Little declined to describe the Pentagon’s assessment of the contents of the book, but he later said it had not reached “any final conclusions” about whether secrets were revealed.
“This commitment remains in force even after you left the active duty Navy,” Johnson wrote. He said the author 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. The Associated Press purchased one on Tuesday.
The Pentagon has not revealed how it got its copy.
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, but did not say explicitly that the book reveals secrets.
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement Thursday 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.
A special operations advocacy group, Special Operations-OPSEC, which has criticized President Barack Obama for alleged White House leaks and for making the bin Laden raid a national security centerpiece of his re-election campaign, said the author should be held to the same standard as others in protecting secrets.
“However, the Obama administration is applying a dishonorable double standard with a lightning quick threat to prosecute a five-time winner of the Bronze Star while dragging its feet in identifying and charging senior administration officials who have purposefully leaked classified information,” the president of the group, Scott Taylor, said Friday.
Taylor’s group on Monday called on the Justice Department to block the book’s publication and distribution until it can be given a “proper review” by government authorities.
Johnson addressed his letter to Mr. “Mark Owen,” using quotation marks to signify that this is the author’s pseudonym.
The Pentagon did not release copies of the nondisclosure agreements that it said Bissonnette had signed in 2007. A spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Steve Warren, said they were being withheld because they include the author’s real name and his signature.
In his book, Bissonnette wrote that the SEALs spotted bin Laden at the top of a darkened hallway and shot him in the head even though they could not tell whether he was armed. Administration officials have described the SEALs shooting bin Laden only after he ducked back into a bedroom because they assumed he might be reaching for a weapon.