- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2012

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta sharply criticized the book written by a former Navy SEAL that provides a first-hand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, saying it jeopardizes future missions and is being investigated by the Pentagon to determine whether it includes classified information.

Matt Bissonnette wrote “No Easy Day,” his firsthand account of the CIA/SEAL raid that killed bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May 2011, under the pen name Mark Owen, and has since been denounced by armed forces officials and the tightly-knit SEAL community.

There is “no question” that the American people have a right to know about the operation, which is why President Obama addressed them when it did happen, Mr. Panetta said in an interview broadcast on “CBS This Morning.”

“But people who are part of that operation, who commit themselves to the promise that they will not reveal the sensitive operations and not publish anything without bringing it through the Pentagon so that we can ensure that it doesn’t reveal sensitive information — when they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise they made to this country,” he said.

The Pentagon is reviewing the book to determine what’s classified information and what is not. Mr. Panetta said that he cannot send a signal to SEALs that they can help conduct such operations and then write a book about it or “sell your story to The New York Times.”

“How the hell can we run sensitive operations here that go after enemies if people are allowed to do that?” he said.

Mr. Panetta also said he thinks a book like “No Easy Day” jeopardizes other operations.

“It tells our enemies, essentially, how we operate, what we do to go after them, and when you do that, you tip them off,” he said.

Mr. Panetta said that information about the raid being released to reporters and movie producers working on a film about it was a different situation.

“There’s a fundamental difference,” he said. “The people that presented some of the details of the operation were authorized to do that by the President of the United States who has that authority to do that and inform the American people as to what happened. In this case, that was not the case, and that’s the difference.

“I think we have to take steps to make clear to [Mr. Bissonnette] and to the American people that we’re not going to accept this kind of behavior, because if we don’t, then everybody else who pledges to ensure that that doesn’t happen is going to get the wrong signal that, somehow, they can do it without any penalty,” he continued.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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