The former Navy SEAL who wrote a book with a firsthand account of the Osama bin Laden raid is quickly stirring up controversy, and could face criminal charges if the book reveals classified secrets.
Defense officials said the book, No Easy Day, written by an anonymous former SEAL under the pseudonym Mark Owen, was not reviewed by anyone at the Pentagon.
One defense official told The Hill that the Pentagon has requested a copy for review, citing DOD directives that require review by former military officers who publish material that could contain classified information. The author could face criminal charges if the book reveals classified information.
The official said, however, that it would be the Justice Department, not the Pentagon, that would decide whether to investigate and prosecute the author for revealing national security secrets, because the author is no longer on active duty.
A release from Dutton, the book’s publisher, on Wednesday said the book’s author was one of the first SEALs through the door on the third floor of bin Laden’s Abbottabad complex and witnessed the terrorist leader’s death.
“It is time to set the record straight about one of the most important missions in U.S. military history,” Owen writes, according to the release.
Dutton says the book, co-written by author Kevin Mauer, who was embedded with troops in Afghanistan, has been vetted by a special-operations lawyer.
But one secret in the book has already been outed less than 24 hours after the book’s existence was reported: the author’s identity.
Fox News first reported Thursday the name of the SEAL who has reportedly written the book, and The Associated Press wrote a story confirming his identity, both citing anonymous U.S. officials.
A statement from Dutton after the Fox report urged media organizations not to release the author’s identity.
“Mark Owen, like every SEAL he has served with, has put his life on the line time and again for his country for more than a decade,” said Christine Ball, a spokeswoman for Penguin Group, which owns Dutton.
“Sharing the true story of his personal experience … is a courageous act in the face of obvious risks to his personal security,” she said. “That personal security is the sole reason the book is being published under a pseudonym. We respectfully request that all news organizations and all Americans consider these facts when deciding whether to pursue or publicize his real identity.”
The outing of Owen’s identity resonated on Twitter, where some defense analysts greeted his request for anonymity with skepticism.
“Sorry, but when Seal Team 6 guys start shopping books and signing legal book contracts, we can’t get upset that their names ‘leak’ out,” tweeted Andrew Exum, a retired U.S. Army officer who is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
The book has also reignited the debate about details from SEAL Team Six’s bin Laden raid being put out in the open.
Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for giving access to filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal for their film on the raid, “Zero Dark Thirty,” which will be released in December.
The release date of the film was pushed back until after the election when Republicans complained that the film was being used to boost President Obama’s image on terrorism.
Republicans, including presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have criticized Obama for a series of national-security leaks, and some have accused the White House of leaking for political gain.
A group of retired special-operations and intelligence officials launched video this month criticizing Obama for taking too much credit for the bin Laden raid.
The video was rebuked Wednesday by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, who said that the military should remain apolitical.
Read more at THE HILL.