A viral conspiracy theory spread across social media baselessly claims former Vice President Joe Biden “had SEAL Team 6 killed” as part of a cover-up after a purportedly failed assassination of Osama bin Laden. President Donald Trump shared the unfounded theory on Twitter.
A baseless conspiracy theory peddled at a recent conservative political conference migrated to social media, spreading the outrageous claim that former Vice President Joe Biden allowed the killing of Navy SEALs as part of a massive scandal.
The unfounded theory has traveled across platforms, getting assistance on Twitter from President Donald Trump.
“Hiden Biden and Obama may have had SEAL Team 6 killed! EXPLOSIVE: CIA Whistleblower Exposes Biden’s Alleged Role with the Deaths of SEAL Team- Claims to have Documented Proof. RETWEET!!!” read a tweet amplified by the president.
The tweet linked to a story on a conservative commentary site about a supposed “whistleblower” who claims that former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was not actually killed in May 2011, and that the Obama administration had to pay Iran billions of dollars — and kill off Navy SEALs — as part of a cover-up. The underlying theory to this false narrative of a botched bin Laden raid intertwines several real events: an attack on U.S. military members in 2011, the Benghazi terrorist attacks in 2012 and the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015.
Trump’s retweet itself became a part of the narrative for online conspiracy theorists, who viewed it as confirmatory. One popular post relayed that Trump “confirms” the “intel” that Biden “directly participated in a plot to have #SEALTeam6 MURDERED, then arranged a massive cash deal as part of a cover up.” Another said, “Trump KNOWS.”
In reality, neither Trump nor his administration has publicly offered any evidence supporting the wild tale behind the viral posts.
We reached out to Trump’s reelection campaign to ask what evidence there is to support such a theory, and we were referred to the White House for comment. The White House did not answer our inquiry.
The conspiracy theory was first aired during an American Priority conference, “AMP Fest,” held at Trump National Doral in Florida on Oct. 8-11, during a presentation by Nick Noe, a Trump supporter and Air Force veteran, and Charles Woods, the father of a former Navy SEAL killed in the Benghazi attacks.
The presentation featured a video of Noe and Woods with Alan Harrow Parrot. Parrot has described himself as a falconer who has worked in the Middle East; he has previously claimed he tried to convey the whereabouts of bin Laden to the Bush administration.
The claims made at AMP Fest were then pushed on social media by Anna Khait, a real estate agent and former “Survivor” contestant who has written for the conservative website the Epoch Times. In a viral YouTube video whose description hawks doomsday preparation supplies, she suggests that the U.S. should “hang them” when referring to former Obama administration officials she accuses of “treason.” The video has been viewed nearly 3 million times.
No Proof SEALs Killed Bin Laden’s ‘Double’
In the video played at AMP Fest, however, Parrot claims he has “documents” to prove that the SEALs had not actually killed bin Laden during the 2011 raid — and that the Obama administration paid $152 billion to Iran to cover it up.
When we reached Parrot by phone, he said that he would provide us with a document he described as “a Rosetta Stone of dates, facts.” Instead, he sent a link to a DropBox file with a seven-page paper dated Oct. 13, 2020, that largely repeats the unsubstantiated claims made in the video. It also included a recording purported to be a phone call with a lobbyist and a former congressman that included a discussion of rumors that bin Laden was in Iran.
Although the dubious websites promoting his claims call him a “CIA whistleblower,” Parrot told us, “I’ve never been employed by the CIA, I do not work for the CIA.” In fact, he said, “I have never been hired by any agency anywhere.” He blamed “the media” for getting that wrong.
In the video, Parrot suggests that Iran was secretly holding bin Laden prior to the raid so that Obama could execute a “trophy kill” before his 2012 reelection campaign. Parrot claims Iran agreed to place bin Laden in the Pakistan compound and did so, but replaced him with a “double” before the SEALs executed their raid.
“They killed Osama bin Laden’s double,” Parrot claims without any evidence. “One of the wives went running towards them before he shot him and said, don’t shoot, he’s a double.”
Robert O’Neill — the former Navy SEAL who says he fired the shot that killed bin Laden — wrote on Twitter in response to the claims: “Very brave men said goodby to their kids to go kill Osama bin Laden. We were given the order by President Obama. It was not a body double. Thank you Mr. President.”
Distorted Take on Iran Nuclear Deal
Parrot’s claim that Iran extorted the Obama administration for “$152 billion” over bin Laden is similarly unsubstantiated.
He declined to explain that claim any further during our phone interview with him. But the claim appears to be based on a combination of two frequently misunderstood deals involving the U.S. and Iran.
First, as we’ve written before, the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program resulted in unfreezing Iranian assets that were held mostly in foreign banks. Six countries and the European Union signed onto the agreement — it wasn’t between the U.S. and Iran, alone. The U.S. did not send $150 billion in cash to Iran.
Also, it’s unclear how much money was freed up in the deal. A high-end estimate put the total worth of the Iranian assets at $150 billion. But the U.S. Treasury Department estimates the total was about $50 billion in “usable liquid assets,” according to 2015 testimony from Adam Szubin, acting under secretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence. Most claims about the deal cite the high-end estimate, though, and often mischaracterize other aspects.
The following year, the U.S. paid $1.7 billion to Iran as repayment of $400 million for military equipment that Iran paid for in the 1970s, but never received, plus interest.
Baseless Claim That Biden Ordered ‘Extortion 17’
Three months after the raid that killed bin Laden, Taliban fighters shot down a Chinook helicopter carrying 30 U.S. service members, including 15 members of SEAL Team 6, who were on a mission to capture a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. The episode is often referred to as “Extortion 17,” the call sign for the helicopter transporting the troops, and it has been the subject of previous conspiracy theories.
Parrot references this event in the video, claiming, “Biden paid with the blood of SEAL Team 6 when he had them killed.”
Noe asks in the video: “That means that SEAL Team 6 was shot down on purpose after the trophy kill to ensure that no dead man can tell no tales?”
“You are correct,” Parrot says.
Noe also said during the AMP Fest conference that, “I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the fact that SEAL team 6, after they killed bin Laden, almost all of them were killed very shortly after.”
But O’Neill, the former SEAL (who has written a book telling his story about killing bin Laden), said none of the members who took part in the bin Laden mission died in Extortion 17.
“Every SEAL from the UBL Mission is alive while you are reading this,” he wrote on Twitter.
SEAL Team 6 had an estimated 250 to 300 operators at the time, according to the Washington Post.
Another former SEAL Team 6 member has written a book about the events and said he also shot bin Laden during the raid.
There was a subsequent military investigation into Extortion 17, which found that the helicopter “was shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fired by a Taliban fighter as the helicopter neared its landing zone.”
Garry Reid, who was principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict, told Congress in 2014: “We do not believe Extortion 17 was the victim of a pre-planned enemy ambush, nor do we believe the enemy had advance knowledge of our flight route and landing zone location.”
Unsubstantiated Link to Benghazi Attacks
On Sept. 11, 2012, terrorists in Libya attacked a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens. Two former Navy SEALs who were acting as security consultants — Charles Woods’ son, Tyrone, and Glen Doherty — were among those killed. (Charles Woods said in the video that his son was no longer a SEAL at the time of the bin Laden raid.)
After suggesting that Extortion 17 was planned by U.S. leaders to cover up a botched bin Laden raid, Noe asserts in the video that the helicopter was shot down using a missile from the CIA — and that the Benghazi attacks the following year was part of an effort to then cover that up. “I assume that part of the plan for [then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] was to eliminate everyone there at the Benghazi compound,” he says.
We found no evidence to back up those claims.
When we asked Noe in a phone interview what documents he could provide to support them, he said, “I’m not going to do the report for you.” He then said he would respond to a follow-up email requesting more information, but he hasn’t.
The Benghazi attacks have been immensely scrutinized through several investigations — including a two-year probe by the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi, which issued a final report in 2016. That report heavy criticized the Obama administration, including for insufficient security at the compound and its response to the attacks, but it does not tie the attacks to Extortion 17.
It also offers nothing suggesting the attacks were orchestrated by the administration as part of a cover-up linked to the bin Laden assassination.
We asked former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who led the select committee’s investigation, about that and he told us that he hadn’t heard anything about the theory connecting the two.
“Everything the Committee found, for which there was an evidentiary basis, was included in our Select Committee report,” Gowdy said in an email. “I have never heard of either of the ‘theories’ you referenced, not one word from any witness, including the survivors of the attacks.”
In our phone interview with Noe, he said that he has now turned over documents regarding his findings to a member of Congress. He declined to tell us who that is.
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