News Column

Book on bin Laden Killing Faces Scrutiny

Aug. 31, 2012

Andy Goldberg, dpa

A book by a member of the US military's special forces who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden is already a bestseller on, but intelligence officials are looking into whether it includes classified information, news reports said Thursday.

No Easy Day, The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden was written by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette under the pseudonym Mark Owen. The book has been on's top 100 sellers for eight days and was number one Thursday. The book's publication date, originally September 11, was changed to September 4 because of demand.

Bissonnette's account of the May 2011 raid at the al-Qaeda leader's Pakistan compound differs in important details from the official version of events, which described how US troops opened fire after identifying bin Laden in his bedroom and as they feared he was reaching for a gun.

The book takes readers into the highly secretive world of the US Naval Special Warfare Development Group, describing how Bissonnette and the other handpicked members of the 24-man team trained for months for the mission to hunt down the man identified as the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

US defence officials, however, said they knew nothing about the book before its impending publication was announced August 22. Now they are looking at whether it reveals sensitive sources and techniques or operational details.

"Every member of the special-operations community with a security clearance signed a non-disclosure agreement that was binding during and after service in the military," Admiral William McRaven, mastermind of the bin Laden raid, wrote in an open letter to current and former special-operations troops. "We will pursue every option to hold members accountable, including criminal prosecution."

The letter was published by the news and commentary website The Daily Beast on August 24.

The book apparently does not quote from clearly classified documents, the Los Angeles Times said, citing US officials who have read the book. Even so, officials are examining closely whether special-operations tactics might be disclosed, the newspaper said.

The soldiers who carried out the raid, the author asserted, predicted that President Barack Obama would use it to score politically.

"We'll get Obama re-elected for sure," one SEAL said, according to Bissonnette's account in an early copy of the book obtained by The Huffington Post news website. "I can see him now, talking about how he killed bin Laden."

"We all knew the deal," Bissonnette wrote, saying nevertheless that ordering the raid was correct. "We were tools in the toolbox, and when things go well, they promote it. They inflate their roles."

The climax of the operation came as the SEAL team were climbing the dark stairs to the living quarters in the bin Laden house. In Bissonnette's account, the pointman in the operation, who was directly in front of him, spied a man poking his head out of the doorway and the pointman opened fire.

"We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots. Bop. Bop," Bissonnette wrote.

The man slipped back into the room, and when the SEALS followed, they saw him lying on the floor, his body twitching, Bissonnette said. "Blood and brains spilled out the side of his skull," according to his account.

The SEALS shot him again repeatedly, "slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless," the book said.

Only after cleaning the blood of the man's face did they identify him as bin Laden, according to the account. He had not held any weapons, but a search of the room uncovered an AK-47 and an unloaded pistol, Bissonnette's book said.

"He had no intention of fighting," the book said. "... [He] didn't even pick up his weapon."

This account is at odds with earlier descriptions that bin Laden was shot when he appeared to be reaching for weapons and raised the spectre that the commandos could have captured him alive.

But Bissonnette said he felt compelled to reveal his version of events to counter the chatter from the politicians.

"If my commander-in-chief is willing to talk, then I feel comfortable doing the same," he said, repeating Republican criticism that Obama, a Democrat, was too hasty in claiming credit for the raid.

"It doesn't bad-mouth either party," he said in an interview Thursday with CBS television. "This is a book about September 11th, and it needs to rest on September 11th, not be brought into the political arena, because this - this has nothing to do with politics."

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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