Over new book “No Easy Day.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday hinted the former Navy SEAL who wrote a book criticizing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden could be punished. On CBS This Morning, Panetta said, “We have to take steps to make clear to him and to the American people that we’re not going to accept this kind of behavior.” Panetta said that if the Defense Department doesn’t take any action against Matt Bissonette, the man believed to be writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen, “then everybody who pledges to ensure this doesn’t happen is gonna get the wrong signal that somehow they can do it without any penalty to be paid.” Panetta said the Pentagon is reviewing the book to determine “what is classified and what isn’t, and where those lines are.”
The Pentagon has condemned ‘No Easy Day’ for revealing the SEALs’ operational secrets. But it showed no such concern in giving director Kathryn Bigelow access to inside details for her upcoming movie on the bin Laden raid.
Our president has promised to bring those who killed our diplomats in Libya to justice.
This almost certainly means that special operators such as Seal Team 6 are even now poised for action.
In preparing to be deployed, they no doubt are following what the controversial book, No Easy Day, by Matt Bissonnette (writing as Mark Owen), terms “Big Boy Rules.” The author says he learned the basic principle behind these rules after receiving a six-page, single-spaced official itemization of what to bring on his first deployment to Afghanistan with SEAL Team 6.
“The suggested packing list basically told us to bring everything,” he says.
He went to his new team leader. “Dude, what do you think you need to bring for deployment?” the team leader asked. “Bring what you think you need.”
The book cites this as an example of the “Big Boy Rules” that guide the team.
Matt Bissonnette appeared in disguise on '60 Minutes.'
“Which means there wasn’t a lot of management unless you needed it,” the book says.
He helped the U.S. find bin Laden—and paid the price. Now Shakil Afridi is warning the U.S. that Pakistan sees us as the enemy. Bruce Riedel on a troubled relationship.
The Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, who was arrested a year ago for allegedly trying to help America find Osama bin Laden, then tortured by the Pakistani intelligence service, has told reporters that the ISI believes America is Pakistan's enemy No. 1. Unfortunately, most Pakistanis probably agree with the ISI.
Afridi says he argued with his ISI interrogators that America is actually Pakistan’s friend, since it provides the country with more aid than anyone else. He’s right. Since 9/11, the United States has provided Pakistan with over $25 billion in military and economic assistance. The majority has gone to the Pakistani army. According to the Congressional Research Service, the aid disbursed since 9/11 totals $25,379,000. American weapons systems provided to the army include 18 F16s, eight P3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, 6,000 TOW anti-tank missiles, 500 AMRAM air to air missiles, six C130 transport aircraft, 20 Cobra attack helicopters, and a Perry-class missile frigate. About half the $25 billion was disbursed by President Bush and half by Obama, who has tried to increase the economic aid side. Only Israel has gotten more aid than Pakistan in the last decade.
But Afridi says his ISI interrogators said America is Pakistan’s biggest enemy, worse even than India. That is consistent with years of polling in Pakistan. A 2009 poll, before Obama increased drone strikes in Pakistan, showed 69% of Pakistanis had negative views of America. Only 7% felt America supported democracy in the Islamic world and 90% felt America wants to weaken and divide the Islamic world to help Israel and other enemies of Islam. A Gallup poll later that year showed more than half of Pakistanis view America as enemy No. 1. India was second at 18% and al Qaeda third at 11%. A 2010 poll showed Obama’s approval rating in Pakistan was 8%. A poll this June found 74% of Pakistanis believe America is the country’s top enemy, while 90% see China as their best friend.
And Afridi is right when he says Pakistan still supports groups like the Haqqani faction of the Afghan Taliban that fight NATO forces in Afghanistan every day. The ISI has been backing the Taliban and Haqqani since the war began. A recent NATO study concluded that the ISI knows where every senior Taliban leader and his family lives in Pakistan, that the ISI has its own officers sitting on the Taliban top decision-making council, and that they help plan attacks on NATO targets each day. The ISI also remains the patron of the group that attacked Mumbai four years ago, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and killed six Americans in cold blood. The ISI routinely helps Lashkar leader Hafeez Saeed hold massive demonstrations in the country calling for jihad against America and praising Osama bin Laden as a martyr for Islam.
Afridi in 2010 (Mohammad Rauf / AFP-Getty Images (FILE))
But Pakistan also remains a critically important country. It will soon be the largest Islamic country in the world, bigger than Indonesia. It has the fastest- growing nuclear arsenal in the world. It borders on India, China, Afghanistan, and Iran, putting it at the center of world geopolitics. After four military dictators, all of whom got bipartisan American support, it is trying to establish a stable and effective democracy. Its president, Asif Ali Zardari, has been trying with little success for four years to bring the ISI under greater civilian control. We want his government to succeed.
Next week the foreign minister of Paksitan, Hina Rabbani Khar, is scheduled to visit Washington and meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. No breakthroughs should be expected. This relationship is tortured and troubled by 60 years of ugly history. America has betrayed Pakistan several times; Pakistan has betrayed America several times. The former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, has said it is time for a divorce. He is certainly right that it is time to dispel any illusions about this relationship and keep our expectations modest. But we have no choice other than to continue to engage even as we try to contain the worst excesses of the ISI.
Afridi makes one more interesting point. He says the hideout bin Laden was killed in was somewhat famous in Abbottabad, the city high-value target No. 1 lived in for his last five years. It even had a name, Waziristan House, after one of the most lawless districts along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The new book on the raid that killed bin Laden also reveals some interesting insights into the Pakistani military’s ties to the neighborhood. According to No Easy Day, Pakistani army helicopters routinely flew over Waziristan House on their way to and from the Pakistani military academy less than a mile from the hideout. The Kabul Military Academy is Pakistan’s West Point. All the top generals went to school there. It seems their flights over bin Laden’s hideout were so routine bin Laden would continue his pacing on the roof while they flew above. It seems clear he was not very worried about being found by the ISI.
Facing threats from the Pentagon and the prospect of reprisal from al Qaeda, the man who dished on the bin Laden raid cancels media tour for his new book.
Usually, when an author pens a bestseller and promotes it on 60 Minutes, a major publicity tour ensues and, if he or she is lucky, maybe even a bit of literary fame. But for the former Navy SEAL operator who wrote an unauthorized, first-hand account of the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the publication of the book has brought a bunch of problems.
A Pakistani policeman stands outside the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation by U.S. Navy Seals, on May 4, 2011, in Abottabad, Pakistan. (Warrick Page / Getty Images)
Christine Ball, a vice president of the Dutton imprint that published No Easy Day, said Monday that the author who is using the pseudonym Mark Owen gave his first and last media interview to CBS in an episode that aired Sunday.
“At this point we are not scheduling any further interviews with Mark or Kevin Maurer, his coauthor, for security reasons,” she said. “As anyone who watched 60 Minutes can tell you, they went to great lengths to disguise Mark. We want to take even more precautions now that his name has been outed.”
Last month, Fox News first reported that Owen’s real name was Matt Bissonnette, a decision that prompted Dutton to cancel a scheduled media tour for security reasons.
“He should go into hiding,” said Don Mann, a former member of SEAL Team Six and the author of the book Inside SEAL Team Six, which explores the world of the elite group behind the bin Laden raid. Mann said Bissonnette will have to “have an identity change, and a name change; he will be a target for the rest of his life. Our enemy will not forget that he was one of the people who put a bullet into Osama’s body.”
Retribution isn’t the only danger the author of No Easy Day faces. The Pentagon has determined that the book discloses classified information and that the author violated the nondisclosure agreement he signed when he became a SEAL.
“Service members who perform heroic acts deserve our gratitude, but those heroic acts do not exempt service members from their obligation to protect classified information,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said Monday. “It's our strong view that the author of the book disclosed classified information, and that he is in material breach of agreements he signed with the United States government.”
Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette’s account, 'No Easy Day,' describes the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in ways that repeatedly contradict the Obama administration’s version of the story.
Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen (with Keven Maurer) in the forthcoming, No Easy Day, describes his participation in the raid on Abbottabad in 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden. Bissonnette’s story directly contradicts the Obama administration’s version of the raid on several key points. The book is to be published next week by Dutton.
Bin Laden Was Already Dead
Bissonnette writes that as the Navy SEALS walked up the stairs of bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, they saw “a man peeking out of the door.” The Associated Press reported that bin Laden disappeared inside a bedroom after hearing suppressed gunfire. When the SEALS followed him inside, they found bin Laden on the floor in blood with a hole through the right side of his head. The SEALs then shot bin Laden’s twitching body several times until he became motionless. The Obama administration had previously claimed that the SEALS had shot bin Laden because they had assumed he was reaching for a weapon. A White House spokesman said in an email, “'As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, "We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country."'
Bin Laden Was Unarmed
Despite widespread media reports that bin Laden brandished a weapon and resisted when the SEALs entered the room, Owen writes that bin Laden was actually unarmed, according to the Daily News. Bissonnette’s assertion that bin Laden did not make any effort to defend himself contradicts the White House’s account of the raid, according to Forbes. There was no 40-minute gunfight, he writes, and the SEALs were not fired at as they approached the compound.
He Wasn’t Prepared for an Attack
After searching bin Laden’s bedroom, Bissonnette writes that he only found two guns, an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol, and both had empty chambers, according to The Huffington Post. “He hadn’t even prepared a defense,” he writes. “He had no intention of fighting.” Bissonnette claims that, in his experience, it’s common for top leaders to be unprepared for a raid. “In all of my deployments, we routinely saw this phenomenon. The higher up the food chain the targeted individual was, the bigger a pussy he was.”
Two Women Confirmed bin Laden’s Identity
When the team members entered the bedroom where bin Laden had been shot, they discovered a group of women wailing over his blood-drenched body. According to Bissonnette, bin Laden was wearing a sleeveless white T-shirt, loose tan pants, and a tan tunic. The SEALs then began examining his face to ensure it was bin Laden, before finally interrogating a young girl and one of the women who were crowding around bin Laden’s body—both women, Bissonnette writes, confirmed his identity.
A Soldier Sat on bin Laden’s Chest
Bissonette also claims that bin Laden’s body was not treated with quite the same level of respect that President Obama promised it had received. Although bin Laden was given a full Muslim burial at sea, Bissonnette reveals that one of the SEALs sat on bin Laden’s chest on the floor of the cramped helicopter during the flight out of the compound. The helicopter was crowded with about 24 SEALs because one of the helicopters had crashed in Abbottabad before the raid began. Troops must sometimes sit on their own war dead in crowded helicopters, so this is not an entirely uncommon practice.
Not an Assassination Mission
Before the raid, a lawyer for “either” the White House or the Defense Department had told the SEALs that they were not going on an assassination mission. Bissonnette recalls that the lawyer said that if the terrorist was “naked with his hands up,” they should not “engage” him. The lawyer told the SEALs to “detain him” if possible.
The SEALs Joked About Obama Taking Credit for the Raid
Bissonnette says the SEALs criticized Obama for taking credit for their success, just as he had after the 2009 mission to free Captain Richard Phillips from pirates off the coast of Somalia. The group joked about it around a fire pit while waiting for their final orders, he writes, jibing about who would play them in a movie and predicting that they had just won Obama another term. One SEAL reportedly joked, “And we’ll get Obama reelected for sure. I can see him now, talking about how he killed bin Laden.” He says many of the SEALs were not Obama supporters, particularly after his speech announcing the raid, but they’re still glad they went through with the mission.
No plans to option SEAL account.
A spokesman for Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks said the famed director doesn’t have any plans to put a new account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden on the screen. The New York Post had reported on Monday that the Indiana Jones director would be taking on the real-life story of heroism told in No Easy Day, an account penned by a former Navy SEAL of the Abbottabad, Pakistan, raid that killed the terrorist mastermind. At least two other films based on the raid are already in the works, though No Easy Day has drawn extra attention—and criticism—because the former Special Ops soldier who wrote it under a pseudonym actually participated in the raid.
The Special Ops community is stunned by 'No Easy Day,' an unauthorized account of the al Qaeda takedown by one of their own. Now the Navy brass say they might come after the author.
In the closed and close-knit world of current and retired U.S. Special Operations officers, the news that an unauthorized account of the 2011 Navy SEALs raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was coming to bookstores next month hit like a ton of bricks.
The pending publication of the book, No Easy Day: The First Hand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden, so stirred Admiral William McRaven, chief of the Special Operations Command, that he sent a letter Thursday to special-operations forces warning against using their elite military affiliation for personal gain, according to Pentagon officials who asked not to be named.
In the letter, McRaven said that while it was within the rights of former special-operations soldiers to “write books about their adventures, it is disappointing when these actions either attempt to represent the broader [special-operations forces] community, or expose sensitive information that could threaten the lives of their fellow warriors.”
McRaven also issued a veiled warning to the author: “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. If the U.S. Special Operations Command finds that an active-duty, retired or former service member violated that agreement and that exposure of information was detrimental to the safety of U.S. forces, then we will pursue every option available to hold members accountable, including criminal prosecution where appropriate.”
On Internet forums the special-ops community maintains to discuss their craft, the common response, according to two participants, was: “WTF.” “I am on a few list-servs,” said Roger Carstens, a former Army Special Forces officer and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. “This topic has been a heavy and heated discussion with almost everyone asking WTF?”
The reason for the shock and outrage is that inside the world of the SEALs—the Navy’s premier Sea, Air and Land Team force that conducts sensitive missions that are rarely disclosed to the public—talking out of turn is almost never done. While other elements of the U.S. intelligence community has been wracked by leaks from insiders and turncoats like ex-CIA officer Philip Agee, the SEALs throughout their 51-year history have avoided such embarrassing disclosures. This is because the elite officers who comprise the secret SEAL Team Six practice a Mafia-like code of Omerta. In the case of the handful of books written about the SEALs, anything published was reviewed by the Pentagon to scrub the texts of any classified information.
This was not the case for No Easy Day. The book is set to be released on Sept. 11 and is written by a member of the team that killed the al Qaeda mastermind. The author requested he be published under the pseudonym, Mark Owen. On Thursday however, Fox News reported that the author was actually Matt Bissonnette, a 36-year-old from Alaska. The identity of the author could not be independently confirmed. A spokesman for the Navy’s Special Operations Command declined to comment.
Who penned new tell-all on bin Laden raid?
The cover of No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL may say it was penned by Mark Owen, but Fox News is revealing that the insider account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden is actually 36-year-old former Navy SEAL Team 6 member Matt Bissonnette. The Alaska native could also be opening himself up to legal trouble but publishing the book, Fox News says, as the Pentagon did not vet it to ensure that unwanted classified information was not released. A Navy spokesman says any former service member who reveals national security secrets “could be subject to prosecution.”
Says he doesn’t deserve credit for killing bin Laden.
A group of U.S. intelligence and Special Forces operatives is launching a new media campaign that will attack President Obama for taking credit for the death of Osama bin Laden. The attack ads will also chastise the president for allegedly “leaking information to the enemy.” The Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc., a registered social-welfare group that claims to have no political affiliation, is behind the series of TV ads as well as an expanded 22-minute film. An Obama official says the group is “making things up for purely political reasons.”
To benefit from bin Laden raid.
It's Mitt Romney's turn to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno Tuesday, and he'll use that platform to take a break from his usual economy shtick to accuse President Obama of deliberately leaking details of the raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan to benefit him politically. "This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field," excerpts of Romney's speech read. "And it demands a full and prompt investigation, with explanation and consequence." Romney has made these accusations before and the president called them "offensive." During a White House news conference in June, Obama said, "People, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office."
Moviemaker Kathryn Bigelow received access to senior national-security officials who rarely talk to reporters, reports Eli Lake.
For years in Washington, top-level access to the Pentagon and intelligence community officials was dished out to select reporters who had proven their chops on the beat for newspapers, wires, networks, and magazines. But in Obama’s Washington, the rules are changing.
The two people who appear to have gotten the best access last year to this often-classified side of government were Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the Oscar-winning pair who wrote and directed The Hurt Locker, for their forthcoming film about the SEAL Team Six raid that killed Osama bin Laden. At the time of those meetings, the film about what many consider Barack Obama’s finest moment was scheduled for release just a month before the election—potentially providing a huge, free-media coup for the president.
That arrangement, first reported by Maureen Dowd last year, was confirmed Wednesday by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog, which published a tranche of government emails and transcripts they received through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in January. Those government documents show that Bigelow and Boal received extraordinary access in the weeks after bin Laden’s death to senior national security officials who rarely talk to reporters—and that their access was granted in some cases at the direction of the White House.
On the first Saturday after the raid, reporters were invited to the Pentagon and shown a few videos and other items collected at the Abbottabad compound. That briefing aside, most of the interactions between the working national- security press and the CIA were restricted to conversations with press officers. While reporters also have access to senior intelligence and military officials at social events, congressional hearings, and through preexisting source relationships, the kind of red-carpet access rolled out by press officers for the filmmakers is unheard of for journalists on the beat.
To be sure, the military and CIA have worked closely at times with Hollywood for decades. But the disparity in access following the bin Laden raid troubled some observers.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, called the special treatment given to the filmmakers “outrageous.”
“If these filmmakers got access that trained national security and military reporters did not, then it’s telling the public: ‘We are not going to allow trained journalists to tell this story. If you want to know what happened, go buy a ticket to a movie,’” she told The Daily Beast in an interview.
Accused of helping CIA find bin Laden.
A Pakistani doctor who reportedly ran a fake vaccination campaign that helped the U.S. capture Osama bin Laden has been sentenced to at least 33 years in prison, a Pakistani local government official said Wednesday. The official said Shakil Afridi had been charged with treason. The vaccination campaign helped lead the CIA to bin Laden before U.S. forces killed him in a raid last year.
Abbottabad documents show the al Qaeda leader grumbling at the bungling of most of his lieutenants, but Osama had high hopes for an assassination plot against Obama to be carried out by Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, writes Bruce Riedel.
The al Qaeda documents released by the West Point Combating Terrorism Center provide a unique and tantalizing insight into the inner workings of al Qaeda and its boss Osama bin Laden. What is perhaps most interesting is who bin Laden tasked for what he hoped to be his greatest terror attack, the assassination of President Barack Obama.
Osama bin Laden turned to Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri (right) to carry out the assassination of President Obama. (Getty Images)
Osama wanted to kill Obama because the president is “the head of infidelity, and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency. Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis.” To carry out this ambition, the emir of al Qaeda turned to a trusted and well-trained terrorist, Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri.
In 2011, Kashmiri was al Qaeda’s top Pakistani operative. He was born in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir on February 10, 1964. Trained in the camps of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) and then the elite Pakistani commando group, the Special Services Group (SSG), he was the darling of the Pakistani army for years. He fought in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan where he lost an eye and a finger. Then he took the war to India both in Kashmir and in New Delhi itself.
He formed his own militant group called the 313 Brigade, after the 313 fighters who joined the prophet Muhammad in an early Islamic victory. His exploits in India were legendary. He was personally decorated and thanked by the then head of ISI, Mahmud Ahmad and Pakistani’s dictator, Pervez Musharraf, in 2000. But Kashmiri broke with his ISI and army friends in 2002 when Musharraf decided to give the Americans at least some help against al Qaeda.
Kashmiri took his 313 Brigade into al Qaeda’s camp and assisted in training Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and began targeting his former friends in the ISI. His teams killed at least one senior ISI officer. The United Nations credits him as a key player in the plot to murder former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
The Pakistani-American David Headley, who has confessed to plotting the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, says Kashmiri was his key contact in al Qaeda. The two worked on a plot to attack a Danish newspaper office in Copenhagen in 2009. That was foiled when the FBI arrested Headley, but Kashmiri continued planning to carry out Mumbai-style attacks in Europe. Another was foiled in Denmark at the end of 2010.
We don’t know if Kashmiri ever did anything to turn bin Laden’s order to kill Obama into a real plot. He was killed by a drone attack last June right after the SEAL raid. Perhaps there is more about his plot in what has yet to be released from the documents found in Abbottabad. What has been released so far is only a tiny sample of what was obtained in bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, and readers would be wise to make their judgments tentative until we see much more.
In targeting Obama for assassination, the terrorist mastermind suggested Biden should be left to take over because he would lead the U.S. ‘into a crisis.’ The Veep has been ridiculed by many, but to be so dissed by al Qaeda is cold.
You know your image management has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way when, as vice president of the United States, you’re not even considered worth killing by al Qaeda. Such is the ongoing indignity of being Joe Biden.
This week, West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center released a batch of translated, declassified documents. seized during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Spanning from the fall of 2006 through the spring of 2011, the 17 documents are letters between al Qaeda members musing about everything from PR strategies to leadership structures to promising new jihad projects.
In a May 2010 missive to Shaykh Mahmud `Atiyya (SOCOM-2012-0000019-HT), bin Laden inquired about what progress had been made toward establishing two groups, one in Afghanistan and one in Pakistan, specifically tasked with looking for opportunities to assassinate President Obama. He reasoned:
“Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency for the remainder of the term, as it is the norm over there. Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the US into a crisis.”
Yowza. It’s one thing to have the Republican opposition deriding you as a buffoon or certain members of your own party grumbling that maybe you should be bumped from the ticket. But when the world’s most famous terrorist is plotting to bring down America by putting you in charge? That’s just cold.
Bin Laden’s slam is particularly harsh considering that, as VPs go, Biden is as well, if not better, suited to take over the big chair than most. Dan Quayle? Walter Mondale? Dick Cheney? Sure, Cheney had the foreign policy chops. But in the opinion of many Americans, the guy was, dispositionally speaking, an apocalypse waiting to happen. Scary and uber-hawkish in a way that made even many Republicans nervous, Cheney didn’t leave office with the nickname Darth Vader and a 13 percent approval rating for nothing.
In matters of foreign policy, Biden has vastly more knowledge and experience than Obama. He also has a much stronger history and better working relationships with pols down on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. He relates well to blue-collar America, and he enjoys the rough-and-tumble aspects of politics—a valuable asset in the current climate.
Veteran journalist David Corn details the tense White House deliberations leading up to the raid on May 1, 2011.
One fateful night in 2009 a team of Navy SEALs grabbed the Butcher of Fallujah—and then everything went wrong. This is the story of that night.
Republicans love to act like tough guys. So why are they having a temper tantrum about a modest Obama ad?
A new book chronicles the 10-year search for the world’s most-wanted. Ex–CIA official Bruce Riedel on what the Pakistanis don’t know.