Navy SEAL’s account met with criticism and questions
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
The release of Mark Owen’s book, “No Easy Day,” was surrounded by controversy regarding whether or not the information should be classified. The novel details the author’s experiences as a member of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.
Author Mark Owen, pseudonym for Matt Bissonnette, served as a Navy SEAL for over a decade and was a member of the famed SEAL Team Six. He published “No Easy Day” with the intention of setting the story straight regarding the details of the bin Laden mission.
“To date, how the mission to kill Bin Laden has been is reported wrong,” Owen says in the novel. “I felt like someone had to tell the true story.”
The book has received criticism from the Pentagon for containing classified information regarding the mission. The controversy surrounding “No Easy Day” has vaulted the book onto several national best sellers lists and is creating a buzz nationwide.
The U.S. government is concerned that the book contains specific information about how special operations forces are trained and how missions are planned and executed. Although Owen says all names in the book have been changed for their protection, many names, like Admiral McRaven’s, are unchanged.
While the book does use specific details describing the training and preparation associated with the mission, Owen makes a point of stating on several occasions that the information in the book will not compromise American security.
Mark Bowden, a journalism professor and best-selling author, is writing his own account of the hunt for bin Laden. “The Finish,” which will be released in October, aims to provide a broader scope of the mission that resulted in the death of bin Laden. Details about how bin Laden was targeted and how the decision to execute the mission was made will be featured in his book.
Bowden gained the reputation of a premier author dealing with special operations missions after he wrote “Black Hawk Down,” a book about the forces that attempted to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu. From his experiences working with special operations units he is able to shed light on why Owen’s book has become such a hot topic.
Bowden, who recently read “No Easy Day,” says he feels it is important for stories such as Owen’s to be told.
The mission to kill bin Laden was simple until one of the helicopters used to carry Owen and his team to the compound crashed, Owen wrote. As the team prepared to repel from their helicopter onto a building, the helicopter began to lose control and the pilots were forced to make an emergency landing. On the ground, Owen and his men began to clear each building until they reached the one that intelligence indicated would contain bin Laden.
As Owen and his team approached the third floor, he heard several suppressed shots, later confirmed as the fatal shots to bin Laden, who was found dead and convulsing. They then collected DNA and as much intelligence as possible. Gathered items included CDs, maps, laptops and video recordings, which were later analyzed by CIA agents.
As they returned home, the magnitude of the mission they just completed had not set in, Owen wrote. It felt like another mission to Owen, until they returned to base and were met by a cheering crowd of soldiers, CIA agents and high-ranking military officials.
“I think it tells the story of an American hero and a fantastic young man who has served his country heroically for years and was a part of one of the most exciting and significant counter-terrorism raids in history,” Bowden says.
The U.S. government is looking to press charges against Owen for violating a confidentiality agreement.
“It was something they were all trying to prevent from happening,” Bowden says. “He might have violated an agreement to keep information classified, but he certainly violated the spirit of the group by releasing this book.”
Secrecy is often associated with the Navy SEALs who are famed for their ability to complete dangerous missions around the world, yet fade into anonymity when returning home. Owen felt comfortable with his decision to publish the book after several government officials, including President Barack Obama, gave interviews about the operation.
“I was astonished,” Owen says. “We’d kept the whole thing under wraps for weeks. Now, [Washington, D.C.] was leaking everything, and we were going to get the lecture for it.”
Senior Pete Crampton says he found the book to be more revealing than he anticipated, though he says the published information is something people should know.
“It might change how people look at the military,” Crampton says.
Bowden says the controversy around the book release was not surprising to him.
“I knew before I read it that it would be controversial because I know from personal dealings that special operations command keeps a very tight lid on its missions, tactics and methods,” Bowden says.
Junior Kyle Drury, who is currently reading the book, says he is skeptical of the author’s intentions.
“It’s definitely interesting and I am surprised with some of the stuff that he is allowed to say,” Drury says. “It seems like it should be confidential. ”
Bowden says Owen might have intentionally chosen his pen-name in order to associate it with Bowden.
“He chose a pseudonym that was remarkably similar to my own,” Bowden says. “I don’t think that was an accident. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and maybe some people will accidentally buy my book.”