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'SEAL Team Six' Gets Some Of Bin Laden Raid Right

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The story of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden has captured the imagination of authors and film directors.

Just this year, the mission carried out by Navy SEAL Team Six has already been re-told in three books, including one written by a former Navy SEAL. Acclaimed film director Katherine Bigelow, who directed the film The Hurt Locker, is getting ready to release her treatment of the bin Laden raid in December.

On Sunday night, the National Geographic Channel will air its film about the raid, SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden.

The timing of the premiere of SEAL Team Six has drawn a lot of attention in political circles since there's a presidential election happening Tuesday. On the campaign trail and in the debates, President Obama has reminded voters time and again of his role in the raid.

Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin talked with NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman about where the filmmakers got their information and how much of it is accurate.

One early scene of the film shows an interrogation at Guantanamo Bay, where a detainee gives important information about one of bin Laden's couriers. Bowman says that's not quite how it happened.

"There were no interrogations at Guantanamo Bay that we know of that played a role in the hunt for bin Laden," Bowman says. He does say, however, that a detained al-Qaida operative named Hassan Ghul did provide information about the courier that led to Osama bin Laden.

Bowman says it also wasn't just one interview or interrogation that led to the location of Osama bin Laden's compound, and was in fact a lot more complicated.

The climax of the film, of course, is the raid on that compound and the killing of Osama bin Laden by SEAL Team Six. Based on what we know about that night, Bowman says this is the part where the filmmakers got a lot correct; from the method of getting into the compound to the number of helicopters involved and the crashing of one of those helicopters.

Some discrepancies in the film's depiction of the raid are the number of gun battles that occurred, the presence of Pakistani police outside the compound and the manner in which Osama bin Laden was actually killed, Bowman says.

In the film, bin Laden is killed the way the official story was given from the White House, with Navy SEALs bursting into the room and shooting him once in the chest and once in the face. Bowman says it was later revealed that it happened a bit differently.

"We [now] know that he was shot as the SEALs were coming up the stairs, they saw a guy poke his head out and shot at him," Bowman says. "As they came into the room bin Laden was on the ground in his death throes." He says one of the SEALs then shot bin Laden in the chest several times, killing him.

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