A U.S. commando involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year has written an inside account of the still-classified mission that is scheduled to be released next month, according to the book’s publisher.
The author, who uses a pseudonym, “was one of the first men through the door on the third floor of the terrorist leader’s hideout and was present at his death,” according to a statement from Dutton, the New York-based publisher.
If the description is true, the book would shatter the secrecy maintained by members of the team of Navy SEALs involved in the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
It could also raise legal and political issues for the Obama administration, which has carried out an aggressive crackdown on leaks even while it has also been accused of offering access to journalists and moviemakers to exploit the success of the bin Laden operation.
The raid was carried out by the elite and secretive U.S. Joint Special Operations Command under the authority of the CIA. Pentagon and CIA officials appeared to be caught off-guard by Dutton’s announcement of the forthcoming book.
Officials indicated Wednesday that neither the author nor the publisher had cleared the book’s contents with the Defense Department or the CIA, a step ordinarily required by former service members or spies seeking to write about classified operations.
“As far as we can determine, this book was not submitted for pre-publication review,” said CIA spokesman Preston Golson.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said he was “unaware that anyone in the department has reviewed it.”
White House officials said they knew nothing of the book.
“We learned about this book today from press reports,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council. “We haven’t reviewed it and don’t know what it says.”
The book is titled “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden.” The author’s name is listed as Mark Owen, which Dutton acknowledges is a pseudonym.
The news release quotes Owen saying the book would “set the record straight about one of the most important missions in U.S. military history.” It also says the author has pledged to donate “the majority of the proceeds” to charities that support families of slain Navy SEALs.
The author led one of the assault teams on Operation Neptune Spear, as the bin Laden mission was called, and was involved in other missions including a maritime rescue in the Indian Ocean in 2009, according to the publisher.
A spokeswoman for Dutton declined to provide any further information on the author’s identity or whether the book had been vetted by any government agency. The co-author, journalist Kevin Maurer, declined to answer questions about the project.
U.S. officials said it was unclear whether the CIA or Pentagon would take legal steps against the author or attempt to stop publication. Two years ago, the Pentagon sought to purchase and destroy all 10,000 copies in the first printing of a book by a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer who wrote about operations in Afghanistan and was accused of failing to submit the book for review.
Craig Whitlock and Julie Tate contributed to this report.