White House responds to father of slain Navy Seal
The father of a slain Navy SEAL who called for an investigation into the planning of the overseas mission that led to his death apparently isn’t going to get one — at least not at this time.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said at his briefing on Monday that it would be “irresponsible” to undertake another inquiry while three separate probes are pending.
William Owens, the father of the late William “Ryan’’ Owens, is disturbed by the chain of events prior to the launch of the late January mission in Yemen. In an interview published by the Miami Herald on Sunday, he questioned President Donald Trump’s motives, and whether the raid had been thoroughly vetted.
The Pentagon said on Monday that the military is conducting a routine review into the mission, which ended in a 50-minute firefight in which Owens was shot and many civilians were killed. It was the first covert mission authorized by the president, who had been in office less than a week when he green-lighted the operation.
The military review includes an examination of Owens’ death; the loss of a $70 million aircraft that was damaged so badly that it had to be destroyed; and reports that as many as 30 civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, were also killed.
“There are three separate efforts looking at three different things as a result of that operation,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday. “They are all still in progress and we need to give those a chance to be completed and reviewed” before any additional investigation will be launched.
Owens, a retired Fort Lauderdale police officer who lives in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, wants a thorough probe — not only into the raid, but also into the entire timeline, which would include the planning, timing and decision-making that went into the operation.
Ryan Owens, 36, married and the father of three children, served with SEAL Team 6, and had received numerous medals during his 12 deployments in the Navy.
While the mission had been planned under former President Barack Obama, Owens expressed doubts about whether Trump’s team had enough time to review it.
“You have to freshen up your intelligence, You can’t go with old intelligence. But he didn’t like talking to people in intelligence,’’ said Bill Owens, a U.S. Navy and Army veteran.
Owens said he was troubled by the fact that Trump seemed to shrug off intelligence briefings, noting: “He said he was smarter than the generals.’’
But Owens is particularly angry about comments made earlier by Spicer, who said that anyone who questioned the success of the mission would dishonor Ryan Owens’ memory.
“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” said the elder Owens, pointing to Trump’s sharp words directed at the mission’s critics, including Sen. John McCain.
He raised questions about what role, if any, the president’s chief political strategist, Steven Bannon, had in the decision.
“Did Bannon push him for political purposes? I’m not saying that’s what happened, but I want to know if those questions can be answered by a thorough investigation.’’
Owen refused to meet with Trump at Dover Air Force Base when his son’s body was returned to the United States, although other relatives apparently did greet the president.
Davis said that it’s possible that the probe will evaluate the decision-making process behind the raid, but that he could not confirm that.
“We’re very comfortable with how the mission was executed and we’ll let the Department of Defense go through that review process and then see where that leads us,” Spicer said on Monday. “I think to get ahead of the three separate reviews. . . would be probably a little irresponsible at this time.”
The first of the investigations, known as an 15-6, is being undertaken by U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East. Such investigations usually take a few months.
U.S. Central Command is also conducting a civilian casualty credibility assessment. If it finds that the casualty reports are credible, it will be followed by a more formal investigation. Earlier this month, it said in a statement that civilians “were likely killed” in the midst of the “ferocious firefight,” and that “casualties may include children.”
Local media and medics in the region reported 30 civilian casualties, including at least 10 women and children. The London-based human rights group Reprieve, which monitors civilian casualties of drone strikes, says it has evidence of 23 civilian casualties, including a newborn and 10 children.
A different military unit is conducting an aviation mishap investigation. An MV-22 Osprey, which had been sent in to evacuate the wounded from the firefight that left Owens dead, crash-landed after losing power and injured two more service members. The damaged aircraft was later destroyed by a U.S. airstrike so it would not fall into the hands of the militants, according to the Pentagon.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said that the raid was a success, citing the deaths of 14 al-Qaida members and the seizure of valuable intelligence.
“I can tell him that on behalf of the president, his son died a hero and the information that he was able to help obtain through that raid, as I’ve said before, was going to save American lives,” Spicer said on Monday when asked about Owens’ criticism.
Vera Bergengruen reports for the McClatchy Washington Bureau.