Matt Bissonnette, the Navy SEAL who wrote the book “No Easy Day,” under the pseudonym Mark Owen, was not careless. The book, which details how he was assigned to and succeeded in killing Osama Bin Laden, was not given to the Pentagon prior to publication for their review. It was, however, carefully edited. Bissonnette’s attorney said that the author “sought legal advice about his responsibilities before agreeing to publish his book and scrupulously reviewed the work to ensure that it did not disclose any material that would breach his agreements or put his former comrades at risk.” Nevertheless, the CIA chief who oversaw the attack, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, is angry.
“How the hell can we run sensitive operations here that go after enemies if people are allowed to do that?” Mr. Panetta said to CBS.
“We are currently reviewing that book to determine exactly, you know, what is classified, and what isn’t, and where those lines are. But even beyond that, the fact that he did it without running it by the Pentagon so that we could take a look at it…. That’s a concern.”
So what’s the bottom line? If Mr. Bissonnette is charged by the Pentagon and convicted for divulging classified information, he could face criminal punishment, as well as losing the proceeds from the book. Though his attorney claims Bissonnette had no legal requirement to submit the book to the CIA, he nevertheless has a duty to keep sensitive information undisclosed. Failing that, the consequences could be severe.
“I think we have to take steps to make clear to him and to the American people that we’re not going to accept this kind of behavior,” said Panetta. “If we don’t, then everybody else who pledges to ensure that that doesn’t happen is going to get the wrong signal that somehow they can do it without any penalty.”