A Navy SEAL involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year appeared on 60 Minutes in an interview with Scott Pelley to discuss his newly released book about the mission called No Easy Day. Appearing with his pen name "Mark Owen" and wearing heavy make-up and speaking in an altered voice, he revealed new details of the fateful night including a "wicked smart" female CIA agent who had followed bin Laden's case for years, how the 50 year-old pilot saved a helicopter that crashed during the first minutes of the raid, and a young girl in the room where bin Laden had been shot actually identified the terrorist mastermind to the commandos.
The Pentagon has threatened to take legal action against Owen, whose actual name Matt Bissonnette was recently revealed by Fox News, as well as the book's publisher Dutton. Last week officials released a version of a nondisclosure agreement they say Bissonnette signed that prohibited him from sharing such details (called Sensitive Compartmented Information) without the approval of the government (though not the contract signed by Bissonnette himself). In the CBS interview, "Mark Owen" defended his decision to go forward with the book, arguing he did not reveal any secrets or tactics, and said that his fellow SEALs supported him.
"I've had nothing but an outpouring of support from the guys who know me. To quote one of my friends, he said, 'Hey, if anybody can tell this story and do it right, it's you,' " Owen told Pelley. "And I'm not taking that and trying to toot my own horn. They know I'm doing it right."
Speaking to U.S. News about the controversy surrounding No Easy Day, Eric Haney, a former member of the Army's elite Delta Force who has written about his experience and has consulted on various television shows and movies, brushed off the Pentagon's threats.
"There's no provision under law by which the Pentagon or other branch of the military can censor books," he says. "Once a man leaves the service he is a private citizen."
During the 60 Minutes interview, Owen said the reasoning for hiding his identity was twofold.
"The focus shouldn't be on me. The focus should be on the book," he said. "I'm not trying to be special or a hero or anything."
He also worried about his safety, as "the enemy has a long memory."
At the conclusion of the interview, Pelley alluded that his true name and identity had indeed been revealed by "a cable news channel" but that CBS would not be following suit for fear of Owen's safety.
No Easy Day has topped the Amazon.com best seller list for two weeks. Whether the Pentagon carries out its threats remains to be seen, but it's hard to imagine the optics of the interview coming off any better for Owen, as he argued the book is not political and at the heart of its mission is a desire to honor the SEALs and all those involved in the operation to kill bin Laden.
"Our team played a small little piece. Some people would argue bigger," Owen said. "We were just lucky to be at the right place at the right time."
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