7. The presumption of armed threat did not extend to women. NBC News reports:
The SEALs then made their way up a staircase, where they ran into one of bin Laden's sons on the way down. The Americans immediately shot and killed the son, who was also unarmed. Once on the third floor, the commandos threw open the door to bin Laden's bedroom. One of bin Laden's wives rushed toward the NAVY SEAL in the door, who shot her in the leg. Then, without hesitation, the same commando turned his gun on bin Laden, standing in what appeared to be pajamas, and fire two quick shots, one to the chest and one to the head.
Read that passage again. The SEALs encountered a man—bin Laden's son, who reportedly "lunged toward" them," according to the Times—and shot him dead. Next, a woman "rushed toward" them, but instead of killing her, they shot her in the leg. Then, "without hesitation," the guy who had just shot the woman in the leg turned and put two fatal bullets in a man standing in pajamas. No rule of perceived resistance can explain this sequence. It looks like a simple policy of neutralizing women but killing men. Maybe the team followed this policy because its job was to kill Bin Laden, so any man was treated as a presumptive target.
It's true that the SEALs killed one woman. According to the Times, they "shot and killed [the courier] and a woman in the guesthouse." But remember, the guest house is where the gunfire came from. So in that house, the SEALs may have shot first and ascertained later whether the people they'd killed were male or female.
The gender rule seems to have extended to suicide vests. U.S. officials have argued that the SEALs had reason to shoot Bin Laden, even if he was unarmed, because he might have been wearing a concealed suicide vest. But the AP, citing U.S. officials, reports that "one SEAL grabbed a woman, fearing she might be wearing a suicide vest, and pulled her away from his team. Whether that was bin Laden's wife has not been confirmed." So the possibility that you might be wearing a suicide vest justified shooting you if you were a man (or looked as though you might be Bin Laden), but if you were a woman, you were only pulled away.
8. Did Bin Laden appear to be armed? The new accounts specify weapons near Bin Laden. ABC News says "at least one AK-47 was found in bin Laden's room." The Times says the SEALs killed him after they entered the room and saw him "with an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol in arm's reach." But recall the NBC News report: After shooting Bin Laden's onrushing wife in the calf, "without hesitation, the same commando turned his gun on bin Laden, standing in what appeared to be pajamas, and fire two quick shots, one to the chest and one to the head." It's hard to imagine how this commando, who must have been focusing entirely on the charging woman until he pivoted to Bin Laden, had time to notice anything about weapons lying around before he put the two fatal bullets in the guy in the pajamas. Commandos are trained to focus on people and whether they're armed, not on unaccompanied objects. I doubt the inventory of weapons in the room was taken until later.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. would divulge no further details about the raid. He read a statement: "The team had the authority to kill Osama bin Laden unless he offered to surrender; in which case the team was required to accept his surrender if the team could do so safely." It seems increasingly clear that the SEALs went into the compound with a presumption that while women and children would be spared, any adult male would be killed, in part to avoid U.S. casualties and in part because one of the men might be Bin Laden. The initial gunfire from the guest house reinforced that presumption. After that, if you were found in either house, you were a dead man.