Former Navy SEAL’s poor decision may bring lawsuit
Haejin Song, Staff Writer
September 14, 2012
Filed under Opinion
‘No Easy Day,’ the publication of the account of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, has certainly proven to be ‘no easy day’ for the Navy SEAL who wrote the book.
The book is number one on Amazon’s best seller list. Its initial print run of 575,000 copies has been upped. The Pentagon is threatening to sue. And it may just cost an American life.
Former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, who used the pseudonym “Mark Owen,” is under scrutiny for giving a firsthand account of the bin Laden raid and the al-Qaeda mastermind’s final moments.
According to Amazon’s book description, ‘No Easy Day’ puts readers alongside Owen and the other hand-picked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives.”
But what if it’s better for us not to know?
The Pentagon states that the book contains sensitive, classified information. Furthermore, Bissonnette didn’t submit the book for pre-publication review. His account puts American soldiers’ lives and those of their families at great risk, without a doubt.
After all, how hard is it to purchase a book, let alone pre-order it, with a click of a button? Simply put, it’s not hard for American secrets to fall into the wrong hands.
Supporters of Bissonnette and his book may ask, “Could this information really cause a death?” Slate writer Brian Palmer asks an even better question, “Has an intelligence leak ever caused a death?”
Although the causal link may be difficult to prove, Palmer points out similar, past incidents in his article.
One: the killing of CIA Station Chief Richard Welch in 1975. U.S. officials suspect former CIA agent Philip Agee to be responsible for the leak through Agee’s book “Inside the Company: CIA Diary” and Agee’s work on the magazine “CounterSpy,” which identified Welch as a spy.
Two: Herbert Yardley, former telegraph agent during World War I, who broke the communications code of Imperial Japan. After Yardley published an unauthorized memoir, the Japanese changed their encryption techniques. Palmer mentions how “some historians today wonder whether the United States would have been better prepared for the Pearl Harbor invasion if Yardley had kept his secrets.”
The Pentagon did not state which parts of Bissonnette’s book contained classified information. However, military officials told CNN that some of the included photographs of advanced night vision goggles are of concern.
Despite matters of the released sensitive details in his book, some strongly believe that Bissonnette has his own rights as a citizen, such as being able to publish a book.
“While legally he may be obligated by his military contract to remain quiet, from the perspective of a citizen, it seems to me that he is not only free, but has an obligation, to comment and tell of his experiences — to speak truth to power,” Jeremy Rinker, visiting assistant professor of peace and conflict studies said in an email. “The concern to label such material as ‘classified’ or ‘top secret’ is a covert way of the government’s trying to control the narrative (or story) of the events of bin Laden’s death.”
Although I understand some of the previously mentioned points, I respectfully disagree.
First, Bissonnette doesn’t have any obligation as an American citizen to tell.
Second, he is a former Navy SEAL. Bissonnette should know better than anyone else: once a SEAL, always a SEAL. A Navy SEAL does not inform the public of his or her secret missions and what goes on during those assignments.
The individual has a duty to protect his nation and its citizens. Because he is a citizen, he ought to be all the more careful in keeping his mouth sealed.
Third, the government may, in fact, be trying to control the narrative of the bin Laden raid and for good reason too. If they released all the details, national security could be compromised.
All arguments considered, I still have the utmost respect for the former Navy SEAL and his service to this nation. I thank his comrades who fought alongside him that night of the bin Laden raid.
It is because I respect the men and women who put their lives on hold for us that I believe the publication of “No Easy Day” was a poor decision. I worry that this book, written by someone who knows the danger of the situation, may jeopardize those who are out there fighting on the front lines right now. This book isn’t fair to them.