According to the Pentagon, the former Navy SEAL who claims to have killed Osama Bin Laden may have put “our national security at risk.”
On Thursday, Robert O’Neill, an ex-member of Navy SEAL Team 6, told the Washington Post he fired the fatal shot that killed the Al Qaeda leader during a 2011 raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. O’Neill also said he gave an interview to Fox News that will air as part of a two-part documentary called “The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden” that’s scheduled to air later this month and participated in a 2013 Esquire profile where he was only identified as “The Shooter.”
O’Neill’s interview with the newspaper came after SOFREP, a website dedicated to covering national security and the US special operations forces community, revealed his identity in a post on Monday. SOFREP also reported leaders of the US Naval Special Warfare Command sent a letter to team members on Oct. 31, two days after the Fox News revealed plans for the documentary, urging them not to discuss their work publicly.
After the documentary was announced, Navy Commander Amy Derrick-Frost, a Defence Department spokeswoman, gave a statement to Business Insider in which she said former SEALs were bound by military non-disclosure agreements and could face criminal charges for revealing information about the raid.
Following the publication of O’Neill’s interview with the Washington Post on Thursday, Business Insider reached out to Commander Derrick-Frost again. She noted “specifics” of the Bin Laden raid, including the names of the participants, “remain classified” and reiterated former SEALs were obligated not to reveal secrets.
“Navy SEALs continue to serve and fight bravely around the world, accomplishing critical missions that keep our nation safe. The major details of the bin Laden mission are well known, many of them a matter of public record. However, specifics related to the operation, including units and personnel remain classified,” Derrick-Frost said. “As a private citizen, former or retired service members are free to speak with the media and exercise their first amendment rights. However, it is important for all former service members to adhere to their signed Non-disclosure Agreements (NDAs) when they seek to openly discuss classified or sensitive information, or make claims about their active duty operations or accomplishments.”
Though she declined to comment on whether the Pentagon would launch a leak investigation against O’Neill or pursue criminal charges as a result of the Washington Post article, Commander Derrick-Frost stressed any inappropriate release of classified material could put the country at risk.
“NDAs are voluntarily executed by Service Members. Any breach of nondisclosure obligations to the government, places our national security at risk,” said Derrick-Frost. “It would be inappropriate to speculate on any actions the Department of Defence may or may not take in relation to this article or future interviews.”
O’Neill isn’t the first former SEAL to talk about participating in the Bin Laden raid. In 2012, Matt Bissonette released a book about his participation in the mission. Earlier this summer, the Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into whether Bissonette leaked classified material.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.