Navy SEAL book released over Pentagon objections

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Navy SEAL book released over Pentagon objections

[QUICK NOTE:  This could be my last post for the next two weeks.  As I mentioned on an earlier post, I am headed to Senegal in West Africa to do a story on the efforts of some USMC Recon Marines in training forces in that country.  I leave Sunday morning early, and I have no idea what the internet situation or my OPTEMPO will be.]

Unless this is your first time on the internet in a few weeks and you don't watch any TV, you are probably already aware that "No Easy Day" by Navy SEAL "Mark Owen" was released yesterday to much protest from the Pentagon and others in the Navy Special Ops Community.  I did get it delivered to my Kindle, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.  But, for some background on the subject of the dispute, I'll turn to The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON — A former Navy SEAL’s insider account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden contains classified information, the Pentagon said Tuesday, and the admiral who heads the Naval Special Warfare Command said details in the book may provide enemies with dangerous insight into secretive U.S. operations.

Rear Adm. Sean Pybus told his force Tuesday that “hawking details about a mission” and selling other information about SEAL training and operations puts the force and their families at risk.

“For an elite force that should be humble and disciplined for life, we are certainly not appearing to be so,” Pybus wrote in a letter to the roughly 8,000 troops under his command. “We owe our chain of command much better than this.”

There are obviously two parts to this specific complaint; whether it was morally right to release the information (which SEALs seem to be split on) and the Legal ramifications of having done so.  Let's start with the latter one first.  As the Post states:

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, notified [the Author] 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.

In response, Robert D. Luskin of the law firm Patton Boggs wrote to Johnson on Friday that his firm is representing [the Author] and asserting that he is not in breach of his nondisclosure agreements.

To be entirely honest, I haven't found anyone yet who thinks Luskin's reading of the legal stuff is right, although for all I know it is.  Part of my problem is I haven't seen that disclosure, and to my knowledge I never signed anything like that after my meager war efforts as a regular grunt.  But The Hill newspaper had a slight bit more on it:

“Mr. Owen sought legal advice about his responsibilities before agreeing to publish his book and scrupulously reviewed the work to ensure that it did not disclose any material that would breach his agreements or put his former comrades at risk,” the attorney told the Pentagon. “He remains confident that he has faithfully fulfilled his duty.”

The Pentagon said that the book was not submitted for pre-publication review, a requirement under the non-disclosure agreement that Owen signed in 2007. But Luskin said that the pre-publication review was not required in this case. He said the non-disclosure agreement is limited in scope and “it is difficult to understand how the matter that is the subject of Mr. Owen’s book could conceivably be encompassed by the non-disclosure agreement.”

Either way, I haven't found too many Special Operators that are particularly fond of "Mark Owen" right now, including one of the few Navy SEALs I know personally who goes by the name "Froggy" who wrote this:

This book represents a complete failure and abdication of well known and established code of ethics to which every Navy SEAL pledges. To wit:

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes who have gone before...By wearing the Trident, I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day...I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans...I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions...Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed.

The Trident is the insignia that designates a SEAL. In every possible way this person has prostituted this Ethos and has brought shame and mockery upon our entire community.

If you want to know what happens during classified SEAL operations, then nut up and join the fight yourself. You should be satisfied that you are being protected and served by exceptional men who are entitled to your respect if not your gratitude. You are not owed the inside scoop on how we do our business. Rest assured our activities receive oversight from your elected representatives, our chain of command, and most importantly the integrity of the vast majority of the operators. We are not gladiators in the arena to entertain you, and by supporting works like this you are helping to validate a very ugly aberration of our most closely held beliefs.

As we like to say in the Teams, "Let your conscience be your guide." Just understand that by purchasing this book you are rewarding a man who has sold out his brotherhood for money. Your money.

Now, it is somewhat hypocritical of me to agree with Froggy if only because I actually bought the book.  But I sleep at night knowing that all the proceeds will very likely end up back at the Pentagon when they assert their legal rights to seize all the proceeds if the non-disclosure is as solid as they think it is.

The one argument I hear most in defense of Owen follows the line of logic something like: "The President is releasing secrets, so why shouldn't a Navy SEAL do the same to set the record straight?"  Now, while that might be, I would caution against thinking that because remember that the President can make secret things a matter of public record, whereas a soldier, SEAL, Marine or other is not so authorized by law.  It's the same as a Private complaining about the route to an assembly area.  Sure, he can voice his opinion, but simply having an opinion won't save you from doing the punishment.  And publishing a book for millions of dollars will likely result in something more onerous than being dropped for push-ups.

Anyway, what do you think?  Should Owen have released this book?  Did he break faith with his comrades in arms?  Should the Pentagon pursue legal action?  Do you think there is anything in there that isn't available in the public realm of information somewhere else?

Be sure to register your opinion not just by commenting below, but also voting in Today's "Big Q."

Posted in the burner | 84 comments
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As long as he did not disclose any 'secrest' or the names of his fellow seals I think he should be able to write the book. It was the Seals that did the dirty job not any government officials including the highest office.

Finished the book this morning and in my opinion the Gov't would have a hard time pointing out any classified facts in it. I work in that business and read it with an eye out for any thing that was possible a compromise. I think there is more sensitive information in Brandon Webb's book. Since the gov't would have to identify the specific classified disclosures he made and prove they were not made by his co-author I think nothing much will come of this.

I think it's not very honorable of him to disclose SEAL missions of any kind, especially for profit. As was previously commented, they take an oath of secrecy. Is nothing sacred any more? These are the elite of the military on highly classified missions. I'm surprised that the publisher allowed something like this to go through without verification/permission from the Pentagon. If he did not go through proper channels then all should be subject to the full extent of laws governing such a "leak" of secretive military missions. Why do people feel that they need to know everything? That is exactly what has endangered our soldiers lives. Does it really matter how the story was reported? Did he ever stop to think that the Pentagon didn't want the exact details to be released for security reasons? Too much information is out there. It's a need to know basis and if you're not directly involved in that military operation, then you do not need to know how a mission, especially one of such a high level, is carried out. As was stated in another comment, the WWII slogan of "A slip of a lip can sink a ship" means so very much even today, to protect our military personnel on every level. To me this book is a betrayal of his fellow SEALS, the US Navy and the American people. He should be ashamed. I won't read the book, neither should anyone else.

As service members to this great nation we take certain duties upon us by signing on the line. We are to take our duties with the greatest pride and honor. This SEAL is no longer worthly of the title he once bore. I know many a service man that did things of classified nature. One of those being my grandfather who went to his grave with secrets of Vietnam. His pride, honor, duty, integrity when to the greatest extents. I comend my grandfather for those qualities and hope to meet those standards. All of the service members who have been disregarding our duties only disgrace the great legacy of their fellow service member past, present, and future. This man is no better than Bradley Manning, Wade Michael Page, Nidal Malik Hasan, and countless others who had their own agendas and broke all the rules. I hope to be remember as one of the many who was just proud to serve.

The Oath of Enlistment (for enlistees):

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

The Oath of Office (for officers):

"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance tot he same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God."

Let us clean our name and be proud of our service. We lead by example so let us move foward and set the bar high. The future service members need our unwavering comitment to the country we serve.

When no body is produced on a wanted dead or alive poster it leaves a lot to be believed. Taking down opposition leaders could have been accomplished sooner with no fanfare. And who is to say they weren't or aren't? At any rate ,closure is imperative. No nation can police the world for very long. Sooner or later you have to ask yourself why so many countries hate the USA. If the WTO did not utilize the CIA we would have a military at home,not abroad. For what purpose are so many dying if not for our imperialistic ways. You would think we would have learned our lesson in Korea and Viet Nam. Why isn't securing our borders more important? Just "who" is running this country? The President is just a puppet and political preference is an oxymoron. The middle class is just being used to fight for the corporations that are selling us down the drain by outsourcing to foreign countries. If we had any sense,the only way we could control our economy is to "BUY AMERICAN".

While all military active or retired have taken an oath we have an obligation to adhere to it. BUT; at what point do we break or stretch that oath. Our oath was given in the belief our elected officials would adhere to thier oath. Unfortunately today, some of those leaders find thier political careers more important than their oath, and ignore it on a routine basis. Protect and defend the Constitution is an ignored responsibility in the activities of numerous elected leaders today. Is it honor or blind allegiance to remain silent when faced with that reality. A tough judgement call for each of us.

Brad Hutchenrider- Cape Cod. I am disappointed in the oath that has been broken. Wars are not won by asking permission on how to operate. These teams are doing what HAS to be done to keep our country free. It's a shame that we let the press be involved with what we do to get the job done.War is hell and there aint no ifs or buts about it. What this incident has done is create a huge interest into operations we should know NOTHING about. This is the best press any author could ask for. My curiosity is to buy the book BUT my oath to my country won't let me. I can't believe a SEAL is doing this.

let the other seals in his unit decide not the beauracrats at the pentagon

Now that sounds like a good idea.

Its a shame he forgot the pledge he took upon recieving his Seal Pin. So many man & women have given up their lifes rather then betray their pledge.

No one who hasn't actually read the book from cover to cover should have ANY opinion on its contents. I have little faith in any review by the Pentagon. The Pentagon use to be staffed solely by real Warriors. These days its mostly career officers, Col's and Generals with maybe a combat tour in Nam waaaaaaay back when they were a 2nd Lt. Then 20+ years of War Colleges and stateside tours! Basically their career troops with little to no fighting experience. Politicians in Uniforms! Sure there are some exceptions, but rarely. The real Warriors that know how to fight aren't political enough for this and never get that far! That's their reward for being the best Warriors this country has. Such a crime they are treated this way after giving so much for freedom. We haven't had a real Sec of Defense since WWII who would reward those who knew how, and did the fighting, regardless of consequences. Just my 2 cents. USMC (ret)

Agree wholeheartedly with above post. The Pentagon is full of NON-COMBAT people for the most part and have been long controled by the encapsulating arms of the politicians to the effect the "Military" people in the pentagon themselves are ridden with diarheaa mouth disease...anything to get that next promotion!!

coward for money ;;;

First and foremost, Obama exercised either politics or simple vanity, or both, in allowing a tv production that disclosed too much, period. He should subject himself to the same inviolate regs that we. who have served in a combat zone. are only too well aware. There is no compromise. The public has no understanding of warfare from a veteran's perspective. Secondly, we do not need to tell anyone anything. If it's sensitive, keep it away from the press, under the clear threat

of lies, distortion, false accusations and the like. The SEALS have never faltered in their service to this great nation, and I believe in my heart that Mr. Owen did not and would not stray from the vow in his own mind as it relates to national security and the well-being of his former unit(s).

'Nam Vet (twice) ... If you haven't walked the walk, don't talk the talk!

I have mixed feelings. After obama “leaked” info for political reasons that can screw up future missions I’m inclined to think the truth needs to be told – but not having read the book, it may enhance information that aids our enemies, especially China, Russia, and Iran.

Funny how we are so ready to crucify this guy based on media reports.

I read Mark Owen's book on the day it was released. It is actually a great story of patriotism and self-sacrifice. I found nothing that should be classified, everything in there could be open sourced or surmised. If Tom Clancy was the author there would be no issue here.

The author wrote under a pseudonym and changed the names of all the participants in the book. His actual identify was released to the media by the government and he is certainly on the terrorist’s hit list now. I think he could pursue a case against the government for intentional endangerment.

A case will be made that the author broke his non-disclosure agreement by his confirming the events from his experience while performing classified duty. But, what is really bothering the Pentagon is the author's audacity to criticize and contradict the version of events portrayed by his Commander-in-Chief for he is much more credible than the President in this politically charged election year. That criticism, it seems to me, would have to be considered “protected speech” under the first amendment.

Prior to the book being published the author committed to donating most of the proceeds of its sales to charities that provide for the wives and children of fallen SEALs.

22 year Air Force Fighter Pilot

If he violated an agreement and an oath, then shame on him. But then again, if the first hand details of this mission differ greatly from the highly marketd version the White House has used to gain political clout, I can't say I am 100% against the author. I imagine if someone was trying to cash in politically on my work, I'd be compelled to set the record straight. Therein lies the conflict of the "Silent Professionals" and the burden they bear as special operators.

A non-disclosure requirement is exactly what it says. The author should be prosecuted under the law as an example of what happens when someone breaks the contract. All the people who "outed" Valerie Plame should also be prosecuted.

The author should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In my eyes he's a traitor to the SEALS and our country. This is a political and financial move on his part and I don't want one penny of my taxes going to pay his retirement. What a jerk!!

Regardless of how we may feel with respect to the 'fairness' or 'equitability' when Mark Owen's book is contrasted with the various political shananigans--including that of our CIC, the simple fact I boil this down to is this: "Two wrongs do not make a right".

If the SEAL identified as 'Froggy' believes Mark Owen violated the SEAL oath and code of ethics, then this is 'good enough' for me.

I served in the US Navy aboard a nuclear submarine. We had our own secrets, and like many of you who served our country, the oaths you swore to uphold did not end when your time with your respective branch of service was complete. Indeed, politicians who play fast and loose with our country's techniques and methodologies--in order to, vicariously, achieve some twisted sense of "honor" are almost worthy of pity, because we all know most of these 'empty suit' politicians have no concept of the notion of valor, sacrifice, or selflessness.

I'll never likely read the book Mark Owen produced, as I feel I do not possess the "need-to-know" HOW he and his comrades achieved the ultimate goal. I need only know it was done. That (again) was good enough for me.

If anything in the book ultimately compromies the methodologies (or identities of others), and, somehow, places a future operation in jeopardy, there's simply no dollar-figure that can be levied that makes the book, somehow, 'worth it'.

I hold Mark Owen to a higher standard than" the politicians" some are comparing him to, as Mark actually took that oath. He was supposed to have lived that code of ethics. And while I have no reason to doubt he did, indeed, hold that ideal while active, he seems to have "lost his way" in the writing of this book.

Regardless of the legal outcome as to whether he violated his non-disclosure statement, I fear this all may be the splitting of hairs, as, frankly, he should have known better than to compromise the integrity of the Trident--given he lived it for any period of time.

Our current CIC (and, no doubt, countless others) could be brought up on any number of impeachable offenses--and yes, it's "unfair" (an often-used word in the national news, of late) such won't likely happen. But by writing this book, I fear Mark Owen will become the tangible fodder--receiving the attention the lame-stream media refuses to shine where it most belongs.

needs to keep to keep his big mouth shul!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let the SEAL community decide his fate. The SEALS are fully cabable of policing their own. And as for you Thomas Cole, I can see why you have a picture of a dog. It is, in all probably, smarter than YOU are! IF you think Obama is leading you to the promised land you better pull your head out of your A__! He is selling this country out! Between him and Hillary, they are selling this country out! Obama is letting every country know what we do and how we do it! He is stripping away our rights little by little. Hillary is blaming the United States for the world's problems and trying to drag us into every civil conflict in the world! But, I should not be too critical of you, Thomas, as I can see the only military life you have seen has been on the movie screen! I retired from the NAVY after 20 years service and am a VIETNAM VET and am proud of it. I have done things and been in places that Washington is not privy to, or ever will be! I took the OATH and I believe in it totally. Obama is taking too many liberties and is putting this country at risk! He has to be defeated in November!

This is simply a reflection of our society as a whole. Unfortunately, the Greatest Generation has truly passed. While I deeply respect those who serve today in the greatest armed forces on earth, the integrity of many has slipped below an acceptable level. It has to do with many factors for sure but the underlying cause is upbringing I believe. The moral decay in our country will lead to our downfall if not brought into check.
If this man has broken his agreement of silence concerning anything regarding his service to this country then he should be charged and if convicted, face the weight of his punishment and should not be allowed to profit from it in any way.
I still honor my vow of silence concerning my service during the Viet-Nam war and expect all people of integrity to do the same. Fortunately, I have forgotten most of the secret stuff anyway or it is so outdated that it wouldn't matter but still I would not have betrayed my country when it counted.

Yes, it is amazing how these guys operate. The risk their lives and some even die during training. As an author I use fiction with non-fiction and can see how one can be taken for another, that is the ability of a writer. I agree with the commentator who says that the Pentgon probably should, could have already given clearance. And on another note how is it that when listening to some of these reporters on news give out information that they should not, maybe we should ssend them to jail for giving away crucial info.. that puts our troops at bay! God luck, buddy.

I got he book and am convinced by the author's due diligence in protecting his fellow warriors. The whole business of having a non-disclosure agreement is troubling, as it could easily lead to commanders giving questionable orders to the teams. I think we can trust the special operators with the appropriate level of disclosure a lot more than any political leader!

President Obama, as President of the United States, and as all previous presidents can and will inform the public as he sees fit, informed, but unrestricted and uncensored, as all former presidents have never signed a non-disclosure agreement. The issue here is an ex-seal possibly not complying with his signed NDA. Those that violate their signed NDA's should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The most intelligent thing I have heard so far on whether this book should have been written was made by a Navy SEAL answering the question by channel 10 news in Virginia Beach. He said, "I don't know what to think; I haven't read the book yet."

By releasing this book and going onto 60 minutes to talk about his participation, Mr. Owen may have placed himself in a dangerous situtation. The middle east is still a hot bed of terrorist activities. I think the Pentagon should have reviewed this book to protect the other Navy Seals. We have a right to know but, we should consider the safety and protection of others involved.

I was very upset with the recent Seal Movie and all the information, that may have been known but was 'released' in the movie, and am more disturbed about this person, making gain from this, and possibly putting future missions at risk. I am also concerned about the President trying to make political gain from this mission and the efforts of all of the news agencies in trying to find out all about the mission. this puts our troops at future risk.

I have not read book but as per oath he should not have published for it could be a compermise to safety for others and it is too soom for we are still a that war era. All profit should go to support those who were injured and the families of those Lose.

There are a lot of views of code and honor here. I remember when Frank Snepp wrote about the scandalous exit from Viet Nam and insider secrets and nothing was done. I heard rumors that the only reason we were in Viet Nam so long was to procure "silos" (you figure out the rest) to keep a watch on China and the USSR. I also remember when the President of the United States swore under oath that "I did not have Sex with that woman" and nothing was done. Even though all soldiers take a oath we all follow by example and must make decisions that we and others must live with until and after we die. Tom Clancy in all his books and movies showed more about what we have the capabilites (and short failing) than most anything I have seen. Pay attention! Bin Laden is dead but our enemies foreign and domestic (look at the White House) are still out there. We are being sold out by the CIC and our enemies are lining up at the gate to destroy us. So how will you make your choices in the future to follow like sheep or make your final stand with your "Band of Brother" to do what you are suppose to do and make the right choices. Mark Owen did what others wanted to do and did not.

As a vet who held a security clearance I just want to point out that ALL spec ops are classified. Just talking about them is a violation of federal and military law, never mind authoring a book!

In my time in the Army over the years that dates back to Vietnam, I believe I signed a similar security agreemnet three times. Each time it basically boiled do to you DON"T Talk or Tell what you did at any time to anyone outside the operation no matter what you think. If you did you went to prison. According to those agreements, the fact that the author said he was on that raid should have landed him in front of a federal judge.

One more comment. Who is responsible for the TV documentary that just shown on National TV. Do they get a huss? If said author is charged, should the producers of this movie be charged as well?


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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.