AP has obtained e-mails between US military officials that give details of Osama bin Laden's burial at sea. The ten extensively redacted e-mails were released by the DoD in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the group Judicial Watch.
The Daily Mail reports that the circumstances of the mission in which Osama bin Laden was killed and his burial at sea revealed in the e-mails highlight the air of intense secrecy surrounding the mission that led to rumors and theories that bin Laden was never killed and that his body was never buried at sea.
The rumors were heightened by the fact that although, the Obama administration pledged to be the most transparent administration in American history, for unknown reasons, it is refusing to be open about information related to the death and burial of the al-Qaeda leader.
Digital Journal reports that in its response to an earlier request in March, the US Department of Defense (DoD), said it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid in Abbottabad that show bin Laden's body. The DoD said it also did not have images of bin Laden's body related to his burial at sea on the USS Carl Vinson.
The Pentagon, in addition, said it does not have a death certificate, autopsy or DNA report in its records.
According to Time, the official account is that bin Laden was killed in a raid by a team of US Navy SEALs on May 1, 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. One of the emails AP obtained, dated May 2, describes how the body of the al-Qaeda leader was washed in an Islamic ritual of ablution, wrapped in a white sheet, put in a weighted bag and "tipped into the ocean."
According to The Guardian, a secret email referred to bin Laden's body as a "Fedex package." Rear Adm Gaouette, the deputy commander of the navy's Fifth Fleet, in an email to another US official, used codewords in discussing the progress of the mission:
Rear Admiral Gaouette: "Any news on the package for us?"
Rear Am Perez: "FEDEX delivered the package. Both trucks are safely en route home base."The Telegraph explains that the subject of the discussion was the arrival by helicopter of Osama bin Laden's body.
What some would consider most significant is that no sailors on the USS Carl Vinson witnessed the alleged Islamic rites for his burial and the alleged dropping of the body into the sea. According to the Daily Mail, only a small group of the ship's senior officials was informed of the burial. CNN reports that in one of the e-mails, dated May 3, a Navy commander asks the public affairs officer on the USS Carl Vinson: "Any sailors watch the burial?" The answer from the public affairs officer was: "Only a small group of the leadership was informed -- less than a dozen." The CNN reports that another e-mail stated, "Burial No Sailors Watched."
A May 2 e-mail from Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette, reads:
"Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed. The deceased's body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet.
"The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body slid into the sea."
The e-mail also includes remarks that acknowledge the secrecy surrounding the mission:
"The paucity of documentary evidence in our possession is a reflection of the emphasis placed on operational security during the execution of this phase of the operation."
According to The Guardian, recipients of the e-mail included, "Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General James Mattis, the top officer at US Central Command."
Time reports that AP has filed other requests for information about the mission. However, the DoD has refused to confirm or deny the existence of other documents and official logs related to the mission and burial of bin Laden. The Guardian reports that the DoD also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid.
It is reported that one of the stealth helicopters that carried Navy SEAL personnel to Abbottabad crashed during the mission and that people living near the bin Laden compound photographed the crashed helicopter the SEAL personnel left behind.