Navy SEAL book released over Pentagon objections

« Previous story
Next story »
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
« Previous story
Next story »


* To comment without a Facebook account, please scroll to the bottom.


The author surely knew better. Al profits from his book should go to wounded warriors and he should be entitled to 6,6 and a kick. Even though he is out he has a obligation.

I totally agree with you. Well done.

As a former Army Green Beret, I also signed a nondisclosure agreement. That agreement is for your lifetime, not for as long as you are on active duty. Shame on him, he has let is fellow Seals down and all other Special Forces in the Military. He should be locked up for crimes against our country. I still proudly honor all vowes and agreements I made when I was in the US Army 45 years ago, why does he not have to?

You are 100% correct Sir...I served in the U S Navy in the 60's...The nondisclosure agreement and security clearance I signed then is still sacred and will never be broken.. What has happen to morality and patriotism in this country??.

totally the point. Glad to see that someone understands the issue.

Steven, I could not agree with you more. I do not know what will happen when our generation is gone. God Bless you and all who have served. And God Bless America !!!!!!

Steven, I could not agree with you more. I do not know what will happen when our generation is gone. God Bless you and all who have served. And God Bless America !!!!!!


Agree with you and for you it was 45 years for me it has been 31 years since my first signing of a non-disclosure. I've worked in many positions within the US Army and each one required a certain level of security clearance and each time I had to undergo new clearance investigation, sign non-disclosure agreements and these secrets will follow me to the grave. Even after getting out and working for a Government think tank I underwent the same rigors and requirements and would never undertake any procedures to violate these sacred vows.

There have been many comments in these threads ranging from the President disclosure to Hollywood's movies as rationale for Mark Owen's ability to disclose operational information and members of Seal Team 6 although names were changed to protect the members. If Mark Owens had not written the book then there would be no need to change the names.

As for those whom have identified Hollywood's movies regarding special ops if one notice the operations are not totally accurate and Hollywood takes liberties in the production, action, and what else. I know most people who have served in SOF would probably watch these movies an analyze them as to the accuracy and or hype created by Hollywood.

Check the definitions of classified information and you'll see that the release of top secret info would cause exceptionally grave danger to the nation. Only time will tell what the release of this info will cause. I worry most about the author's retelling of the killing of Bin Laden where is appears that the terrorist was double tapped. Although I lose no sleep over that, it violates the law of land warfare and could jeopardize our standing with NATO. I hope it doesn't lead to that, but I'm sure these things were not on the author's mind when he was seeing dollar signs.

The author really should have followed his agreement with the military. Our thirst for information does not override the obligation he made to honor his word. For example: The Navajo Code Talkers from WWII. Their story was not released until authorized to do so by the government.They truely honored their word. This man enjoyed all that the military provided for him but could not keep his word.

Election propaganda...

Just got the book yesterday. Already it through. So far I have not seen anything that could be contrued as classified. It is a great read. Makes your proud to have great Americans like these Seals risking their lives for us everyday. Real pros! If anyone at the Pentagon thinks it soooo very terrible, they are either overreacting or under some form of political pressure. My opinion.

After serving 20 years in the USAF, where I held security clearances for the whole 20 years. I was always debriefed when I left an organization and signed the debriefing statement which said I would never divulge any classified information until such a time that it was made public. That was the Air Force policy, but I'm sure the Navy is similar.
Just saying, and welcome home.

He broke the faith and is shamed.

As a retired counterintelligence special agent assigned to a couple of Special Ops units I'm very familiar with the disclosures signed by anyone assigned to these units. Part of my job was to enforce any violations of said disclosures or the disclosure of any classified information. These disclosures are in effect for 75 years after you leave that particular unit and it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out what in reality that means. This individual along with anyone who advised him throughout the entire process should be subject to whatever civil laws and UCMJ they are in violation of.

it is shameful that someone is so greedy and want to famous so bad that they would risk this Country safety for it. We still have soldier in that country that can be harmed by this book. It can also can cause a lot of problems for this country if it get into the wrong hands. I think he should be pulled back into the Military and answer for his actions.

I don't know what his orders were, but we were told that what we were doing was confidential. After 30 years, I still don't know if I can talk about our exploits in the Pacific during Vietnam.

30 mos. on nuclear Attack Submarine.

If the POTUS had already identified where your mission occured, what you did, what time you did it and the name of your boat then it's probably safe to correct any historical mistakes. If not, normal channels should be used.....

Mark Owen did not release the story, he corrected the story. Who, what, where and how was released by the White House. Very classified information has been released from the White House staff on actual on going missions yet it has receieved little attention. If we are using UAV's to kill bad guys and compter hackers to slow down Iran's nuclear program I believe those should be hush hush.
A retired seal correcting the White House version of what went on is just fine with me. I prefer non-fiction to fiction when our soldiers lives are at stake.

This book will cause death to innocent people. We are not dealing with nice people here (terrorists) and I am sure they will do their best to make someone (domestic, foreign) pay for this now that new information is being released, especially the double tapping.

Why stir up the hornets nest if you don't have to?

If, in fact, the book contains classified or "sensitive" information, the author has violated his oath of office and SHOULD be prosecuted for divulging this information.

With the Internet and fools like the Wikileaks genuis who makes me sick, it will soon be public kowledge anyway. I would not be suprised to see pictures of bin-Ladens corpse on the Internet soon.

Members (and former members) of the Military know better. Regardless of what has been leaked by Civilian leadership, and what has been published, does not free a current/former member of the military of his/her responsibility to comply with regulations. By the way, a former SEAL I work with emphatically requested that I not purchase "No Easy Day" --- a request I will comply with.

That's part of the game. Even if troops are killed because the President revealed classified information that he de-classified for political gain, you have to suck it up and grin and bare it.

You cannot criticize the elected officials no matter how detrimental their actions are and no matter how many troops get killed.

I just ordered the book. I will not pass any "judgement" on it until it is read. Although I did receive a short summary of it today, the summarizer told me the author is all over the place and hard to track on. But here are my thoughts to Bill and the rest of the crew commenting; As a member of any classified operation we are NEVER to divulge any specific information about our activities, non-disclosure statement or not. That is our duty. Please note; SPECIFIC INFORMATION! In my 30+ years of service in two branches I was never privileged to serve in any Spec OP units. Regardless, I have known many 'Nam vets who made little runs into non-existent areas who to this day only speak in very vague terms about their service.
Now the reason I entered into the discussion at this point is because of Bill T's statement: "You cannot criticize the elected officials no matter how detrimental their actions are and no matter how many troops get killed" I must disagree with that, for it is our sworn duty to defend.... Therefore, if an elected (or appointed) government critter is creating a danger to the Military, which equates to the Nation, it is our sworn duty to report that offense!

Well said John von L

I have read this book, (apologies the the SOGs), and have found nothing in it that would jeopardize anyone, since many of Clancy's books already cover most of this stuff on a fictional basis. I swore an Oath to defend and protect the U.S. Constitution, from enemies both foreign and domestic. This didn't include a lying POTUS, who does not seem to understand the Oath.

And why does the verification script look like arabic? Have we gone that far already?

Sad that he is complaining that the political powers wanted the credit & the glory, when he is the one that wants the glory and attention. Proud Seals & other special forces know that their fellow men & the mission are more important then themselves. Its not the issue of whether we think it should be classified or not. The point is as military men we know the importance of following lawful orders & keeping with the traditions of the armed forces. Just look at the comments from those with military service & combat experience.

I have nothing but respect for these great guys who carried out this amazing operation and I do not know if this book contains classified material. I do know that the only time this administration appear to be concerned is when the release makes the President look bad. When it's designed to make the President look like a tough guy, they turn a blind eye.

A true at heart member of any Special Forces will not write a book of any missions that they know of much less that they partake in. They will never go for personal gain at the expense of the United States of America. It is sad that some of you are so full of political hate that you would make a ststement such as the one by Tom McDermott, September 6, 2012 - 3:22pm Did you not know that the President is the Commander in Chief of our entire armed forces, exercising supreme command authority of our military forces or significant element of those forces? According to Article II, Section 2, Clause I of the Constitution, the President of the United States is commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.[13] The current commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces is Barack Obama, the 43rd person to hold the position.

Just because someone is Commander in Chief doesn't mean you have to like them, or the job they are doing in that position. I don't hate the President, but I don't appreciate the disclosure of operational details for political advantage by anyone.

If Owen released details including; specific pre-op traininng, staging area(s), insertion techniques (to include hardware assets), specific nature of intelligence gathering or other information that would put Operators and their families in clear and present danger, than I think he should be held accountable. However, if the 101 ID went into Berlin in 1945 and either secured Adolf Hitler and/or his remains, not only would the American public demand to know the details and applicable validation of his kill/capture, but the entire world would. Let us not forget; bin Laden was the nation's #1 most wanted. Why...because he's the root cause for the death of nearly 3,000 innocent American civilians and untold servicemen. Because of this, not only should the story be told to the fullest extent which CAN be done without putting any of America's interests in jeapordy. No names, no flight/insertion methods, etc. BUT as a nation who has been at war for over 10 years, we deserve to see the man responsible in the hour of his death. I don't care if one or a billion Muslims are "offended" by releasing the details including the picture of what's left of his head.

Quick note about "Froggy's" statement: The SEAL community didn't seem to mind when the movie came out a while ago showing actual Seal operators. They were obviously not going to show secret or privelaged MOs. Owen did the same thing when writing his book. In BOTH cases, it reminds the American public how many sacrifices the Tier 1 Operators endure and the price they pay to keep America and its interests safe. If "Froggy" didn't want the attention he so clearly detests than he wouldn't have even bothered to be quoted saying anything.

10th ID/11A (0-2)....done the right way: 3/11

Pentagon should look at the leaks where they started (Whitehouse) I don't feel this seal did anything wrong. The Seals have more nobility than any star grade politician in the Pentagon.

If this book turns out to be legally okay, then the proper way to have done it would have been to take the legal route in getting it published (after review). If the Pentagon lawyers had said no, then, using the same legal process, get the ruling overridden in a court of law. This author took the post- versus per-approval/disapproval route and should be punished for it. Why the hurry to get it out? Politics? That is the worse and most dishonorable reason for doing it.

No prosicution for the author until the White House Leaker/s and Barry are found or prosicuted.

I just got this book last night, I admit I haven't gotten very far through it yet but he explicitly states in the preface of the book no confidential information or tactics are contained in the book. He also states that any info in the book is already public knowledge. From what I see so far it's a campfire story. However I can see both sides of the argument on this. Personally I like "knowing" there are constant operations only the individuals involved know about. I have the utmost respect for all of our special operations personal. I feel my small 8 year role in the Army is nothing compared to what these extraordinary individuals do. So I am cautious to pass judgment on this issue. I would hope he is true to his word and there is nothing in this book that can be remotely construed as classified information or would put any of our personal or country at risk. I would also hope that his integrity is high enough to not "sell out" his brothers in arms. The read shall tell...

(Enter the name and address of the Navy or Marine Corps activity obtaining this statement).
1. I HEREBY CERTIFY that I have returned to the Department of the Navy (DON) all classified material which I had in my possession in accordance with the directions contained in the DON Information and Personnel Security Program Regulations SECNAVINST 5510.36, SECNAVINST 5510.30 and the Communications Security Material System Manual (CMS-1A).
2. I FURTHER CERTIFY that I no longer have any material containing classified information in my possession.
3. I shall not hereafter communicate or transmit classified information to any person or agency. I understand that the burden is upon me to ascertain whether or not information is classified and I agree to obtain the decision of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) or the CNO’s authorized representative, on such matters prior to disclosing information which is or may be classified.
4. I will report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation or to the local Naval Criminal Investigative Service office without delay any incident wherein an attempt is made by an unauthorized person to solicit classified information.
5. I have been informed and am aware that Title 18 U.S.C. Sections 641, 793, 794, 798, 952 and 1924, as amended, and the Internal Security Act of 1950 prescribe severe penalties for unlawfully divulging information affecting the National Defense. I have been informed and am aware that the making of a willfully false statement herein renders me subject to trial as provided by Title 18 U.S.C. 1001.
6. I have/have not received an oral debriefing.
Signature of witness
Signature of employee or military member
Type or print name of witness
Type or print first, middle, and last
name of employee or service member. Include
civilian grade or military rank/rate.
OPNAV 5511/14 (Rev. 9-05)

Firstly I agree with MOTHAX' pal "Froggy"'s perspective on this issue. That said even if "Mark Owen" is within his legal rights to publish the book the important question is will doing so in any way endanger SEALS serving in the field now or in the future. If so then rights aside publishing the book is dead wrong.

Not planning on reading the book but it's content is probably only touching the surface of what this "raid" was about. Most of us vets probably feel negative thoughts toward the author for not keeping the silence. On the other hand i would say that thousands of folks who were directly or indirectly affected by Bin Laden would walk up and kiss the author. If the govt. feels like they are getting their toes stepped on here, then i would have to say that's what this world is about nowadays.

Give the Seal a medal, I support him

In my previous posting I asked why the author didn't take the pre-approval/disapproval route. If its legal, then its legal, pre- or post-approval. I suggested that it may be political in its timing but there is another reason. Could he have done it for profit? Either way, he is listening to the wrong people and dishonoring his service and sacrifice to the country.

I see this as an act of Treason. My reasoning: This maggot took an oath of allegiance, not only to his Country, but to his fellow Navy Seals. In his tell-all book, he has decided to not only endanger his own life, but thru him, his team members can now also be identified and targeted. The mission was to takeout and/or capture the Target. May I remind you, the Target Massacured approximately 2,900 American Citizens whom I once served my country to help protect. His book only serves to make him money, and to arouse a cause for revenge from the very forces that we have lost over 4,000 of our young and brilliant, sons, and daughters, in our attempt to
eradicate. The Branch of Service for which I served has an ongoing slogan, (Kill Them All, and Let God Sort Them Out!) The news networks, nor do private citizens, have a need to know how they were protected; they just need to know that they can sleep well tonight! Not everyone can be a Marine, Recon Ranger, Green Baret, Special Forces, Delta Force, and e.t.c. to any and all others I may have left out. You are special, you are the Few. You shall always respect Your Country, Your Service, Your Team, and your team members who had trusted you with their lives. Unless you have worn the uniform, than you do not QUALIFY to respond. SemperFi! AARUGHA!

As military personnel, we were not allowed to correct someone only one rank higher than we were. Who is he to think that he can or should correct the POTUS.

He is no longer in the Military. What the hell was so secret about the info in this book? A more important question would be why many members of SEAL team 6 were killed in an accident, a short time later. Now that is priveleged information that has never been discussed other than by one news report. Something really stinks about that.

Do we have to let a POTUS ruin our country just because he is CIC? That is exactly what's happening. Now there is a movement afoot to make it against the law to make offense against "the Prophet".

This book was NOT treason. Aiding and abetting the enemy is treason. Even Fonda wasn't tried for that. This SEAL did no harm in my opinion.

What you see, what you here, when you leave, leave it here. Those were the words near the door, as I was discharged from the Army. As far as I am concerned, this Navy Seal should be placed on active duty status, and tried under every article that applies to divulging classified material.

Playing devil's advocate here; regarding so-called non-disclosure agreements. Well that depends who is doing the leaking and what information is actually "classified." Non-disclosure agreements another way of putting is simply agreeing to "keep your mouth shut" sometimes to keep operational info classified. It can also be used for dubious purposes to cover-up a multitude of sins. In the real world; sometimes they are used for trade secrets when somebody is being terminated and supposedly possesses sensitive trade data. Other times they are used to coverup illegal or unethical actions. As long as the names, ranks, and serials are excluded or the operational facts were previously disclosed already; what difference does it make?? In this case the problem is some pion did the releasing in the form of book - telling a story and making a profit. Frankly if it excludes name, rank and serials of the involved parties the rest of the info was already in the public domain. It was released already by the WH; because of the public's right to know the that a wanted criminal was pursued and eliminated. There is nothing to be classified here; with the noted exceptions outlined above. Perhaps somebody is higher in the food chain is POed a pion got to publish it first!!


This young man is the most brave patriot in our brotherhood of those to serve with top secret clearance.
The one whom violated the code of secrecy is the enemy from within, President Obama. In the Tora Bora operation, it was agreed no purpose is served in releasing about Osama whether he is dead or alive from that operation. There is no difference on this past operation. Silence is being a patriot in this case, but the traitor Obama is just like a muslim. He can't keep his mouth shut. He just had to tell his muslim brothers he is the mother of all executioners. All of us have taken an oath to protect our country from enemies external as well as from within. Wake up Generals.

Remember the saying, "Loose lips sinks ships." Written words will do the same thing if it is a special operations or secret mission. I held a top secret/level 3 clearance and to this day I have never disclosed any of the missions or deployment information because our enemies can use this information to second guess our next move.

Let me say I have not read the book. My thoughts are that some one in the know gave all the info to the enemy so they knew which Chinook to shoot down, These folks were the only men who knew
wether they killed Bin Laden or someone else. The White House had them erased and then spun a
story. It rminded me of that jerk holding a bullet that had not been fired through a weapon and
said to the American people this is the bullet that killed JFK. The head shed can spin any story it wants, the media gobbles it up without cheking the facts. Too bad for America

I agree John.

I was shocked that so many of the elite would be packed into one heli, and a chinook at that. A chinook? WTF?

Oh well, the only easy day was yesterday, and Amen to that!


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Have a tip for us? A link that should appear here? Contact us.
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.