x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Osama bin Laden's death the subject of tell-all book by US navy seal

Defence department and CIA concerned about plan by special operations agent to give details of the hunt for the Al Qaeda leader.

Pakistani police stand guard as security personnel conduct demolition works on the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed last year in the northwestern town of Abbottabad.
Pakistani police stand guard as security personnel conduct demolition works on the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed last year in the northwestern town of Abbottabad.

WASHINGTON // A member of the US navy Seal team that killed Osama bin Laden has written a "blow-by-blow" first-hand account of the operation set to be published next month .

The author of No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account OF The Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden, who has left the military, is using the pseudonym Mark Owen.

He also changed the name of other Seal members who took part in the operation on May 2 last year in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Mr Owen describes the book as an effort to "set the record straight about one of the most important missions in US military history".

While booksellers await a best-seller, US military officials say they do not believe the book has been read or cleared by the US defence department, which reviews publications by military members to ensure no classified material is revealed.

"I haven't read the book and am unaware that anyone in the department has reviewed it," said the press secretary George Little.

White House and CIA officials said the book, due out on the 11th anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Centre towers in New York, had not been reviewed by their agencies.

The book announcement on Wednesday came just as a group of retired special operations and CIA officers launched a campaign accusing Barack Obama, the US president, of revealing classified details of the mission and turning the killing of bin Laden into a campaign centrepiece.

The group complains that Mr Obama has taken too much credit for the operation.Their public complaints drew a rebuke from Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other special operations forces, who called the criticism unprofessional.

He said that such public political involvement by members of armed services eroded public confidence and trust in the military.

In a release from the publisher Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group, Mr Owen said the book was about "the guys" and the sacrifices special operations forces made to do the job and was written in the hope that it would inspire young men to become Seals.

He also writes of his Alaskan childhood, military training and other deployments, according to the book publisher.

If the book sticks to his personal thoughts about the job and the mission, Mr Owen may be in the clear, military sources say.

But often special operations forces must sign nondisclosure agreements.

And they are not allowed to release classified information, such as intelligence data or military tactics and procedures used to ensure success of the raid.

Christine Ball, a spokeswoman for Dutton, said the work was vetted by a former special operations lawyer provided by the author.

"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," Ms Ball said.

Defence department spokesman Lt Col James Gregory said that if the book revealed classified information about the raid, the Pentagon would "defer to the department of justice".

According to Pentagon rules, retired personnel, former employees and non-active duty members of the reserves "shall use the security review process to ensure that information they submit for public release does not compromise national security".

The CIA could also weigh in because the agency ran the secret bin Laden mission.

If there is classified information in the book, the former Seal could face criminal charges. And even if he donated the money to charity, itwould probably not prevent the justice department from suing to collect any future book proceeds.

This year, a judge ruled a CIA whistle-blower had to forfeit future money he earned from a scathing book he wrote about the spy agency after he failed to get approval before publication.

The CIA accused the officer of breaking his secrecy agreement. The former officer, who worked deep undercover, published the book in July 2008 under the pseudonym Ishmael Jones.

The CIA said his book, The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, was submitted to the agency's publications review board under a secrecy agreement that covers books written by former employees. But Mr Jones, who published the book before the review process was completed, said it contained no classified information.

In 2010, the defence department claimed a former army intelligence officer's war memoir threatened national security.

The Pentagon paid US$47,000 (Dh 172,633) to destroy 9,500 copies of the book, called Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan - and the Path to Victory.

The book was written by Anthony Shaffer, whose lawyer said the army reserve cleared the manuscript beforehand but the defence department later rescinded the approval, claiming the text contained classified information.