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Friday, August 24, 2012 - Page updated at 06:30 p.m.
SEAL who wrote bin Laden raid book is identified
By Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post
Pentagon officials on Thursday identified the former Navy SEAL who anonymously wrote a tell-all book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but it remained unclear whether he had violated any secrecy rules about the still-classified mission.
The retired SEAL was given a pseudonym, Mark Owen, by his publisher, Dutton, but military officials said his name is Matt Bissonnette, 36, and that he ended his service with the Navy's secretive Special Warfare Command last year after bin Laden's death. Bissonnette's identity was first revealed by Fox News.
His book, "No Easy Day" and scheduled for release Sept. 11, has ignited another round of arguments and accusations over whether sensitive details about the bin Laden operation should be publicized and speculation about the motives of those responsible.
Bissonnette changed the names of the other SEALs in the account, the publisher says.
Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye said the retired SEAL could be endangered by being identified, which could also expose those active-duty SEALs the author worked with in the bin Laden operation.
Even though Dutton has said the author thinks "it is time to set the record straight about one of the most important missions in U.S. military history," the publisher urged news organizations not to divulge his identity, saying he faced "obvious risks to his personal security."
Dutton said the author would be donating "the majority" of the proceeds from the book to unnamed charities that support families of Navy SEALs killed in the line of duty.
The publisher declined to answer questions Thursday.
Dutton did reveal a few tidbits about the author, however, saying he grew up in Alaska and participated in the high-seas rescue of Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009. Two years later, according to Dutton, the same SEAL led one of the assault teams on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and "was present" at the al-Qaida leader's death.
Pentagon and Navy officials said they were unaware of Bissonnette's plans to write the book until Dutton announced its publication Wednesday. They said he did not submit an advance copy to military officials for review.
It was unclear what, if any, restrictions Bissonnette faced. Navy officials said there is no blanket rule requiring active-duty service members or veterans to obtain permission to publish, although they can be prosecuted after the fact by the Justice Department if they disclose classified information.
Bissonnette, however, was technically on assignment for the CIA, which oversaw the bin Laden operation. The spy agency routinely requires personnel to sign nondisclosure agreements, particularly in the case of sensitive missions.
The CIA has said "No Easy Day" was not submitted for prepublication review, but has not clarified whether Bissonnette was required to do so.
Post researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report. Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.
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