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Bin Laden Burial Details Revealed In Emails
Secret internal military emails have revealed that Osama bin Laden's body was referred to as "the package" before its burial at sea.
No sailors watched as the al Qaeda leader's body was dropped into the North Arabian Sea from the USS Carl Vinson.
The operation was shrouded in secrecy, which included the corpse being referred to as "the package" delivered by "Fedex".
The emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily blacked out but are the first public disclosure of government information about the terrorist's death.
Bin Laden was killed on May 1, 2011, by a Navy SEAL team that swooped on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
One email stamped secret and sent on May 2 by a senior Navy officer briefly describes how his body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet, and then placed in a weighted bag.
According to another message from the Vinson's public affairs officer, only a small group of the ship's leadership was informed of the burial.
"Traditional procedure for Islamic burial was followed," the May 2 email from Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette reads.
"The deceased's body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker.
"After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body slid into the sea."
The email also included the cryptic reference to the intense secrecy surrounding the mission.
Gaouette, then the deputy commander of the Navy's Fifth Fleet, used code words to discuss whether the helicopters carrying the SEALs and bin Laden's body had arrived on the Vinson.
"Any news on the package for us?" he asked Rear Adm. Samuel Perez, commander of the carrier strike group that included the Vinson.
"Fedex delivered the package," Perez responded. "Both trucks are safely en route home base."
Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the raid.
In a response to separate requests for information about the mission, the Defence Department said in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing his body.
It also said it could not find any images of the corpse on the Vinson.
The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of the body if he were killed.
The Defence Department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid.
One of the stealth helicopters that carried the SEALs to Abbottabad crashed during the mission and its wreckage was left behind.
People who lived near bin Laden's compound took photos of the disabled chopper.