“No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Ladin” hit bookshelves on September 4th, 2012, but has been followed with controversy. The book, written under the pseudonym Mark Owen, provides an autobiographical account of the navy seal’s life as well as details of the day that U.S. Navy Seal Team 6 killed Osama Bin Ladin.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in an interview with ‘CBS This Morning’ stated that the soldier should be punished and that Owen took an oath of secrecy and should abide by those standards. Here Panetta is referring to publishing rules put in place by the Pentagon to prevent sensitive information from being accidentally leaked. Panetta went on to state that the release of this sensitive information could “jeopardize other operations and the lives of others that are involved in those operations” moreover, “what that does is tell our enemies essentially how we operate and what we do to go after them.”
According to an ABC report by Luis Martinez, in August 2012, the Pentagon sent a letter to Owen stating that his book was in breach of his non-disclosure agreement and that they are considering legal action against him; yet Owen denies that any sensitive information has been released.
This is not the first book to look events surrounding Osama Bin Ladin. In 2011, Ali Soufan released “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.” The book provides detailed accounts of the events that led up to the 9/11 attacks as well as interviews and interrogations of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, after 9/11 and before Bin Ladin’s death. The book is complete with Soufan’s first hand accounts as an FBI Agent tasked with investigating the al-Qaeda network to include Osama Bin Ladin. Soufan questions failed CIA torture practices used against detainees including water boarding, starvation and isolation. In some cases, his accounts are at odds with government documents which show that these practices were effective in providing crucial intelligence in the field.
When Ali Soufan’s book was released in 2011, there was not a backlash from government officials. One reason for this is that Ali Soufan’s book was vetted by the CIA and FBI Publications Review Board before final publication. Another reason is that Soufan’s book is full of redactions (marked-out text) by the CIA, which in some cases took up several pages, even though all of the information was available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act. Soufan chose to have the book published with the CIA redactions to help his readers read between the lines.
This is at odds with Owen’s book which did not go through the normal Pentagon vetting process and therefore did not allow the government to make those changes.
In the words of Leon Panetta to ‘CBS This Morning‘ when looking at Owen’s book versus others regarding the Bin Ladin operation, “there’s a fundamental difference … the people that presented some of the details of the operation were authorized to do so by the president of the United States who has the authority to do that and informed the American people as to what happened. In this case, that was not the case.”