By Rowan Scarborough
The Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to publicize details of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, even as it threatens to file criminal charges against a former Navy SEAL because he provided the same type of mission rundown in his recently published book.
An examination by The Washington Times shows that several details in the book “No Easy Day” already have appeared in print based on interviews with administration officials and likely will be included in an upcoming movie and another book.
Perhaps the most detailed account of the raid appeared in a 2011 New Yorker article based on authorized interviews with White House officials. A source close to SEAL Team 6, which carried out the May 2011 mission, said unit members were told after the article was published that it was based, in part, on an authorized interview with a mission planner.
Internal administration emails released last month in a Freedom of Information lawsuit show extraordinary cooperation between filmmakers working on a movie about the bin Laden raid and Obama political appointees. At least one person who took part in the raid was made available to the movie’s director and screenwriter, the emails show.
A book coming out three weeks before the Nov. 6 election details the bin Laden raid, step by step. It also is based on cooperation with the White House, according to the source close to SEAL Team 6. The book’s publicity blurb says it will focus on President Obama, who has made the bin Laden killing a focal point of his re-election campaign.
“No Easy Day” author Matt Bissonnette, a former SEAL who used the pen name Mark Owen, has been threatened by the Pentagon with criminal charges for his first-person account of the bin Laden mission.
George Little, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, flatly accused Mr. Bissonnette of divulging secrets.
Mr. Bissonnette’s attorney said in a letter that the book does not contain classified information and that his client did not violate a nondisclosure agreement that calls for pre-publication review.
What has struck some is the zeal with which the Obama administration is going after Mr. Bissonnette, even though senior officials have released details on how bin Laden was killed in a hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
“The Obama administration strategically leaked details of the bin Laden raid for political advantage,” said Charles Gittins, a criminal defense lawyer who has defended scores of military clients, including SEALs. “The author of the book is writing about what he personally observed, which really can’t be classified, which I am confident the administration knows, and is the reason they didn’t move more strongly to stop the publication.
“Using strategic leaks for political gain, while complaining that a witness to events wrote about what he personally saw and did, really is the height of hypocrisy,” Mr. Gittins said.
The Pentagon’s position is that, regardless of what has been released by administration officials, the ex-SEAL violated rules by failing to have his manuscript reviewed.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told The Times: “I don’t really want to litigate this in the press. But the view of the department is that he had a clear and unambiguous obligation to consult with us prior to publishing, and he did not. He also had a clear and unambiguous obligation not to disclose classified information, and he did.”
The White House push to tell the bin Laden story has resulted in scores of pre-“No Easy Day” accounts of the raid in newspapers and magazines. The articles quote administration officials, White House aides and Pentagon sources. Some are quoted on the record, some on background.
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