updated 2/12/2013 2:46:50 PM ET 2013-02-12T19:46:50

Phil Bronstein, the journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden's killer, talked to Hardball about the shooter's uncertain future. It turns out that there are harder challenges than killing the world's most dangerous terrorist.

The Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden is speaking out.

The shooter, who is not identified by name, spoke to Phil Bronstein, the executive chair of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The piece appears in the March edition of Esquiremagazine and recounts the historic nighttime raid in May 2011 at Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bronstein spoke to Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Monday.

The piece reveals chilling details, including the silent helicopter trip to the terrorist mastermind’s compound, walking through a dark hallway on the third floor of bin Laden’s home, and coming face to face with the most wanted man in the world.

In the piece, the Navy SEAL said bin Laden “looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting…He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap!”

Bronstein said he found the SEAL Team Six shooter through mutual friends, and had several conversations on the phone before eventually having dozens of meetings over the course of a year. He received confirmation of the man’s identity from, among others, the point man of the operation.

The former Navy SEAL, who retired last year, talked about his uncertain future and fears that his identity would be exposed (he even told his children to never say the name ‘Osama bin Laden’). The piece also recounts how the SEAL left the military after 16 years with no medical insurance for his family, no pension, no comprehensive assistance in transitioning to civilian life, and no provision for security against any retaliation by al Qaeda.

The piece is not just about the raid, Bronstein told Matthews. “It’s what happens to these guys afterwards. Not a pretty picture, oftentimes, abandoned somewhat by the government, not absorbed in the private enterprise system… He’s a guy who wanted to portray the human side of that.” The shooter struggled to return to normal life–the piece depicts his wife finding him with a bottle of Ambien pills and his gun contemplating suicide when he got home after a mission.

Matthews asked Bronstein what a high-level sniper like Bin Laden’s killer is supposed to do after he leaves the service. Bronstein said that a special-ops serviceman like the shooter learn “resolve, he learns patience, he learns grace and decision-making under pressure. He learns all the things, in other words, that many of our CEOs would love to have.” But, Bronstein said, “there has to be a mechanism for transitioning.”

Video: The man who shot bin Laden

  1. Closed captioning of: The man who shot bin Laden

    >>> restore and maintain regularity. look for citrucel today.

    >>> we're back. for the first time the navy saem who shot and killed osama bin laden has given his personal account of the raid that night. speaking exclusively to my old editor at the san francisco chronicle and now executive chairman of the center for investigative reporting phil bronstein . in the march edition of esquire, the former navy s.e.a.l. gives chilling details from counting back and forth to a thousand which he did during the 90 minute helicopter ride to abbottabad and then thinking about a quote from george bush 's speech. then storming bin laden 's compound and walking through the dark hallway to the third floor. the navy s.e.a.l. hayes, quote, he looked confuse nd and way taller than he was expecting. he's got a gun within reach and he's a threat. in that second i shot him in the forehead. bap, bap. the second time as he was going down. he crumple onto the floor in front of his bed and i hit him again bap. he talks about living in constant fear that his identity could be exposed. with children don't ever say the name, osama bin laden .

    >>> a couple questions as a journalist and about your trade craft here. how did you find this navy seal? how did you id him yourself and how did you get him to talk?

    >> well, chris , finding him really happened through more of a social contact . we had some mutual friends. they talked to me before i ever met him. he and i had a number of phone conversations where i still didn't know who he was but i knew what he had done. gradually, our trust developed. we started talking more and more. i met him face to face , that probably happened dozens of times. this took place oaf a year and a quarter.

    >> how many times did it take for him to open up and give you a narrative of killing bin laden ?

    >> i would say long after he got out of the service, the beginning of september, last year.

    >> and you also got confirmation from the point man. the other guy told someone else he was the guy.

    >> the point man hasn't really talked publically at all. but i mean, there were dinners , chris , with seals that were on the mission and the shooter. i talked very openly. there's the mentor i talk about in the story who's an older, retired seal.

    >> now, this fella, we're not going to use his name because you didn't know it, you're not exposed to him in any way. this fella has killed 30 people in combat. how does this fit into his record in his conscience, going his duty. i thought it was wonderful what he talked about with george w. how does he deal with all of this killing?

    >> well, i think he deals with it through struggling, as all of these guys do. i mean, one of the points of this peace and one of the points i agreed would be the context of the peace. it's not just the raid. it's what happens to these guys afterwards. not guil not a pretty picture sometimes. so that was the kind of context of the piece. and he's a guy who wanted to portray the human side of that. there's a story in there about his wife finding him with a bottle of ambien pills and his gun, his pistol one night, contemplating suicide.

    >> the thing is he wanted to be a sniper. what is a sniper supposed to do when he leaves the service? what does that plan you for in making a living, which you have to do.

    >> chris , keep in mind. there are a lot of snipers in the military. aside from being a sniper, he's a seal team six. it's the highest level of training, the highest level of classification, the highest level of secrecy there is.

    >> he learns all the things that many of our ceos would like to have.

    >> there has to be a mechanism for positioning. jeff, in san francis doe , where i live, basically, both of them said we'd love to help these guys. they want to help these guys. they needs a need a mechanism.

    >> well, the movie, "'row dark 30" when your piece made reference to a former agency woman who said back in the base, we pulled bin laden out of the bag. we looked down and i said is this the guy? is this your guy? and i took my magazine out and said this is yours.

    >> and then he didn't see her after that.

    >> fabulous journalism. and you must know the work that you did. you were a great editor. anyway, when we return, let me finish with dick cheney 's on going record of, let's face it, being wrong. you're watching "hardball," the place


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