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Bin Laden Raid SEAL Author Faces “Double Jeopardy”

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SEALs in Action: "Admiral McRaven strongly encourages you to think twice about publishing your book without the required prepublication review."

If Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper can defy British royalty by publishing pictures of a naked Prince Harry, why should we be surprised when a Navy SEAL bares all in an upcoming book on the raid last year that killed Osama bin Laden? Well, for starters, the Brits are ruled by tradition and custom, the SEALs by U.S. law.

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden, is slated to go on sale Sept. 11.

The author is listed as “Mark Owen,” the pen name of Matt Bissonnette, 36. He retired from the Navy last summer, after a career that saw him earn five Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

(MORE: The Navy SEAL Tell-All: Anonymous Osama bin Laden Memoir Slated for Sept. 11)

This is what is going to happen next:

– Pentagon lawyers will read the book.

– If it contains classified information (the publisher says it doesn’t), the Pentagon will recommend that the Justice Department prosecute Bissonnette. Pentagon spokesman George Little said Friday that while defense officials have yet to read the book, they plan to assess it for the potential that it contains classified information.”

– Even if it doesn’t contain secrets, Justice could elect to prosecute Bissonnette because he apparently violated a non-disclosure agreement that requires him to submit anything he writes about his military service to the government before publication.

You could say Bissonnette faces a SEAL-specific form of double-jeopardy: even if he takes care to ensure he spills no SEAL secrets, he could still be in trouble for not letting the government vet his book prior to publication.

(MORE: SEALs Turned Authors: A Military Reading List)

“The government does have to stand behind the deal it makes with these people — when somebody thumbs their nose at an agreement on which access to highly-sensitive information was conditioned, the government does have to do something,” says Eugene Fidell, former president of the National Institute of Military Justice, and a lecturer at Yale Law School. “Now whether that involves an effort to impose a prior restraint, or bringing criminal proceedings is going to be a major policy choice.” While the government doesn’t have to act, it “has sent people to jail for compromising classified information.”

Some former SEALs are upset by this breakdown in the traditional of silence. “I was shocked and surprised,” ex-SEAL Team 6 member Don Mann says. “I am afraid that he has put a big target on his back and the back of his family.

” Mann is the author of Inside SEAL Team Six, published last December after getting the required military pre-pub scrub.

Other members of elite SEAL community aren’t as concerned, saying a book on the bin Laden raid can be written without disclosing secrets. “For the past decade more and more books have come out on SEAL teams and their training, and to a degree some of their missions,” says ex-SEAL Stewart Smith. “This OBL mission is a typical example of a basic mission – helo insert, fast rope out, clear a house, helo extract,” he adds. “These missions are done hundreds of times by these operators. It is nothing Hollywood has not shown since the invention of the action/war movie.”

But SEALs’ customs are changing, says Smith, himself a SEAL author. “We used to never utter the words `SEAL Team 6′ in public until this raid,” he says. “We do need to be careful how much we discuss as the operators and their families could be put in danger. Hopefully books by former SEALs will not jeopardize them or their families. From the ones I have read, I do not think we are at that level yet.”

(PHOTOS: Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan Hideout)

Mann says SEALs sign “an agreement stating that we will not release classified info. And if we do elect to write a book or send anything out to the public that it has to be reviewed by a publication review board” – something U.S. government officials say Bissonnette did not do. “It is a lifelong commitment,” Mann says. “We are not allowed to disclose classified info – ever.”

Bissonnette has changed the names of his fellow SEALs to protect their identities. “Sharing the true story of his personal experience in No Easy Day is a courageous act in the face of obvious risks to his personal security,” Dutton spokeswoman Christine Ball said in a statement. “That personal security is the sole reason the book is being published under a pseudonym.” But military officers laughed at the notion that Bissonnette ever felt publishing the book as “Mark Owen” would shield his identity.

Late last week, Admiral William McRaven – the head of U.S. Special Operations Command who actually commanded the bin Laden raid from an Afghan base when he headed up the Joint Special Operations Command – warned SEALs, past and present, that could face criminal prosecution for not letting the government review their books before publication.

“Every member of the Special Operations Community with a security clearance signed a non-disclosure agreement that was binding during and after service in the military,” he said in an email to his troops. “If the US Special Operations Command finds that an active duty, retired or former service member violated that agreement and that exposure of information was detrimental to the safety of U.S. forces, then we will pursue every option available to hold members accountable, including criminal prosecution where appropriate. “

(MORE: The Last Days of Osama bin Laden)

Dutton, a Penguin imprint, has said most of the book’s proceeds will go to charities that support the families of SEALs killed in action. It also says the book contains no classified information. But that may not be sufficient to shield the author from legal trouble.

Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists, says Bissonnette may be in legal jeopardy given that he almost certainly signed a non-disclosure agreement something like this. “If he did sign such an agreement, as seems likely, and he did not submit to pre-publication review, then he would be in breach of contract,” Aftergood says. “Courts have repeatedly upheld agency claims of breach of contract, most recently in the case of former CIA officer Ishmael Jones.”

What the government elects to do remains an open question. It “can seek to enjoin – prevent — publication or distribution of the unreviewed book, as in the case of Anthony Shaffer, or it can seek to confiscate any proceeds from sale of the book, as in the case of Frank Snepp,” Aftergood says. “Another important nuance is that the author could be in breach of contract even if the book does not contain classified information. The non-disclosure agreement imposes a binding commitment to pre-pub review even if the author is convinced that he has disclosed no classified information.”

Former SEAL Smith knows SEALs don’t always appreciate their comrades putting pen to paper. “I do know many do not appreciate SEALs writing books,” he says. “I caught a ration of crap when I got out and developed my first book — The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness — and all I talked about was the secret of the pushup!”

PHOTOS: Special Ops: A Photo History

38 comments
jdeloyelong
jdeloyelong

To "sealteamjohn" When you talk about reporters "fact-checking," it might be advisable for you to do the same thing.  If we look at the body of Mr. Mann's work and experience it is completely unjustified to call him a hypocrite. 1st, he was happy to have the book redacted and expected it would be.  Missions and his brothers safety would ALWAYS come 1st for Mr. Mann, not making money.  That is an ugly claim to make; one should be careful when attaching motive to another person's actions, you cannot possibly know Mr. Mann's motives. Further, Mr. Mann said he trained "half-dozen" or so men, he didn't claim to train all of them.  And you make an assumption: President Obama said that many of the men who carried out the mission against Bin Laden had "gray-hair." It is entirely possible that Mr. Mann, shortly before retiring, trained a few BUDS candidates who, years later, were the gray-haired men who did the mission. (Mr. Mann didn't say he trained them the week before the mission, there's the assumption.) I don't know if that's the case, but it's at least worth clarifying before attacking a man of honor. Mr. Mann is a courageous, honorable and honest man.  He has earned the right to be treated with more respect.  He has been on countless dangerous missions in which he was shot at, blown up, captured (and escaped.)  He sacrificed precious time with 2 wives and other family members that he loved and now carries around  NUMEROUS physical injuries as a result of his service.  Can you (and the "Margaret" person who also made ugly accusations) say that you have made the same sacrifices?  If the answer is no, then I believe Mr. Mann deserves an apology from you.

To all of you who trash our military with little more than assumptions and conjecture, I often wonder if you realize that the democracy you trash is the very one that protects you.  The military people you trash are the very ones who preserve and protect your rights (to free speech, among others.)  Think what you like, but couldn't you AT LEAST acknowledge the service and sacrifices of our brave military?

As for me, I say thank you to Mr. Mann, the SEALs, DeltaForce and all special ops people as well as all branches of our military.  THANK YOU, I owe you all a debt of gratitude.

Jdeloyelong

Morpheus Horatio
Morpheus Horatio

You know as long as this book doesn't hurt US soldiers in the field why not publish this book?  However, I have to say it looks as if this SEAL hero might want to ask for asylum with Ecuador too. The

US government doesn't want the truth to be aired out for public

scrutiny. The entire Bin Laden and 9/11 event smells of Vaseline

anyway. I suspect the government is not being honest and is riddled

with false flag operations. I used to believe and trust what our

government told us. Now I think they are liars.

Furthermore, what happens to US service members who refuse to sign these nondisclosure agreements with the government when they quit the service?  Does the government refuse to render services like retirement, college assistance, and things of this nature despite the soldier or sailor fulfilling his time of service?  What kind of heavy handed tactics does the government use to coerce exiting service members to sign these unconscionable contracts. 

Be it known, no one can force you to sign a contract.  No one can force you to sign anything without your consent.  So what happens if a soldier refuses?  Indefinite detention?  Do they eliminate you?  Send you off to Syria to be tortured?  What is it? 

Da
Da

Don't forget that great Democrat, John F. Kennedy started the SEALS in Vietnam. Really, the Democrats know more about unconventional warfare than any jackassing Republican ever has.

sealteamjohn
sealteamjohn

Mr. Mann is a hypocrite. His book was FILLED with classified information. That is what all the black lines are in half the book! The only reason it didn't get published was because someone in the government censor office was doing his job and FORCED Mr. Mann NOT to print all of the classified information! It was NOT that Mr. Mann would never write anything classified, it was EXACTLY OPPOSITE. He tried to sell his secrets and the government stopped him. How he can sit there and say he disagrees with anyone telling secrets is an insult to intelligence. It is like a drug dealer getting arrested right before he sells crack to kids, then telling the world that he NEVER sold crack to kids, without telling anyone that the reason he didn't is only because of someone else stopping him. Heck, the title of his book is INSIDE SEAL TEAM SIX, and he advertises himself as the man that trained the Seal Team Six warriors that assassinated Osama Bin Laden! He RETIRED in 1998, but he is making money off of the work he had nothing to do with. Why aren't any reporters fact checking his ridiculous claims?

vertical2010
vertical2010

Here is a brief summary of the rules: 

1. Leftist administration official who never served discloses classified information for political advantage: OK

2. Former SEAL discloses formerly classified information (already disclosed by said elected official) in order to tell the real truth and help charitable cause: CRIMINAL

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

What makes this story so interesting is the fact that Mr. SAUSAGE , who is holding up in a foreign embassy, is more of a TRAITOR then the author of this book !

BTW, ( That's the name I gave him and I don't frigging care if it's correct or not ! )

Now, something doesn't fit with this hoppala B$ because an Ex-Seal is writing a book yet SAUSAGE and OBAMA is free to go about their lives and not be held accountable for the fingers in spilling out Classified material !

IMHO, I think Obama and Company is hiding something that both the Administration and the Taliban want this Seal member to stay hidden from the public !   

JoP
JoP

A non-citizen of the US can't be a traitor to this country. Ergo, your entire argument and attempt to compare the traitor-equivalency of 1) a publisher/journalist who's a non-citizen w/ 2) an ex-SEAL who's written a book (and by virtue of the fact he was a SEAL = a US Citizen) fails...

Kevin Brent
Kevin Brent

After Obama is gone and we have our own little Nuremburg Trials, one of the suspects that should be hauled before the tribunal is this fascist pig Mark Thompson. 

jimmardock
jimmardock

How long before FOX rats the names of the rest of the Seals in the book: whose names were changed ?

Lucien Carter
Lucien Carter

That is not double jeopardy at all...that is being in trouble for two separate things....

LK312
LK312

Exactly!!!   If the author doesn't even know the definition of a fairly understandable term, then he shouldn't use a title or write an article based upon a premise he does not understand.

Double jeopardy is when you are tried twice for the same offense.  It does not mean committing two violations by committing one offense.  If it did, then we would never have multiple charges filed for a single crime.

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson

L1 amp; L2 -- Yes, you are correct...that is why I worded it the way I did. Probably woulda been better to drop the whole notion!

JoP
JoP

Mark, strongly urge that you get your editor to re-title the piece. I picked-up on the fact that "double jeopardy" appears in quotes in the title, alerting us to the fact that you don't mean the literal legal definition necessarily, and you qualify it effectively for the sophisticated reader by describing it as "Seal-specific." 

"You could say Bissonnette faces a SEAL-specific form of double-jeopardy: even if he takes care to ensure he spills no SEAL secrets, he could still be in trouble for not letting the government vet his book prior to publication."

But if the comments here are any indication, your readership is primarily composed of morons who will fixate on their belief that you don't know what you're talking about.

Sean Taylor
Sean Taylor

The existence of Seal Team 6 has never been a closely guarded secret. Richard Marcinko talked about them well over 20 years ago. Countless books and video games have paid homage to seal team 6.

He will face scrutiny and probably some form of punishment if he goes ahead with publishing. The amount of stuff that is considered classified and above is staggering and would surprise most people. They tend to be lazy and just rubberstamp everything "classified". It saves a lot of work. That's what will get him in trouble.

Margaret
Margaret

Aside from legal issues, I find it troubling and sad that any individual from an honorable group like the Navy Seals would resort to seeking personal gain and profit.

What happened to loyalty, tradition, concern more for your country than for yourself?  More than disappointing to know there are individuals who seek to profit in this way ignoring the common good.

iResistAll
iResistAll

"most of the book’s proceeds will go to charities that support the families of SEALs killed in action."

Agalita
Agalita

Or, maybe there is something dishonorable going on? I am really curious to see what he reveals. Many people live in denial in our country, mabe there are things public should know. There is way too much propaganda and cover up out there in the media, at schools, any any other institutions.

Also, you said:

"What happened to loyalty, tradition, concern more for your country than for yourself? More than disappointing to know there are individuals who seek to profit in this way ignoring the common good."  Politicians betray our trust every single day, on our very own eyes, and you worry that one guy will get few bucks from the book that might open your eyes? I think we should all wait to judge the guy...

Stoprunning
Stoprunning

Foxnews printed the mans name, so if he is dead, it's their fault. Of course, the inbred we have will somehow claim Pelosi's claws were in on it, lol. effing retards.

Walter Prout
Walter Prout

On previous articles, EVERY single person who called the author a, TRAITOR ,is  simply a first-class moron !

They called him a TRAITOR, because he's written a book which they claimed to disclose Highly Sensitive Classified material ! NOW, How could they do that ?

How could they do that without READING THE BOOK, that hasn't been publish yet ?

YEAH, Typical American Justice !  Or is it, Typical American HATE and STUPIDITY !  

MargaretAnne110
MargaretAnne110

He did disclose information; the kind of guns used;denied that the Seals killed bin Laden (say bin Laden killed self); Denied the operation as released by Pentagon was false, in re to shots fired; helicopter crash therefor calling the Pentagon liars; is angry at Obama for taking credit for as he thinks THEY deserve credit even though Obama praised them profusely; repeated in quotes all the rest of the Seals making fun of Obama and how they did not like him (did not give the rest of the team members real names all though it is tough to not figure out who was on Seal team 6.

This is an incredulous breach of commitment and breach of military honor.  The Seal teams will never be thought of as elite again. Just a bunch of grunts  in the military. with little morals or ethics.

wurman
wurman

I have no way of knowing what the author did . . . yet. Still, some of the folks who are upset have some very specific knowledge about the situation. For one thing, the pre-publication processes of typesetting, proof reading, press galley production and corrections, and printing involves lots of people and all of them have seen the stuff and it's very likely that many of them have blabbed to their colleagues in the book biz. Go figure.

It's extremely interesting that many 3rd rate politicians have accused Pres. Obama and/or his administration of releasing classified information to make the White House look good in the public eye. Yet, here we have very clear evidence that scores of people involved in pre-publication book printing have had months of access to a "story" about the Osama bin Laden raid. How quaint.

I also know that it is unusual for active duty military personnel to retire at age 36. You can do your own arithmetic, but it normally takes 20 years of service to earn a retirement, and it's tough to get into the Armed Forces at age 16. Both things are possible, but . . . not. Retiring at 36 would require some form of disability/medical out.

And there is very little about releasing classified information that rises to the level of treason, which has to meet a specific level of behavior as defined in the Constitution . . . you know, aid and comfort to the enemy and all that.

Walter Prout
Walter Prout

Agreed !

There must be something else about the author or book that we, the public have no knowledge of because the author is now being targeted by the very enemy that were fighting with.

From what I know when I was an Armored Recon Scout in the US Army is that intelligence regarding a certain mission Before and During that mission is classified but after that, it degrades with time unless there's a certain amount of fallout like Cause and Effect.

There's something about this that doesn't quite smell right, Why has the author become not only a target to the powers that be but to the ones over in the sandbox ?  

Guest
Guest

For one didn't Obama already tell most of this story to the Director of a film company? Vote for Romney/Ryan just so we can get this guy a pardon! 

MargaretAnne110
MargaretAnne110

Your just as ignorant and dishonorable as this rouge seal

wurman
wurman

No. Pres. Obama had nothing to do with the movie production. A special office in the Chief of Naval Operations command coordinates activities with the film makers.

Guest
Guest

Gotcha! Who was it that is in charge of the Chief of Naval Operations again? I forget.

GumShoo
GumShoo

You are an uneducated moron.   Go crawl back under a rock.

Guest
Guest

Gumshoo after reading your 9 past posts, I can see that you have never offered one fact. All you have done is bash anyone you don't agree with. It's very typical of a liberal to go blindly in to the night, but come on look up just one thing for yourself, form an opinion then respond with something. Or go ahead and be eeddggy and say the same crap over and over again. I am positive the rest of the libs will follow you.

Guest
Guest

Oh and I will let you blindly follow Gumshoo! Name kind of fits how I feel about your liberal facts! Like gum on the bottom of my shoe.

Guest
Guest

I guess back to the rock. Did you just really use a politifact link? Hold on let me check my FOX facts! Morons. Your going to have to get me a rock that fits 200,000,000 million more people retard!

Guest
Guest

Well... You showed me with that comment. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go take a Gumshoo!

Guest
Guest

Where have I called anyone a name? Don't go making stuff up that really does not help anything. I believe all the positions for moderator are currently filled!

JoP
JoP

why do you guys resort to name-calling and personal insults rather than actually having a critical dialogue that expresses your opposing viewpoints?