Top Pentagon officials said today that a controversial firsthand account of the nighttime raid that killed Osama bin Laden written by a former U.S. Navy SEAL reveals classified information and could endanger other special operations servicemen.
The book, "No Easy Day," was written by an ex-SEAL Team Six member under the pseudonym Mark Owen and is the first to detail the last violent moments of the al Qaeda leader's life. It went on sale today.
While the Pentagon's assessment of Owen's book continues, Department of Defense Press Secretary George Little told reporters the department "believe[s] that sensitive and classified information is contained in the book" and called its publication without review the "height of irresponsibility."
Little declined to provide specifics about what classified information is revealed, but said the book raised "serious concerns" and represented a "material breach of nondisclosure agreements that were signed by the author of this book."
"This is a solemn obligation," said Little. "And the author in this case elected not to abide by his legal obligations. And that's disheartening and, frankly, is something that we're taking a very close look at."
The Pentagon sent Owen a letter Thursday saying the government was considering legal action against him, and Little said today those options are still being reviewed.
Owen's attorney said in his own letter to the Pentagon Friday that agreements signed by Owen in 2007 did not require him to present any materials for pre-publication review and said the book did not reveal any sensitive information. The book's publisher, Dutton, has also said that it had been vetted by a former special operations attorney before publication, even if it was not vetted by officials at the Department of Defense, the White House or the CIA.
SEAL Boss: 'I Am Disappointed, Embarrassed and Concerned'
Meanwhile, in an internal message to his command entitled "The Cost of Disclosure," Rear Admiral Sean Pybus, who heads Naval Special Warfare Command (NSW), criticized SEALs whom he said had violated the command's ethos.
"We do NOT advertise the nature of our work, NOR do we seek recognition for our actions," Pybus wrote to his command in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News.
"I am disappointed, embarrassed and concerned", writes Prybus. "Today, we find former SEALs headlining positions in a Presidential campaign; hawking details about a mission against Enemy Number 1; and generally selling other aspects of NSW training and operations."
Aside from hurting NSW's reputation and security, Pybus said "the security of our Force and Families is also put at risk by the release of sensitive information" and said enemies can gather information and NSW details that "expose us to unnecessary danger."