
Administration officials privately expressed surprise over details that they said contradicted official after-action reports. But a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council declined to take issue with the author or his narrative.
‘‘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,’ ’’ said the spokesman, Tommy Vietor.