In the wake of the epic Fox News leak revealing the identity of the SEAL Team 6 (ST6) member who wrote a book on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, I called up some friends and acquaintances in the “community” to get some perspective.The SEAL, Matt Bissonnette, was not only in the room when bin Laden took his last breath, but wrote a book about it less than 500 days later.
His intent was to publish this book under the pseudonym Mark Owen, but some operators I talked to said the leak started when Bissonnette’s pen hit the paper.
Don Mann, a former SEAL famous not only for his reputation as a ST6 member, but also for authoring many books including Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America’s Elite Warriors, said it would have been smart to get the book vetted first, a common practice for authors with security clearances.
“I had every one of my books vetted first, by both the military and the government,” Mann said. But he added that he wanted to give Bissonnette “the benefit of the doubt” that he had not included any information that would not have been approved by the government.
Mann also said the compromise of Bissonnette’s identity was inevitable.
“But maybe he didn’t know. I could see someone falling into that sort of coercion,” he said. “You talk to a few people, or somehow they find out who you are, and suddenly everyone’s offering you money. Lots of money. They made me three offers when I left the teams, big offers, and I turned them down. [I said] I would take those secrets to the grave.”
“But then I wrote a book,” he continued. “And at first I thought, ‘maybe I’ll leave my name out of it,’ but I knew there was no way—the publisher definitely knows who you are, and there are other people, they don’t have clearances. We’re kind of disappointed in Fox—we have friends there, but it’s too hard of a secret to keep in today’s world.”
Mann also said that no one really knows the whole truth yet, and that the real leak started as soon as Obama identified the specific team who got bin Laden.
Milo Afong, a Marine sniper and purple heart recipient, said he understood why someone in Bissonnette’s position would write a tell-all.
“He’s completely responsible—once you put pen to paper, there’s going to be repercussions for doing that,” Afong said. “But I can understand a man needs to make money.”
Media attention only brings more scrutiny, though. Afong also said it was completely irresponsible for the media to release Bissonnette’s name.
Afong, also an author of two books, including Hunters: U.S. Snipers in the War on Terror, said no one really knows Bissonnette’s situation, other than that he’s retired, which means he may require income.
“If Obama’s going to invite Hollywood producers to the White House to make a movie about it, why can’t he tell his side of the story?” Afong said. “That movie, it will make hundreds of millions of dollars. Will those guys see any of that?”
From a civilian perspective, Afong said he was “amping” to read Bissonnette’s book. “I would love to hear those stories. I want to hear an operator’s perspective to be in the top two tiers of SpecOps in the US,” he said.
But from a military perspective, he said, it concerned him.
“What about the OpSec (Operational Security)? What are you going to give away, what aren’t you?” Afong asked. “I have faith though, that he didn’t give anything away. You know at those levels, they make sure you’re intelligent. So I have a feeling he didn’t give anything away.”
“You never really know though. Man, I wish the best for the guy,” he added.
Scott Taylor, co-creator of the controversial “Dishonorable Disclosures” anti-Obama, anti-leak ad, said in an email:While it would be fundamentally wrong to comment on a book I have not seen, if the book has not been properly cleared before release and includes details about tactics and capabilities, then it’s no less detrimental to future Special Operations missions and personnel than similar leaks by the Obama Administration.
It’s also representative of what Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, called the ‘culture of leaks’ that has been allowed to develop under this Administration. Operation Security rules apply to everyone, from the top of the chain of command to the bottom.
The response from the limited amount of guys from the community I have spoken to today has been negative.
“Negative” is right. But the word doesn’t do justice to the last community member I interviewed.
“Ben” has intimate knowledge and many close friends in the “Black Ops” community. His identity is not disclosed for obvious reasons.
When I broke the news of the Fox leak to him, all I heard was a flurry of expletives. No joke. Eventually he calmed down.
“Well first of all he better have dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s, man, because they’ll come and arrest him,” Ben said.
Who, I asked—the government?
“Yeah, in or out of the Navy, doesn’t matter, there’s just certain stuff you don’t talk about. Justice Department will come and take him,” he said.
I couldn’t believe it—that a guy could go from killing our worst enemy to incarceration.
“It could get worse,” Ben said. “He better have protected his brothers. Because his comrades will come and (beat him down).”Really? I asked.
“Yeah, they’ll rough him up, definitely. But more importantly, I hope he’s moved his family. That’s even more important. SEALs are brothers, they take care of each other in the end. I just hope he’s taken care of himself as well.”
Ben touched on how some SEALs have made money consulting for video games and movies, and that he found the practice less than admirable. But servicemen don’t get the best retirement packages, and if they have families, doing private contracts in South America or Africa doesn’t really make sense, he said.
“Hopefully he didn’t say anything, because he’ll make America look stupid, he’ll make us all look stupid,” Ben said. “SEAL Team 6, they’re doing the type of stuff, tactics, that are so sought after—secret helicopters, secret tactics—even other SEALs want to know what they do.”
You’re still going to read the book though, Ben?
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