Probes opened into SEAL’s death in Ye­men

Ser­vice mem­ber’s fa­ther seeks an in­ves­ti­ga­tion

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Tom Van­den Brook and Gre­gory Korte USA TO­DAY

The mil­i­tary is con­duct­ing at least three re­views of the raid in Ye­men last month that re­sulted in the first death of a U.S. ser­vice mem­ber in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to the White House and Pen­tagon.

Chief Spe­cial War­fare of­fi­cer Wil­liam “Ryan” Owens died in the com­mando raid in Ye­men that tar­geted the al- Qaeda ter­ror­ist network.

His fa­ther on Sun­day called on the White House for a probe into his son’s death. The op­er­a­tion also re­sulted in sev­eral civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, in­clud­ing an 8-yearold girl, and the crash land­ing and de­struc­tion of a $90 mil­lion war­plane.

Owens’ death, the civil­ian ca­su­al­ties from the raid and the loss of the tilt-ro­tor Osprey plane trig­gered sep­a­rate re­views by the mil­i­tary, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Mon­day. Each re­view is on­go­ing, said Christo­pher Sher­wood, a Pen­tagon spokesman.

Owen’s loss is sub­ject to a full­blown mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tion, while as­sess­ments of the civil­ian ca­su­al­ties and crashed plane may lead to in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Sher­wood said.

The Jan. 29 op­er­a­tion in­stantly be­came po­lit­i­cally charged: The White House pointed to in­tel­li­gence scooped up dur­ing the raid and de­clared it a suc­cess, while Sen. John McCain, the Repub­li­can chair­man of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, af­ter a clas­si­fied brief­ing char­ac­ter­ized it as a fail­ure for Owens’ death and flawed plan­ning for the mis­sion.

The de­bate heated up again Sun­day af­ter Bill Owens, the fallen SEAL’s fa­ther, told the Mi­ami

Her­ald that “the gov­ern­ment owes my son an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” Owens also re­vealed that he had re­fused to meet with Pres­i­dent Trump at Dover Air Force Base when his son’s body was re­turned to the United States.

Spicer said Mon­day that the White House and Pen­tagon were sat­is­fied that the op­er­a­tion had been ad­e­quately pre­pared for and again ex­pressed con­do­lences for the loss of Owens.

“I can’t pos­si­bly imag­ine what he’s go­ing through in terms of the loss of his son,” Spicer said.

“I can tell him on be­half of the pres­i­dent that his son died a hero and the in­for­ma­tion that he was able to help ob­tain through that raid is go­ing to save Amer­i­can lives. It’s go­ing to pro­tect our coun­try.”

The op­er­a­tion was planned dur­ing the previous ad­min­is­tra­tion, Spicer said, and that “the rec­om­men­da­tion was to wait for a moon­less night.”

“It’s some­thing that as a SEAL and as some­one who de­ployed 12 times, he knew this was part of the job,” Spicer said, adding that “we’re very com­fort­able with how the mis­sion was ex­e­cuted.”

Bad news about the raid — led by the loss of Owens, the fa­ther of three — has flowed in the month since it was launched. The mil­i­tary botched its roll­out of news sup­port­ing its con­tention that there was an in­tel­li­gence bo­nanza by re­leas­ing a seized video that was 10 years old.

The video was yanked from the Pen­tagon’s web­site within hours.

Spicer then tan­gled with McCain. Spicer stressed the mis­sion’s suc­cess and said McCain owed the fam­ily of Owens an apol­ogy. McCain dis­missed Spicer’s com­plaints, re­call­ing his own five-year im­pris­on­ment dur­ing the Viet­nam War. McCain noted that the raid that sought to re­lease him failed but that did not di­min­ish the hero­ism of the troops who con­ducted it.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the prison had been evac­u­ated,” McCain said in a state­ment. “But the brave men who risked their lives in an ef­fort to res­cue us pris­on­ers of war were gen­uine Amer­i­can he­roes. Be­cause the mis­sion failed did not in any way di­min­ish their courage and will­ing­ness to help their fel­low Amer­i­cans who were held cap­tive. Mr. Spicer should know that story.”


Wil­liam Owens holds a photo of his youngest son Navy SEAL Wil­liam “Ryan” Owens in Laud­erdale by the Sea, Fla.

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