WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spent Tuesday correcting misstatements by administration officials on Osama bin Laden’s final moments before he was gunned down Sunday.
“We provided a great deal of information with great haste in order to inform you … about the operation,” Carney said during a briefing, in a concession that administration officials have erred in their details of the raid on bin Laden's compound outside of Islamabad, Pakistan. “Obviously some of the information came in piece by piece and is being reviewed and updated and elaborated on.”
Reading from a script carefully crafted by the Defense Department, Carney clarified that bin Laden was not armed with a gun when he was killed, contrary to some reports that he fired back at U.S. military operatives. In addition, White House counterinsurgency adviser John Brennan was wrong when he suggested Monday that one of bin Laden’s wives was killed serving as a human shield for bin Laden during gunfire.
“In the room with bin Laden, a woman -- bin Laden’s wife -- rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed,” Carney said. Separately, another woman on the first floor was killed in crossfire, which may have led to Brennan's misstatement.
The White House spokesman wouldn’t say whether bin Laden had any kind of weapon when he was killed or what kind of resistance he put up. Carney said only, “There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and indeed he resisted.”
Carney also retraced the steps by which bin Laden’s body was buried in the North Arabian Sea. The body was washed, placed in a white sheet and in a weighted bag, at which point a military officer “read prepared religious remarks” that were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. The body was then “placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, and the deceased body eased into the sea,” he said.
The White House is still mulling whether to release a picture of bin Laden killed. While releasing such a photo would confirm once and for all to naysayers that bin Laden is dead, "It's fair to say it's a gruesome photograph," Carney said.