Shane Harris at Washingtonian has this snarky little piece about what Mark Owen aka the “squealing SEAL” can do to stay out of prison—since the Pentagon has decided that the book does, in fact, reveal classified information and is debating whether to take legal action. It begins:
Dear Mark Owen (a.k.a. Mike Bissonnette),
On Tuesday, I wrote a review of your new book, No Easy Day, about your role in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. There are few easy days ahead of you. The government apparently is considering whether to take legal action against you for allegedly violating the terms of two nondisclosure agreements you signed while still in uniform that the Pentagon says remain in force today. And this administration, as you may already know, is not too fond of employees who talk about sensitive national security operations without asking permission.
The Pentagon says there are secrets in your book. It seems officials are preparing to move against you, possibly with an eye to indicting you. (They’ve already determined they can’t stop the sale of your book.) I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve written about leak investigations, the government prosecutors who run them, and the pledges government employees often sign to keep quiet about their work. We journalists also have to be cautious these days about whom we talk to and what secrets we publish. So here are some tips learned in the field that you might keep in mind as you mount your defense.
1) Behave honorably in public.
It will be politically difficult for the government to attack a hero who helped kill Osama bin Laden. It would be much easier to go after a loudmouth who thumps his chest and sticks his finger in the eye of the President. The Pentagon will decide whether to prosecute you in large part based on how you acquit yourself in the promotion of your book, and principally during your media tour, which kicks off this Sunday on 60 Minutes. Of course, you may just opt to keep quiet. Your publisher tells us that as of now, you’re not planning to give any more interviews.
2) Don’t sweat the bin Laden material. Worry about all the other stuff you wrote.
The Pentagon claims you revealed some secrets in the chapters about the bin Laden raid. I’ve read the book, and I can’t find much that wasn’t already revealed by members of the administration. But the first half of your book chronicles many other operations in which you took part, including raids in Iraq and Afghanistan, a failed mission to rescue an American POW, the successful rescue of a shipping captain who was taken by pirates, and even operations you say the United States conducted with Pakistan, inside that country. I doubt you were authorized to talk about any of this, and you might have said something that gives the government grounds to come after you without even touching the bin Laden mission.