Matt Bissonette, author of the tell-all book "No Easy Day" that relates in minute detail the SEAL's mission that killed Osama bin Laden, may be in big trouble with the Pentagon.
The general counsel of the Defense Department, Jeh Johnson, wrote in a letter transmitted Thursday to the author that he had signed two nondisclosure agreements with the Navy in 2007 that obliged him to "never divulge" classified information.
"This commitment remains in force even after you left the active duty Navy," Johnson wrote. He said the author, Matt Bissonnette, left active duty "on or about April 20, 2012," which was nearly one year after the May 2011 raid.
By signing the agreements, Bissonnette acknowledged his awareness, Johnson wrote, that "disclosure of classified information constitutes a violation of federal criminal law." He said it also obliged the author to submit his manuscript for a security review by the government before it was published. The Pentagon has said the manuscript was not submitted for review, although it obtained a copy last week.
Johnson said that after reviewing a copy of the book, "No Easy Day," the Pentagon concluded that the author is in "material breach and violation" of the agreements, implying that it contains classified information. He did not, however, say explicitly that the book reveals secrets.
Pentagon press secretary George Little declined Friday to say whether the book contains classified information.
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement Friday that all who are entrusted with classified information are obliged to protect it.
"Whether it is administration officials or special forces operators, national security leaks are wrong and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible," King said.
King has a point, but Bissonette swears there's no classified information in the book. Given the expansive view of the Pentagon of what is considered "classified," it's hard to know who to believe.
However, erring on the side of caution is always a good thing. We just don't know what nuggets of info might fill in a piece of the puzzle our enemies are constructing from several different sources and reveal something that would be damaging to our security -- or threaten the lives of our operatives.
The book is no doubt compelling and a good read. But Bissonette should have submitted the manuscript for review before publishing.