(NEW YORK) — The book that details a former Navy SEAL’s first-person account of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden will be released ahead of schedule, the book’s publisher said Tuesday, following widespread controversy over possible national security breaches.
The book, titled No Easy Day, was set to appear on bookshelves next month on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, but will now make its public debut a week early on Sept. 4 so the book can go ahead and “speak for itself,” according to a statement from publisher Dutton, a division of the Penguin Group.
After news of the book’s existence was reported by The New York Times last week, Dutton and the book’s author, who goes by the pseudonym Mark Owen, found themselves at the center of a raging controversy over whether the book leaked information about the top-secret mission. Officials from the White House to the Department of Defense to the CIA said they were unaware of the book and had not reviewed it for possible leaks at the time of the first media reports.
A Department of Defense spokesperson said Monday the department had received a copy of the manuscript and had begun reviewing it for potential security issues.
On Tuesday the former SEAL Team Six member who wrote the book said through Dutton that he’s “proud” to have written his account for the public.
“My hope is that it gives my fellow Americans a glimpse into how much of an honor it is to serve our country,” Owen said. “It is written with respect for my fellow service members while adhering to my strict desire not to disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way.”
A Dutton spokesperson said last week that the book had been vetted by a former special operations attorney for “tactical, technical, and procedural information as well as information that could be considered classified by compilation and [the attorney] found it to be without risk to national security.”
The book’s publication comes as the special operations community, especially the SEALs, have risen to the forefront of a discussion over the controversial leaking of classified information. Following the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden, the Obama administration came under harsh criticism from Republican lawmakers for allegedly leaking too much about the mission for political gain.
Most recently, a small group of former special operations and intelligence officials — many with Republican ties — published an online video called “Dishonorable Disclosures” in which they say the president was trying to take credit for bin Laden’s death from the SEALs on the ground. That video was later reportedly criticized by others in the military as “unprofessional” and “shameful.”
Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL and writer, told ABC News last week that Owen may be compromising one of America’s most elite and secretive commando groups, even if he used a pseudonym and changed the names of the other team members.
“Operational security is at play here regardless of whether or not any classified information has been disclosed in this memoir,” he said, noting that even innocuous details could be enough to put other team members at risk. “This is not a good day for SEAL Team Six. An individual has compromised their ethos and mantra that the deed is more important than the glory.”
Webb said his own memoir, The Red Circle, was also not vetted by the Department of Defense but said it did not disclose any classified information, and that any potentially sensitive details about events described in the book, which occurred approximately 10 years ago, were changed.
Another former SEAL, who is still active in the intelligence community, said everyone needs to wait and see what’s actually in the new book before passing judgment.
“It seems pretty quick, but at the same time, I don’ t know what he says in the book,” said the ex-SEAL, who requested not to be named for his own security. “This guy dedicated a majority of his life to the service of his country and he was on a historic mission. It’s his story to tell… It really comes down to what type of information he’s disclosing.”
Dutton said Owen plans to donate a majority of the proceeds from his book to charities that help the families of fallen Navy SEALs.
A White House-sanctioned Hollywood movie about the bin Laden raid is scheduled to be released in December.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Steve Almasy, CNN
Lindsey Johnson, KSL.com