Book On Bin Laden Raid Under Pentagon Pressure
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Next month, a book will be published about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It's written by a former Navy SEAL who says he was on the mission. The title is "No Easy Day." The author goes by the pseudonym, Mark Owen. The Defense Department says it never reviewed the book.
And, as NPR's Larry Abramson reports, that could lead to a legal collision.
LARRY ABRAMSON, BYLINE: The cover of "No Easy Day" bills it as the firsthand account of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. Amazon.com's description says the author was one of the first through the door of the bin Laden compound and that he was on other notable raids, including the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from pirates off the Horn of Africa.
Sounds like a thrilling read. The only problem is that the author never ran it by his former bosses at the Pentagon. Defense Department spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jim Gregory said all employees, no matter how lofty their station, sign a clearance of DOD information for public release.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL JIM GREGORY: And it states that any official DOD information intended for public release that pertains to military matters, national security issues or subjects of significant concern to the Department of Defense shall be reviewed for clearance prior to release.
ABRAMSON: The book is being published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Books. Spokeswoman Christine Ball says the book has been vetted by what she calls a former special operations attorney.
CHRISTINE BALL: He vetted it for tactical, technical and procedural information, as well as information that could be considered classified by compilation and found it to be without risk to national security.
ABRAMSON: NPR has confirmed the actual identity of the author as Matt Bissonette, a former SEAL. The Department of Defense says that, even as an ex-employee, the author would still be covered by Pentagon disclosure policies. The book's subtitle says it is the autobiography of a Navy SEAL, which might indicate it's more of a memoir than a detailed guide to the famous raid.
But attorney Elizabeth Newman, author of "Security Clearance Law and Procedures," says it doesn't matter.
ELIZABETH NEWMAN: If you want to reveal information that's not classified and you're subject to the nondisclosure agreement, the government has the right to pre-publication review.
ABRAMSON: Other SEALs who have written books say there is no question they had to run their material by their former bosses. If the book does reveal classified material, that could be a violation of the law. If it doesn't, it's not clear the government can take any legal steps against the author. But two years ago, the Pentagon did spend thousands of dollars to collect and destroy copies of a book called "Operation Dark Heart," saying it threatened national security.
"No Easy Day" will be coming out on September 11th. The way the issue is handled could well have repercussions for the presidential election. Mitt Romney and other Republicans have already accused the White House of selectively leaking information about the raid to make the administration look good.
Larry Abramson, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.