WASHINGTON - A former Navy SEAL at the centre of a brewing battle with the US government over his book worried about security after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden to the point that he questioned signing his real name on a framed flag from the mission which was being presented to President Barack Obama.
In the book, penned under pseudonym “Mark Owen,” he mused that “the only thing that remained secret was our names.”
His real name, Matt Bissonnette, was revealed shortly after news broke that the first-hand account of the daring operation on the Al-Qaeda leader’s compound in Pakistan last year was to be published. Reuters obtained an advance copy of the book to be released on September 4 from the publisher, Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group USA.
The Pentagon has threatened legal action against Bissonnette for alleged violation of non-disclosure agreements because the manuscript was not submitted for a pre-publication security review. His attorney responded that the subject matter of his book was not covered by non-disclosure agreements he has signed. Bissonnette wrote that he decided to do the book because details of the raid that were being leaked by others in government were wrong.
“Even reports claiming to have the inside story have been incorrect. I felt like someone had to tell the true story.”
His account does differ. He writes that bin Laden was shot in the head as he peeked from a bedroom door, while the White House has said he was not armed but had resisted capture. At the crux of the anger from Navy SEALs is a fear that the book might hinder their selection for choice missions. “If the Pentagon doesn’t think that SEALs can keep a secret we don’t want to stop getting the missions just because people are out there writing books without getting them vetted,” Mann said. “That is at the heart of it.”
Bissonnette was apparently so worried about having his real identity known that he appears in an interview on CBS program “60 Minutes,” to air on September 9, disguised by a professional make-up artist and with his voice altered.
An official Qaeda website has posted a photograph and the real name of the former Navy commando, calling him “the dog who murdered the martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden.”
In perhaps the most ironic twist, the book has put Bissonnette firmly in the spotlight, while inside its covers he writes about discomfort over leaks and publicity about SEAL Team Six’s involvement in the bin Laden raid.
“We just killed the number one terrorist in the world. The last thing we needed was our names attached to it,” he wrote. “We simply wanted to fade back into the shadows and go back to work.”