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Citizenfour: Inside Story of NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Captured in New Film by Laura Poitras

“At this stage I can offer nothing more than my word. I am a senior government employee in the intelligence community. I hope you understand that contacting you is extremely high risk … This will not be a waste of your time.” This was one of the first messages Edward Snowden wrote to filmmaker Laura Poitras beginning an exchange that helped expose the massive surveillance apparatus set up by the National Security Agency. Months later, Poitras would meet Snowden for the first time in a Hong Kong hotel room. Poitras filmed more than 20 hours of footage as Snowden debriefed reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill. That footage — most unseen until now — forms the backbone of Poitras’ new film, “Citizenfour.” She joins us to talk about the film and her own experience with government surveillance. The film is the third installment of her 9/11 trilogy that also includes “My Country, My Country” about the Iraq War and “The Oath” about the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Poitras’ NSA reporting contributed to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service awarded to The Guardian and The Washington Post. We also speak with Jeremy Scahill, who appears in the film reporting on recent disclosures about NSA surveillance from a new, anonymous government source. Scahill, along with Poitras and Greenwald, founded The Intercept, a new media venture to continue investigating whistleblower leaks.

An excellent DN show



Bureau Investigation Finds Fresh Evidence of CIA Drone Strikes on Rescuers

Published on Thursday, August 1, 2013 by Bureau of Investigative Journalism

If proved, US targeting of rescuers who respond to scene of earlier explosions are clearly “war crimes”

  by Chris Woods with additional reporting by Mushtaq Yusufzai

The Bureau’s field researcher found five double-tap strikes took place in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosqueA field investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Pakistan’s tribal areas appears to confirm that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) last year briefly revived the controversial tactic of deliberately targeting rescuers at the scene of a previous drone strike. The tactic has previously been labelled a possible war crime by two UN investigators.

The Bureau’s new study focused mainly on strikes around a single village in North Waziristan – attacks that were aimed at one of al Qaeda’s few remaining senior figures, Yahya al-Libi. He was finally killed by a CIA drone strike on June 4 2012.

The Bureau’s field researcher found five double-tap strikes took place in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque

Congressional aides have previously been reported as describing to the Los Angeles Times reviewing a CIA video showing Yahya al-Libi alone being killed. But the Bureau’s field research appears to confirm what others reported at the time – that al-Libi’s death was part of a sequence of strikes on the same location that killed up to 16 people.

If correct, that would indicate that Congressional aides were not shown crucial additional video material.

The CIA has robustly rejected the charge. Spokesman Edward Price told the Bureau: ‘The CIA takes its commitment to Congressional oversight with the utmost seriousness. The Agency provides accurate and timely information consistent with our obligation to the oversight Committees. Any accusation alleging otherwise is baseless.’

Tactic revived

The Bureau first broke the story of the CIA’s deliberate targeting of rescuers in a February 2012 investigation for the Sunday Times. It found evidence of 11 attacks on rescuers – so-called ‘double-tap’ strikes – in Pakistan’s tribal areas between 2009 and 2011, along with a drone strike deliberately targeting a funeral, causing mass casualties.

Reports of these controversial tactics ended by July 2011. But credible news reports emerged a year later indicating that double-tap strikes had been revived.

International media including the BBC, CNN and news agency AFP variously reported that rescuers had been targeted on five occasions between May 24 and July 23 2012, with a mosque and prayers for the dead also reportedly bombed.

The Bureau commissioned a report into the alleged attacks from Mushtaq Yusufzai, a respected journalist based in Peshawar, who reports regularly for NBC and for local paper The News.

Over a period of months, Yusufzai – who has extensive government, Taliban and civilian contacts throughout Waziristan – built up a detailed understanding of the attacks through his sources.

His findings indicate that five double-tap strikes did indeed take place again in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque. In total 53 people were killed in these attacks with 57 injured, the report suggests.

Yusufzai could find no evidence to support media claims that rescuers had been targeted on two further occasions.

No confirmed civilian deaths were reported by local communities in any of the strikes. A woman and three children were reportedly injured in one of the attacks. Yusufzai says: ‘It is possible some civilians were killed, but we don’t know’.

However a parallel investigation by legal charity Reprieve reports that eight civilians died in a double-tap strike on July 6 2012 (see below), with the possibility of further civilian deaths in a July 23 attack.

Islamabad-based lawyer Shahzad Akbar says Reprieve’s findings are based on interviews with villagers from affected areas.

‘On both occasions [in July] our independent investigation showed a high number of civilians who were rescuers were killed in the strikes,’ says Akbar.

While some 2012 double-tap strikes appear to have been aimed at al Qaeda’s Yahya al-Libi, Reprieve believes both July attacks were focused on killing another senior militant, Sadiq Noor.

Noor is deputy to militant leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Both men are long-time targets for the CIA because of their support for the Taliban’s Afghan insurgency. Noor had falsely been reported killed on at least two previous occasions. It is not known whether he survived either of the strikes.

Summary of the Bureau’s new findings
The Bureau’s field research finds that – as widely reported at the time – on May 24 2012 a CIA-controlled armed drone hit a mosque in the village of Hasukhel in North Waziristan, killing some worshippers. Six further people were killed in a second drone strike shortly afterwards as they took part in rescue work, according to Yusufzai’s sources.

On June 3 2012, two Taliban commanders and their men were targeted as they visited the village of Gangi Khel in South Waziristan to attend funeral prayers for a relative killed in an earlier drone strike. Despite reports that the two commanders were killed, the Bureau’s research finds both men survived and there were no fatalities.

An attack on June 4 2012 ultimately killed al Qaeda second-in-command Yahya al-Libi. Despite US claims that al-Libi alone died, Bureau research appears to corroborate multiple accounts indicating that at least 16 people, all alleged militants, died in a series of missile strikes. This reportedly included the deliberate targeting of rescuers. Congressional oversight committee staffers reportedly told the LA Times they had seen video showing only al-Libi’s death. They may have been unaware of additional strikes. The CIA told the Bureau it ‘provides accurate and timely information consistent with our obligation to the oversight Committees. Any accusation alleging otherwise is baseless.’

On July 6 2012, a group of alleged militants were targeted and killed as they ate dinner with local tribesmen. Another nearby mixed group who were praying were not attacked. After waiting 30 minutes rescue work began. CIA drones then returned, killing 12 others including three brothers. Legal charity Reprieve reports eyewitnesses as identifying eight civilians killed in the attack, who it names as Salay Khan; Mir Jahan Gul; Allah Mir Khan; Noor Bhadshah Khan; Mir Gull Jan; Batkai Jan; Gallop Haji Jan and Gull Saeed Khan.

An initial attack on a house in Dre Nishtar in the Shawal valley on July 23 2012 killed five alleged militants. Local villagers refused to assist in aid work because they feared a fresh attack. Alleged militants involved in the rescue were then targeted in a second strike, with a further seven killed and eight injured. Reprieve believes civilians may also have died in this attack, and is continuing to investigate.

No evidence could be found for a claimed attack on rescuers on May 28 2012. Instead, Yusufzai’s sources said two separate linked strikes took place. An initial 4am attack failed to destroy a truck. The vehicle was pursued and destroyed 10 minutes later as it passed through Hasukhel village, killing seven alleged militants. Four civilians including three children were also injured when a nearby house was damaged.

Similarly, the Bureau can find no evidence to support a claimed double-tap attack on June 14 2012 in Miranshah. Instead, one individual died on the building’s roof, in what Yusufzai’s sources describe as a highly precise attack causing minimal structural damage.

Special rules?

The rescuer strikes examined by Yusufzai all appear to have been aimed at very senior militants – so-called High Value Targets. Under international humanitarian law, the greater the threat a target represents, and the more imminent that threat is deemed to be, the greater the leeway for targeting. The Bureau’s findings suggest that strikes on rescuers are still permitted in certain circumstances, such as in the pursuit of a high value target such as Yahya al-Libi.

The Bureau’s original investigation into the deliberate targeting of rescuers found that a significant number of civilians had been reported killed, alongside Taliban rescuers.

It was the presence of civilians amid groups of rescuers which meant the US may have committed war crimes, according to the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. Christof Heyns noted in June 2012:

If civilian ‘rescuers’ are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime.

Heyns’ colleague Ben Emmerson QC, UN special rapporteur on torture, also told reporters in October 2012: ‘The Bureau has alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns… has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.’

The Bureau understands that Emmerson’s ongoing UN investigation into drone strikes is likely to engage with the issue of targeting first responders.

Bureau field researcher Mushtaq Yusufzai notes that civilians now rarely appear to take part in rescue operations, and are often prevented from doing so by militants. They also fear further CIA attacks, he says.

As Bureau field researcher Mushtaq Yusufzai notes, civilians now rarely appear to take part in rescue operations’

Sarah Knuckey is an international lawyer at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, based at New York University’s School of Law. An adviser to UN rapporteur Christof Heyns, Knuckey also co-authored the 2012 report Living Under Drones, which gathered substantial testimony in Pakistan about strikes on rescuers.

‘The threat of the “double tap” reportedly deters not only the spontaneous humanitarian instinct of neighbours and bystanders in the immediate vicinity of strikes, but also professional humanitarian workers providing emergency medical relief to the wounded,’ the report noted.

Commenting on the Bureau’s latest findings, Knuckey says civilians cannot be targeted under the laws of war.

But she adds: ‘Secondary strikes are not necessarily unlawful. If, for example, secondary strikes are carried out on additional military targets who come to the area of a first strike, the strikes might comply with the laws of war. And the Bureau’s findings of no evidence of civilian harm from the 2012 strikes they investigated suggest that proper precautions in attack may have been taken for those strikes.

‘The key question around the legality of secondary strikes is: On what basis is the US making the assessment that the ‘rescuers’ are legitimate military targets? Is the US assuming that anyone coming to a second strike is also a militant, or does it have – for each rescuer – intelligence on that person’s militant status? If secondary strikes take place within 10-20 minutes of a first strike, is that sufficient time to determine militancy?’

Stark contrast

The US has not generally responded to the issue of double-tap strikes. But three months after the 2012 attacks, a senior diplomat denied that civilian rescuers were ever ‘deliberately’ targeted by the CIA.

A group of US peace activists visiting Pakistan in October 2012 were told by acting US ambassador Richard E Hoagland: ’For at least the last several years that I have been here in Pakistan and more intimately associated with the knowledge of this [drone campaign], there was never any deliberate strikes against civilian rescuers.’

The US Senate and House intelligence committees are charged with overseeing the CIA’s drone targeted killing project. But there is an unexplained disparity between an account of what committee members were shown by the CIA on a particular strike, and what other sources report.

Is the US assuming that anyone coming to a second strike is also a militant, or does it have – for each rescuer – intelligence on that person’s militant status?’
Sarah Knuckey, New York University

Yahya al-Libi, al Qaeda’s second-in-command, was killed by the CIA on June 4 2012 in a strike on the village of Hassokhel in North Waziristan.

Almost all media reports at the time placed the death toll at 15-18. Sources including the Washington Post said rescuers were targeted and killed at the scene.

But the US has consistently denied this. ‘American officials said that Mr Libi was the only person who died in the attack, although others were present in the compound,’ the New York Times noted.

In July 2012, the Los Angeles Times published a detailed account of the workings of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. According to reporter Ken Dilanian, staffers from both committees visit CIA headquarters once a month, where they watch video and review other evidence relating to drone strikes.

‘The BBC and other news organisations quoted local officials saying that 15 “suspected militants” were killed in the June 4 Pakistan strike that killed al Libi,’ Dilanian reports. ‘But the [CIA] video shows that he alone was killed, congressional aides say.’

The Bureau’s findings are in stark contrast, appearing to confirm original news reports that rescuers were indeed targeted at the time and that many more died.

According to Yusufzai’s sources, an initial 4am attack on a small house in the village of Hassokhel killed five. A dozen people ‘including Arabs, Turkmen and local tribesmen’ then started rescue work.

But as they were removing bodies, the CIA’s drones reportedly struck again – killing 10 more, including Yahya al-Libi, ‘who was observing the rescue operation when he too came under missile attack,’ the source said.

Neither the House nor Senate intelligence committees were prepared to comment on the disparity between these reports.

The Bureau approached the CIA for comment on the latest sequence of rescuer strikes. While declining to comment on most questions, spokesman Edward Price robustly denied the suggestion that the oversight committees may have been misled.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License


Empire : Empire : Promo: Iraq to Mali: The Ever-Changing Calculus of the War on T…


Does Obama’s Kingly Power to Kill US Citizens Extend to Domestic Suspects?

John Glaser, February 05, 2013

The leaked Justice Department memo detailing the Obama administration’s legal rationale for killing US citizens without charge or trial or judicial review or any publicly available evidence of their guilt has raised a lot of questions.

One of them, which doesn’t get fleshed out in the memo, is whether this kingly authority to play Judge, Jury, and Executioner and deprive Americans of their life without due process of law applies only to Americans abroad or also to citizens that are inside the United States. The memo does say that one prerequisite to putting an American on the kill list is if their capture is “not feasible.” Presumably that wouldn’t happen in the US, but since it isn’t specified in the memo, nobody has really been able to give an informed opinion on this. And even if the authority is not currently used in this way, unless there is an explicit prohibition in the current legal rendering, it could conceivably be used this way in the future.

Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations cites a really terrifying exchange with FBI Director Robert Mueller from about a year ago:

REPRESENTATIVE TOM GRAVES: So I guess from a historical perspective, does the federal government have the ability to kill a U.S. citizen on United States soil, or just overseas?

FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT MUELLER: I am going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice.

The FBI’s mission is “to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.” Mueller has held his position since the week before 9/11 and has been intimately involved in virtually every significant counterterrorism decision of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. If the director of the FBI does not know—or is unwilling to testify under oath—where the U.S. government has the authority to kill its citizens, then who does? It is worth noting that Holder argued that there are no limits to the “geographic scope of our ability to use force.”

Read the whole post, which contains other relevant nuggets like the fact that “President Obama authorized the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen several months before its legal justification existed.”



Obama Admin. Blatantly Lied About SEAL Team Killing Bin Laden in Self-Defense


John Glaser, August 29, 2012

From the Washington Post, news that the Obama administration completely lied about the killing of bin Laden being in self-defense:

Bin Laden apparently was shot in the head when he looked out of his bedroom door into the top-floor hallway of his compound as SEALs rushed up a narrow stairwell in his direction, according to former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen in “No Easy Day.”

…The author writes that the man ducked back into his bedroom and the SEALs followed, only to find the man crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood with a hole visible on the right side of his head and two women wailing over his body.

Bissonnette says the point man pulled the two women out of the way and shoved them into a corner. He and the other SEALs trained their guns’ laser sights on bin Laden’s still-twitching body, shooting him several times until he lay motionless. Only when they wiped the blood off his face, were they certain it was bin Laden.

These revelations illustrate two important points from the bin Laden raid. First, the Obama administration pathologically lies about the nature of their secret operations in order to make targeted killings seem like self-defense when they are not and thus to immunize the operatives and the administration. This should be a lesson coloring our perceptions of everything from drone strikes to other elite commando raids, most of which we know comparatively little next to the Abbottabad operation.

The other point falls somewhere along the lines of what Noam Chomsky wrote immediately following the assassination operation on bin Laden. “It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law,” he wrote. “There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition…In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial.” But if President Obama suspects you’ve done wrong, no court or trial or judge are needed; he’ll just kill you by royal decree.


see also Pentagon may take legal action against author

Whistleblowers prosecuted while war criminals remain free?


A newly released document acquired by Wired Magazine exposes the United States Defense Department’s torture techniques. In the 37 page report, former CIA official John Kiriakou warns the George W. Bush administration about the techniques that were being used on detainees and explains how they are against US law. His warnings went unheard of, until Kiriakou was indicted for leaking the information to the media. David Swanson, campaigner for Roots Action, joins us with more.

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Leaked Video Shows U.S. Soldiers Urinating On Dead Afghan Bodies

By Daniel Bates

January 11, 2012

Marine Corps probe after video emerges showing American troops ‘urinating on dead Afghan bodies’

* The anonymous person who put it online wrote, ‘Scout sniper team 4 with 3rd battalion 2nd marines out of camp lejeune peeing on dead talibans’

The U.S. Marine Corps today launched an official investigation after footage emerged which showed American soldiers urinating on dead bodies.

The 40-second clip shows four men in combat gear standing over the three corpses with their genitals exposed as they relieve themselves.

At one point one of the men can be heard saying: ‘Have a great day, buddy’ to laughter from his colleagues.

Horrifying: A video posted online claims to show four Marines urinating on dead bodies

Grinning: One of the men can be heard saying: ‘Have a great day, buddy’ as his colleagues laugh and another jokes: ‘Golden like a shower’ and ‘Yeahhhh!’

Another of them jokes: ‘Golden like a shower’ and ‘Yeahhhh!’ as they groan with relief whilst urinating.

It is not clear if the corpses belong to civilians or insurgents engaged in combat, although the film does appear to have been shot in Afghanistan.

The anonymous person who posted it included the caption: ‘Scout sniper team 4 with 3rd battalion 2nd marines out of camp lejeune peeing on dead talibans.’

The film is likely to spark a huge diplomatic row between Washington and Kabul and rekindle memories of the abuse meted out by American troops at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

The three corpses are all male and are wearing civilian clothes. The youngest lies on his front with an overturned wheelbarrow dumped by his side.

The other two are on their backs and one has a large blood stain on his chest.

Marines spokeswoman Kendra Hardesty said: ‘While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps.

‘This matter will be fully investigated and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.’

A spokeswoman for the Marines said: ‘While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps’

The footage emerged on where some people left comments in support of what the soldiers had done.

One commenter wrote: ‘We’re all proud of you guys’, while another put: ‘The first bath they have had in years!’ and ‘cut their heads off and bury them with a pig’.

However others were disgusted and wrote: ‘Not cool.. fight with honor and dignity for others, you sign up to get shot at so deal with it , set an example for future Soldiers. dont pee on the dead.’

Camp Lejeune is in North Carolina and is the largest Marine Corps Base on the East Coast of the U.S., home to 40,000 marines.

The 3rd Batallion 2nd Marines consists of 800 Marines and sailors and is nicknamed the ‘Betio Bastards’, a reference to the island of Betio in the Tawara Atoll and the site of one of the most deadly battles with the Japanese in World War II.

More recently they have served in Iraq, the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and in Afghanistan.

Their motto is: ‘We quell the storm, and ride the thunder!’ or ‘Strength and Honour’.

The video adds to a list of embarrassments that includes the abuses pictured from Abu Ghraib

The image of American troops has been battered by a series of scandals involving troops behaving appallingly whilst in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The further revelations are likely to make winning the hearts and minds of locals in the field even harder.

The most shocking instance was the abuse at the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Baghdad in 2004 where detainees were piled naked into human pyramids for the amusement of their American guards.

Other inmates were put on wooden platforms with a hood over their heads and told they would be electrocuted if they stepped off.

There were also reports of rape, sexual abuse and other forms of torture. Eleven soldiers and a number of officials were disciplined over the scandal.

There was also the ‘Thrill Kill’ squad which murdered three Afghan civilians for sport and took their body parts as trophies.

Their leader, Sgt Calvin Gibbs, 26, was jailed for life for blasting innocent bystanders to death at random then covering his tracks by leaving grenades next to their bodies.

Nine other members of the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division were also implicated.
British troops were also accused of abusing and urinating on an Iraqi detainee.

The photos used to back up the story were later proved to be a hoax but not before they were dubbed ‘a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda’.


New U.S. Account Says Bin Laden Was Unarmed During Raid

By and

Published: May 3, 2011

WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden was not carrying a weapon when he was killed by American troops in a fortified house in Pakistan, the White House said Tuesday, as it revised its initial account of the nighttime raid.

Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, answered reporters’ questions on Tuesday about the details surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden. More Photos »



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Members of a Navy Seals team burst in on Bin Laden in the compound where he was hiding and shot him in a room on an upper floor, after a fierce gun battle with other operatives of Al Qaeda on the first floor.

Bin Laden’s wife, who was with him in the room, “rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,” said the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, reading from the brief account, which was provided by the Defense Department. “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

Mr. Carney said that Bin Laden’s lack of a weapon did not mean he was ready to surrender, and he and other officials reiterated that this was a violent scene, that there was heavy fire from others in the house, and that the commandos did not know whether the occupants were wearing suicide belts or other explosives.

Still, the account diverged in some ways from one given Monday by the president’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan. He had said Bin Laden was “engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in,” adding, “whether or not he got off any rounds, I frankly don’t know.”

Mr. Brennan also said then that Bin Laden used his wife as a “human shield.” But officials now say that the death of another woman in the crossfire on another floor led them to draw that false conclusion.

White House officials said the discrepancies resulted from their haste to provide details about a chaotic, fast-moving military operation to an intensely interested American public. As more of the assault team’s 79 members were debriefed, and their accounts were crosschecked with those of other team members, there were bound to be changes in the account, these officials said.

But the episode also reveals the pressures as the White House, intent on telling a dramatic story about a successful operation, sought to manage a 24-hour news media ravenous for immediate and vivid details. Even as Mr. Brennan was giving his account on Monday, other officials began clarifying parts of the story for reporters.

On Tuesday, one issue officials were wrestling with was whether to release a photo of Bin Laden’s body.

Several experts on the rules of engagement in combat said that in a raid on a target as dangerous as Bin Laden, the Navy Seals team would be justified to open fire at the slightest commotion when they burst into a room.

“If he were surrendering, or knocked out and unconscious on the ground, that would raise serious questions,” said John B. Bellinger III, legal counsel at the National Security Council and State Department in the Bush administration.

“But this is a guy who’s extremely dangerous,” he said. “If he’s nodding at someone in the hall, or rushing to the bookcase or you think he’s wearing a suicide vest, you’re on solid ground to kill him.”

Other experts noted that the members of the Navy Seals faced difficult conditions, moving through dim rooms under gunfire, and needing to make a split-second judgment about whether Bin Laden posed a threat.

“They say he was unarmed now, but did the Seals know he was unarmed?” said Scott L. Silliman, an expert on wartime legal doctrine at Duke University Law School. “It was in the dark. They were wearing goggles.”

At the United Nations, questions arose about the killing. The organization’s senior human rights official, Navi Pillay, called for more details.

While noting that Bin Laden was a dangerous man, she said any operation against him should have been done legally.

During Monday’s briefing, Mr. Brennan said President Obama put a premium on protecting the commandos in the operation, saying that “we were not going to give Bin Laden or any of his cohorts the opportunity to carry out lethal fire on our forces.”

None were harmed, though there was a tense moment when one of the two helicopters suffered a mechanical failure and was destroyed by the commandos.

Despite expecting Bin Laden to put up a fight, Mr. Brennan said the assault team had made contingency plans for capturing, rather than killing him. “If we had the opportunity to take Bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that,” he said.

Still, Mr. Brennan was eager to draw larger lessons from what he said was Bin Laden’s use of his wife as a shield.

“Here is Bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks, living in this million-dollar-plus compound, living in an area that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield,” he said. “I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.”

Leon E. Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday that the troops’ orders were to kill Bin Laden. “But it was also, as part of their rules of engagement, if he suddenly put up his hands and offered to be captured, then they would have the opportunity, obviously, to capture him,” he said.

Some of the confusion in the accounts of the raid stemmed from the difference in time zones. Bin Laden had actually been killed early Monday by Pakistan time, not late on Sunday as had been initially reported.

Meanwhile, the White House continued to grapple with the question of whether to release the photo of the dead Bin Laden, or other documentary evidence. Administration officials said that they are trying to determine whether the visceral desire among Americans — and some skeptics — to see proof outweighs the potential that such images might further inflame Bin Laden’s disciples.

The photo, taken after Bin Laden was killed, clearly identifies the Qaeda leader, according to one official who has viewed it. “It looks like him, covered in blood with a hole in his head,” the official said.

White House officials say they are still deciding what to do, although one official said that they were leaning toward releasing the photo. Mr. Panetta told NBC News that he did not think “there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public.”

Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington, and Neil MacFarquhar from New York.

A version of this article appeared in print on May 4, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: NEW U.S. ACCOUNT IN BIN LADEN RAID: HE WAS UNARMED.

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