A fascinating stand-off is brewing between the Pentagon and the former Navy SEAL who just released a book on the killing of Osama bin Laden, with the Pentagon considering criminal charges against the author for violating military regulations and revealing classified information that could endanger American troops.
Rear Adm. Sean Pybus, who heads the Naval Special Warfare Command, even took the surprising step of sending out a letter to the 8,000 troops under his command, warning them about the severe consequences of doing something like what author Matt Bissonnette, who wrote under the pseudonym Mark Owen, did in his book, ‘‘No Easy Day.” The book, which was released yesterday, is already no. 1 on the Amazon bestsellers list.
‘‘For an elite force that should be humble and disciplined for life, we are certainly not appearing to be so,’’ Pybus wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Associated Press. ‘‘We owe our chain of command much better than this.’’
The Pentagon’s press secretary George Little blasted the book for revealing “sensitive and classified” information. He said the author violated Pentagon procedure, which requires that he submit the book to the Pentagon for approval.
‘‘When you have special operations units that perform these missions, there are tactics, techniques, and procedures, not to mention human life, that are in play,’’ Little said to reporters. ‘‘And it is the height of irresponsibility not to have this kind of material checked for the possible disclosure of classified information.’’
Little said military brass are still considering its legal options against Bissonnette, who could face federal criminal charges.
‘‘We must immediately reconsider how we properly influence our people in and out of uniform NOT to seek inappropriate monetary, political, or celebrity profit from their service’’ with the SEALS, Pybus said in his letter, clearing indicating that the military could seek to make an example out of Bissonnette.
‘‘We all have much to gain or lose,’’ the letter said. ‘‘In the weeks ahead, we will be taking actions to meet this challenge, and I appreciate your leadership and support of our community in this effort.’’
Last week, Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, warned his troops that he would take legal action against anyone found to have exposed sensitive information that could cause fellow forces harm. The Naval Special Warfare Command is a unit within U.S. Special Operations Command.
Bissonnette’s lawyer has said the book wasn’t legally required to be screened by the Pentagon, while his co-author Kevin Maurer said in a statement Tuesday that Bissonnette ‘‘was meticulous about adhering to his desire to never do anything to undermine the SEALs’ mission or put his former colleagues in harm’s way.’’
The Pentagon’s chief lawyer, Jeh Johnson, reportedly notified Bissonnette last Thursday that the Pentagon believes he is in ‘‘material breach and violation’’ of two nondisclosure agreements and of a related document he signed upon leaving active duty in April 2012.