Pentagon officials said Thursday that they have identified the former Navy SEAL who is anonymously penning 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 former SEAL has been given a pseudonym by his publisher, New York-based Dutton, but military officials said that 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, titled “No Easy Day” and scheduled for release on Sept. 11, has ignited another round of arguments and accusations over whether sensitive details about the bin Laden operation should be publicized, as well as speculation about the motives of those responsible.
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 outlets not to divulge his identity, saying that he faced “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 but released a statement saying that the former SEAL “has put his life on the line time and again for his country for more than a decade” and that his decision to share details about the bin Laden raid was “a courageous act.”
Dutton did reveal a few other clues about its mysterious author, however, saying that he grew up in Alaska and participated in the dramatic 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-Qaeda 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 to ensure that it does not contain classified information.that could jeopardize national security.
But 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 factby 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 its personnel to sign non-disclosure agreements, particularly in the case of sensitive missions.
The CIA has said that “No Easy Day” was not submitted for pre-publication review. A spokesman declined to comment Thursday when asked whether Bissonette had signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Julie Tate and Greg Miller contributed to this report.