Senior members of SEAL Team 6 felt the pattern of brutality was not only illegal but rose to the level of war crimes. Although the stoppage was not limited to the SEALs, his former unit pushed back against a new set of operational guidelines. In that brief firefight, the SEALs killed nearly 20 foreign al Qaeda fighters, some of whom carried U.S. military equipment taken from Takur Ghar. According to two former SEALs, Slabinski told his teammates and superiors that his remark about wanting a head was figurative and not a literal order. According to the New York Times, Afghans accused Blue Squadron of killing civilians during that operation, but a subsequent military investigation determined that all those killed had been armed and hostile. When SEAL Team 6 operators were occasionally confronted about the desecration, the SEAL leader said, they’d often joke that they were just “great shots.”. It was really good therapy for everybody who was there.”. The texture of those accounts reveals much about what went wrong with the most celebrated special operations command in the U.S. military. The command’s top noncommissioned officer placed their names on the SEAL Team 6 rock of shame, the unofficial list of unit pariahs. Clockwise from top left: Blue Squadron, known as the Pirates; Gold Squadron, known as the Crusaders or Knights; Red Squadron, known as the Redmen; and Silver Squadron. “There’s honor involved and Vic Hyder obviously traipsed all over that,” he said. On the afternoon of March 6, 2002, Lt. Cmdr. A retired noncommissioned officer said Howard’s encouragement and provision of Winkler hatchets was simply adding fuel to the fire. Top right: A bearded Red Squadron SEAL in Afghanistan. The official SEAL creed reads, in part: “Uncompromising integrity is my standard. By the time the two dozen Red Team operators departed for Objective Bull, tension had built up between Hyder, a commissioned officer, and the enlisted operators technically under his command. Normally, SEAL Team 6’s commanding officer, a captain, would conduct a captain’s mast, a form of non-judicial punishment. “The beauty of what they have constructed,” said a former teammate about how Bissonnette and O’Neill cornered the market on the bin Laden raid, “is that there is only one guy, essentially, who can come forward and say they’re lying — and he won’t ever talk.”. SEAL Team 6 headquarters at Dam Neck naval annex, Virginia Beach, Va., showing the 30-foot trident sculpted from a fragment of the World Trade Center. Top: Photo of helicopter on Takur Ghar. Moore, sitting in his office in Virginia Beach, pressed Vasely: What had he actually seen? According to three sources familiar with the debrief, Bissonnette never fired his weapon at Kuwaiti. When it’s treated as an expedient tactic, its purpose is unraveled. “The SEALs believe that they can handle the discipline themselves, that’s equal to or greater than what the criminal justice system would give to the person,” said Susan Raser, a retired Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent who led the agency’s criminal division but did not investigate this mission. Bissonnette claimed he shot and killed al Kuwaiti and had fired bullets into bin Laden on the third floor. He was dying, but he rolled over and I didn’t know whether he was armed or not. Eventually, two other elements of a quick reaction force — one of which included Hyder — landed at the top of Takur Ghar. But it doesnt stop there. My word is my bond.” But after 9/11, another code emerged that made lying — especially to protect a teammate or the command from accountability — the more honorable course of action. After being shepherded through the nine-month training, he entered Red Squadron. After the bodies were recovered, Hyder and the other members of Red Team were forced to reckon with the mutilation and near beheading of their fellow SEAL. “Why would I do that?” he asked. The planning was so meticulous, one retired SEAL Team 6 leader told me, that a helicopter pilot warned mission planners that one of the two stealth Black Hawks they were to use would likely experience a “vortex ring state,” which means air disturbed by the rotors would prevent the helicopter from getting the lift necessary to continue hovering. SEAL Team 6 was the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group and was part of a team that took down Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to multiple members of SEAL Team 6, the fight with the CIA was one of the few instances in which the command’s battlefield misconduct was in danger of being exposed. During the debrief, Red was identified as having hit bin Laden with a fatal shot, and O’Neill was credited with putting security rounds into him after bin Laden had already gone down. Earlier that evening, general officers from the Joint Special Operations Command had scrambled the SEALs after watching a Predator drone video feed of a man they suspected was bin Laden set off in a convoy of three or four vehicles in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, where al Qaeda forces had fortified themselves. Early in the war, the SEALs’ mission was to hunt down al Qaeda’s senior leaders, who had largely vanished into Pakistan, but now Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the leader of JSOC, extended the mission to target the Taliban, who along with al Qaeda were moving back and forth across the Pakistani border with impunity. Some sources asked for anonymity citing the probability of professional retaliation for speaking out against their peers and teammates. By the time the two dozen Red Team operators departed for Objective Bull, tension had built up between Hyder, a commissioned officer, and the enlisted operators technically under his command. Who would hold party elites accountable to the values they proclaim to have? The SEALs from the other helicopter immediately headed up a steep hill after landing to locate an armed man who had been shot from the helicopter. Morale at Red Squadron fell apart shortly after the team returned to Virginia Beach from Afghanistan. “Mutilation isn’t part of the game.”. “They don’t play by the rules, so why should we?”, The Intercept submitted three pages of questions to both Adm. Szymanksi, who as head of Naval Special Warfare now commands all SEALs in the Navy, and Capt. Illustration: Attila Futaki for The Intercept. But in 1998, after intervention by a senior officer at Dam Neck, Howard was given a slot on Green Team. And part of that was getting rid of Britt Slabinski.”. “Every one of us is issued and carries a suppressed weapon,” said one former senior SEAL, referring to the Heckler & Koch assault rifles, equipped with silencers, issued to the operators. They are taught to live and if necessary die for one another. When he first arrived at Dam Neck, operators in the unit who had served in Vietnam warned him that war crimes and battlefield atrocities hung like a cloud over the entire unit — even if only one SEAL had participated. [ARCHIVED THREAD] - The Intercept: The Crimes of SEAL Team 6 (Page 1 of 4) ARCHIVED; Previous Page. “They were disgusted.” He quoted Heath as saying, “I’m morally flexible but I can’t handle that.” Heath refused to comment for this article. In 2008, tensions began to rise between SEAL Team 6 and the CIA over operations in Afghanistan. Ten officers and master chiefs voted unanimously against allowing Slabinski to return to the command. Most SEALs did not commit atrocities, the sources said, but the problem was persistent and recurrent, like a stubborn virus. All six were photographed. The vehicles were headed east toward the Pakistani border, as if they were trying to escape. If a SEAL couldn’t justify the threat after a shooting, he was quietly removed from the unit. Was there another explanation? BOMBSHELL recordings prove they had Seal Team Six EXECUTED to cover up deep state crimes. “It’s not their responsibility — that is why we have DevGru operators.”. Moore did not respond to requests for comment. Other military and intelligence officials who have served with or investigated the unit were also interviewed. It wasn’t necessary. Biden’s “Cabinet of Firsts” Betrays a Cynical Approach to Diversity, Reality Winner Endures Holiday Hardships as Advocates Turn to Biden for Reprieve. Bissonnette’s bestselling book, “No Easy Day,” was published in September 2012, four months after he retired and less than two weeks after O’Neill got out of the Navy. Slabinski did not report the decapitation, however. As he did so, he approached the man Heath had shot. Should they seek revenge for Roberts? A place for longform articles and texts. One of those operators was Roberts. Oh my gosh. Bottom: Winkler hatchet from Bissonnette’s personal collection. After Roberts’s death, Slabinksi wanted revenge. Our job is to ensure that we conduct ourselves in a way befitting the American people and the American flag. One source said his superiors repeatedly refused to address the issue. Overall, it had become clear that Slabinski’s run as a leader on the battlefield caused Blue Squadron to come “off the rails,” according to a former SEAL Team 6 leader. Brian Snyder; Instagram. When they reached the hilltop, the operators looked down in disbelief at women and children, along with the man – all were dead or mortally wounded from the spray of gunfire from the Chinook’s gunners, who had unloaded after the free fire zone had been declared. “Guys are going out every night killing everything. Both declined to comment. “Often we’d hear, well, they’re savages,” the former leader said. But the retired SEAL who was on the mission tells a different story. In reality, it’s bullshit. During the pre-dawn raid, a small team from Gold Squadron breached a compound that was home to an insurgent cell that had targeted a U.S. base. One result of the growth was that back in Virginia, the captain in command of the entire 300-SEAL force had far less oversight over tactical battlefield decisions. Neil Roberts’s bent rifle was placed on the wall of Red Team’s room at the SEALs’ base near Virginia Beach, a visible reminder of their teammate, their first deployment, and the troubles that would follow. And from the moment President Obama announced the operation’s successful conclusion in a televised address, a variety of individuals and institutions have sought to profit from the elimination of America’s most hated enemy. O’Neill entered the room, walked over to where bin Laden lay on the floor, and shot him twice in the face. Illustrations: Attila Futaki, Colorist: Greg Guilhaumond, Matthew Cole[email protected]theintercept.com@matthewacole. They were not the private collection of some individual operator, but the command’s official after-action pictures. Hyder and an enlisted operator named Monty Heath had gone in a different direction and saw a survivor flee the bombed vehicle toward a nearby berm. It wasn’t necessary. This story is rapidly unfolding and looks to be one of the most damning indictments of the deep state in modern U.S. history. But in the eyes of the enlisted SEALs of Red Team, Hyder had killed a man who didn’t have to die. As a friend said, what we have allowed our young men to become is a disgrace to our nation. Inside, they found six militants, four in one room, all sleeping with weapons near their beds. SEAL Team 6 was eventually disbanded and, in 1987, its role, minus non-CT ship boarding which was handed off the newly formed SEAL team 8, was given to the newly formed Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDEVGRU or DEVGRU). Was it acceptable, as Hyder had done with the wounded man whom he executed, to desecrate the dead? “If a guy cuts off another guy’s head and nothing happens, that becomes the standard,” said one of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders. But in the eyes of the enlisted SEALs of Red Team, Hyder had killed a man who didn’t have to die. 10/13/2020 / By Mike Adams. He later told his teammates that it was possible one arm was twitching reflexively as he died, but otherwise he was effectively dead and not a threat. Men, women, and a small girl, motionless and in the fetal position, appeared dead. Survivors began to flee the wreckage, and over the radio, Hyder and his team heard the order that the convoy was now in a “free fire zone,” allowing the Chinooks’ gunners to fire at anyone deemed a threat, regardless of whether they were armed. In the last year of her harsh sentence, the NSA whistleblower’s bid for clemency is gaining backers. Richard Marcinko hoped that the number six would lead the Soviet military to inflate its assessment of the Navy’s SEALs. Go. According to these sources, whether judged by its own private code or the international laws of war, the command has proven to be incapable and unwilling to hold itself accountable for war crimes. Both Bissonnette and O’Neill declined to answer questions for this article. Hyder and an enlisted operator named Monty Heath had gone in a different direction and saw a survivor flee the bombed vehicle toward a nearby berm. ‘You guys want to play with those rules?’ ‘OK.’” Although this former SEAL acknowledged that war crimes are wrong, he understood how they happen. Others used them to break doorknobs on raids or kill militants in hand-to-hand combat. The two weapons found on the third floor were not discovered until the rooms were searched. (The Intercept is withholding the name of the operator, who believed he was following an order. This account of the crimes of SEAL Team 6 results from a two-year investigation drawing on interviews with 18 current and former members of the unit, including four former senior leaders of the command. Vasely, who currently runs the operations divisions of JSOC. Officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, SEAL Team 6 is today the most celebrated of the U.S. military’s special mission units. A few years later, after Hyder’s name was mentioned for another rotation in Red Team, some of Hyder’s former operators informed SEAL Team 6 leadership that he was not welcome (according to two former SEAL Team 6 leaders) back in the unit. The mission was code-named Objective Bull. Asked for comment, the British government told The Intercept that it does not comment on security matters and would “neither confirm nor deny” that Norgrove worked for the intelligence agency. Crimes of seal team 6 The memo obtained by The Intercept advised military personnel to avoid commenting on or acknowledging “The Crimes of SEAL Team 6,”. What were originally known as assault teams now formally became squadrons, and by 2008, the expansion led to the creation of Silver, a fourth assault squadron. The account did not dwell on the fact that O’Neill had chosen to separate from the Navy nearly four years before he was eligible for extensive retirement benefits. The intention was to permit women and children to get out of harm’s way before operators conducted their assault. McRaven was subsequently transferred from the unit. This was a crucial moment: kill bin Laden now and the war could be over after only six months. O’Neill was soon removed from his role as a team leader in Red Squadron after he was observed publicly bragging in Virginia Beach bars that he was the man who shot bin Laden. We shoot ’em. O’Neill was closer to Red, one of the first five assaulters. Several weeks earlier, in January 2002, Hyder killed an unarmed Afghan man north of Kandahar during the unit’s first ground assault of the war. He said it and one of his operators did it because he believed he was following an order.”. No officers were present, and the enlisted SEALs used the meeting to address Hyder’s alleged mutilation of the dead Afghan the previous day. Two other SEAL Team 6 leaders with a combined 35 years at the command said the removal of Slabinski and the failure to pursue official punishment was an indictment of the senior officers — they had failed one of their most basic duties, to hold themselves and others accountable for wrongdoing. The first case is clearly a war crime done by the helicopter crew, not the Seals themselves. The morning after Objective Bull, Red Team gathered at Bagram Air Base. They had bonded over Roberts’s death. Even before the attack on the convoy and the alleged mutilation of the dead Afghan, Hyder had committed at least one killing with questionable justification. Most would speak about the unit only on background or without attribution, because … I shot him, finished him. For several years afterward, the leaders at the command limited Slabinski’s battlefield exposure — assigning him to Green Team as an instructor, for example — hoping the psychological wounds from Roberts Ridge would heal. “Somebody else is making this up. Other active-duty SEAL Team 6 operators who worked with Bissonnette on his various consulting deals were punished as a result of their profiteering. By the time Slabinski entered the room where the dead militant lay, according to three former SEAL Team 6 leaders, the operator had severed much of the dead man’s neck. The photos and other review documents could be shared with local officials to justify operations. How are you going to get an American politician to push for prosecution against the seals? The two Chinooks landed separately, one near each end of the convoy. “It was split open in the shape of a V. I could see his brains spilling out over his face.” He has even alluded to the grisly practice on Twitter. McRaven’s new orders set off a struggle between the JSOC commander and SEAL Team 6’s enlisted ranks that played out in a series of high-profile hostage rescues ordered by President Obama. Hyder said that he and a few other SEALs began to bury the casualties near a ravine by piling rocks over them. Otherwise we knew it’s going to get out of control. Should they seek revenge for Roberts? Officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, SEAL Team 6 is today the most celebrated of the U.S. military’s special mission units. “No one prepared our guys for the collateral damage and the second- and third-order effects of this war,” the former SEAL leader said. “To understand the violence, you have to begin at Roberts Ridge,” said one former member of SEAL Team 6 who deployed several times to Afghanistan. Within hours, news trucks and reporters fanned out through the seaside town looking for anything affiliated with Navy SEALs. Had the daughters been wearing explosives, Red would have died while shielding his teammates from much of the blast. The Crimes of SEAL Team 6. By all accounts, Slabinski, a second-generation SEAL who joined Team 6 in 1993, was an excellent sniper and reconnaissance operator. He assumed it was a twisted act of misplaced revenge over the previous days’ events — specifically, the gruesome death of Hyder’s teammate Neil Roberts. O’Neill’s canoeing of bin Laden cost his teammates precious time, but his final shot to bin Laden’s head was unremarkable to them. Bottom: McRaven, left, and Capt. Howard, who has since risen through the ranks and is currently a rear admiral, was twice rejected by his superiors for advanced SEAL Team 6 training. Although Blue Squadron had avoided criminal charges, their battlefield conduct continued to set off alarms within the command. Both teams exited the helicopters to find a grim scene. Special Forces working with Afghan Local Police. Less than a week before the assault, Bissonnette and O’Neill got into a shouting match at the Dam Neck base over who would sell the inside story of the raid. Hyder acknowledged that the man likely did not understand English and probably couldn’t see very well. The men who make it through the grueling training represent roughly the top 10 percent of all SEALs. Member Joined Aug 2014; Posts 731; EE Offline; MD, USA. Eventually, two other elements of a quick reaction force – one of which included Hyder – landed at the top of Takur Ghar. The war was entering its seventh year and had become intractable, with no clear path to victory. The only issue was, was his order real, or just talk?” said one of the retired SEALs involved. One telling illustration of what had gone wrong with Blue Squadron occurred on December 17, 2007, during a raid in Helmand province. In the world of SEAL Team 6, where operators never face criminal charges — despite allegations of war crimes, unjustified killings, and corruption — the admiral’s mast was a serious rebuke. The FBI and NCIS investigated two members of Red Squadron and conducted polygraphs, but the money was never recovered and neither of the SEALs was charged. “Night after night of kill or be killed. According to multiple sources, both of their accounts contain multiple self-serving falsehoods. Inside a heated tent, as many as 40 SEAL Team 6 operators asked themselves how they wanted to treat their fallen enemies. When it was commissioned, the Navy had only two SEAL (sea, air and land) assault teams, but founding officer Cmdr. “I’m not going to tell you this didn’t happen. The death and attempted decapitation of Neil Roberts on Takur Ghar affected no one so profoundly as Britt Slabinski, the operator who led the rescue team back up the mountain only to find that Roberts was already dead. As a result, photographs of canoed enemy fighters virtually ceased to appear in after-action reports. Top right: Adm. William McRaven. A serious and long article. My word is my bond.” But after 9/11, another code emerged that made lying — especially to protect a teammate or the command from accountability — the more honorable course of action. First, the SEALs would now be required to do “call outs” before entering a compound. Jan 28, 2017 #26 Michael Howze said: Let's say all of this is true. One of their teammates killed the other two targets in another room. Navy. That operator, known as Red inside the unit, is still an active-duty member of SEAL Team 6 and has never been publicly identified. “The reason SEAL Team 6 exists is to avoid bombs and collateral damage,” said a retired SEAL Team 6 member who was on the mission. Less than 48 hours before Objective Bull commenced, a small reconnaissance group from SEAL Team 6’s Red Team had tried to establish an observation post on the 10,000-foot peak of Takur Ghar, overlooking the Shah-i-Kot valley, where forces from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division intended to strike the last redoubt of al Qaeda forces massed in Afghanistan. Created in 1980 and based at the Dam Neck Annex of Naval Air Station Oceana near Virginia Beach, the command prided itself on its culture of nonconformity with the larger military. Was it acceptable, as Hyder had done with the wounded man whom he executed, to desecrate the dead? Then, as two of bin Laden’s eldest daughters began to scream, Red quickly corralled them at the doorway, a move considered heroic by other SEALs on the mission. “It’s sport.”, The former SEAL Team 6 leader said that he first noticed canoeing in 2004, and that it does occur accidentally on the battlefield, but rarely. Bottom right: Candid photo of U.S. Navy SEAL Neil Roberts. Here, commanders returning from a deployment leave their hard drives with technicians who transfer PowerPoints, after-actions reports, and photos of each operation a squadron conducted abroad. “We said, ‘Let us set down and take a look at the convoy to determine if it’s al Qaeda.’ Instead, they dropped several bombs.”. Tactically, there was little about the upcoming raid that was complex. But even that rule evolved over time. The retired SEAL, who spent the better part of two decades at the command, said he never asked Hyder why he mutilated the corpse. “Somebody else is making this up. Cascade of Lies Leading Back to 9/11 | Crimes of Seal Team 6 | U.S. Decline to Banana Republic Although the video had revealed no weapons, and the generals had only tenuous intelligence that the convoy was al Qaeda — just suspicions based on the color of the man’s flowing white garb and the deference others showed him — they were nervous that bin Laden might get away again, as he had a few months earlier after the bombing of the Tora Bora mountains in December 2001. Canoeing was just one of several acts of mutilation frequently carried out by SEALs. We just slaughtered those dudes.” After describing one particular fighter who from a distance had resembled Osama bin Laden, Slabinksi continued: “To this day, we’ve never had anything as good as that. O’Neill, by contrast, was not considered as clever as his teammate, but he was a deadly sniper and had a successful tour as a team leader in Red Squadron. He was awarded the Silver Star for his efforts at Takur Ghar to save Roberts and the rest of the Red Team recon element. And then we move on,” said a former SEAL who was present at the meeting. The SEALs were suspected of taking the money. Senior leaders at the command knew about the misconduct and did little to eradicate it. The lack of battlefield discipline was not limited to a single squadron. “There is and was no military reason whatsoever to split someone’s skull open with a single round,” said a former SEAL Team 6 leader. Consequently, the SEALs initially reported to JSOC senior leaders that Norgrove had been killed by her captors. Two different SEALs, Robert O’Neill and Matthew Bissonnette, have publicly taken credit for killing bin Laden. Beyond the story of the alleged mutilation, the sight of the dead civilians killed during the opening airstrikes of Objective Bull, especially the women and children, left members of Red Team with deep psychological scars. Peter Vasely, a Naval Academy graduate who had not gone through the advanced assault training of Green Team that the other members of SEAL Team 6 had endured. Some of those photographs, especially those taken of casualties from 2005 through 2008, show deceased enemy combatants with their skulls split open by a rifle or pistol round at the upper forehead, exposing their brain matter. Moore told his deputy, Szymanski, who was in Afghanistan, to sort things out. Hyder, who was the ground force commander for the Kandahar operation, was cleared in an after-action review of the shooting. I shot him about 20 times in the legs, and every time you’d kick him, er, shoot him, he would kick up, you could see his body twitching and all that. He took Roberts’s death hard. Inside the helicopters, some of the operators had pushed to hold off any air attack, arguing that they had plenty of time to intercept the convoy before it reached the Pakistani border. It’s a question, why was he a threat? Slabinski had told his operators that he wanted “a head on a platter.” Although some of the more seasoned SEALs took the statement metaphorically, at least one operator took Slabinski at his word, interpreting it as an order. The hatchets Howard obtained were stamped with a Native American warrior in a headdress and crossed tomahawks. “There’s honor involved and Vic Hyder obviously traipsed all over that,” he said. The power of the Native American mascot, he said, was not to be dismissed. One, led by an enlisted operator, took in the damage to one of the vehicles. Red came to a stop and fired two shots with his suppressed rifle. With more extensive photographic documentation, SEAL operators had less time to fire unnecessary rounds into the dead, and they had to use the photos to explain why they fired their weapon. They soon discovered he had violated a series of Navy regulations. A few days after the attempted interview, investigators obtained photos purporting to be of the dead fighter. Hyder was new to SEAL Team 6, but as the ranking officer on the ground during that operation, he was technically in charge. Previously, the command had required only a frontal shot and a profile of each dead militant. It was like a game. “If you have multiple incidents where the ground force commander pulls the trigger on a deployment, you have a total breakdown of operational tactics,” said one retired SEAL leader. Historically, SEAL Team 6 is known as a unit where officers “rent their lockers,” because they typically serve about three years before rotating out, whereas the enlisted operators remain for much of their careers, often for a decade or more. They didn’t know it, but Roberts was already dead, shot at close range in the head shortly after his helicopter departed the mountaintop. The truth about what happened in bin Laden’s bedroom may never be fully known. 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