Reports of a soon-to-be released "tell all" book about the raid to get al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May of last year has given rise to new threats of vengeance from Arab jihadists and concerns in the United States over the security of its covert operations and the safety of those who carry them out. The book, written by a retired Navy SEAL who took part in the raid, is also bound to create political fallout over what it says about President Obama and the official version of what transpired when the special operations unit found bin Laden's quarters at his secret residence in Abbottabad on May 1, 2011.
Excerpts from the book, first published on HuffingtonPost.com, describe the raid in less dramatic and somewhat less heroic terms than in the "official" version issued immediately after the raid and in the days that followed. The author of No Easy Day: A First Hand Account Of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, writes that there was no 40-minute firefight, no effort by bin Laden to use the two women in the apartment as "human shields," and no armed resistance by the al-Qaeda leader. According to "Mark Owen," the pseudonym used by the author, bin Laden had already been shot and lay dying by the time the SEALs found him in his bedroom. The author wrote that he was right behind the "point man" as members of SEAL Team 6 were going up the stairs when a man stuck his head out the doorway.
"We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots. BOP. BOP," he recounted. "I couldn't tell from my position if the rounds hit the target or not. The man disappeared into the dark room." When the SEAls entered the room, "Blood and brains spilled out of the side of [bin Laden's] skull." The author and another SEAL "trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless."
The SEALs found a rifle and a pistol in the room, the author said, though neither had a round in the chamber. "He hadn't even prepared a defense. He had no intention of fighting. He asked his followers for decades to wear suicide vests or fly planes into buildings, but didn't even pick up his weapon. In all of my deployments, we routinely saw this phenomenon. The higher up the food chain the targeted individual was, the bigger a p***y he was."
The book was originally scheduled for release on September 11, the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed an estimated 3,000 people in New York and Washington. It has been rescheduled for release next week. But the published excerpts have already provoked renewed anger and cries for vengeance from militants in the Arab world, a situation made more dangerous for "Owen" by the fact that Fox News learned the author's real name, age, and hometown and published them in a story on its website about the book. The Associated Press confirmed the identity through its sources and circulated the news to its subscribers.
The next day the man's name, age, and photograph appeared on the Al-Fidaa Islamic Network, a website endorsed by al-Qaeda. Comments calling for the death of the man and others involved in the raid appeared with the information.
"Oh, Allah, kill every one of them," read one comment. "Oh, Allah make an example of him for the whole world and give him dark days ahead," said another.
"We protect the names of our special ops personnel for a reason," Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Co. James Gregory told MailOnline, a publication of the Daily Mail of London. "Any time names are revealed, it's a concern." U.S. officials said they had no prior knowledge of the book, despite regulations requiring both active and former military or intelligence personnel to submit writings about sensitive matters for review before publication to prevent release of classified information.
"As current or former members of our special operations community, authors have a moral obligation, and a legal duty, to submit their works for pre-publication security review," Admiral Bill McRaven wrote in open letter emailed to active duty personnel involved in special duty operations. "We will pursue every option available to hold members accountable, including criminal prosecution where appropriate." Any potential criminal prosecution of the book's author, who retired shortly after the bin Laden raid, would be handled by the Justice Department, a Pentagon official told Fox News.
Whether the book revealed state secrets or merely information embarrassing to government officials is unclear, however. In addition to seeing the official version of the raid disputed by a firsthand account, the president cannot be pleased by published accounts of disparaging remarks made by military personnel about their commander-in-chief. The author, who also took part in 2009 operation that rescued Captain Richard Phillips from pirates off the coast of Somalia, said the SEALs joked about how Obama would exploit the bin Laden operation for political gain.
"And we'll get Obama reelected for sure," he quotes one of the SEALs as saying shortly before the raid. "I can see him now, talking about how he killed bin Laden."
"We had seen it before when he took credit for the Captain Phillips rescue," the author observed. "Although we applauded the decision-making in this case, there was no doubt in anybody's mind that he would take all the political credit for this too."
The author's description of Vice President Biden was even less flattering, as he recalled a White House reception in honor of the SEALs who took part in the raid. Biden, he said, told "lame jokes that no one got (He seemed like a nice guy, but he reminded me of someone's drunken uncle at Christmas dinner)."
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and other GOP leaders have been calling in recent months for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate leaks of classified information regarding counter-terrorism operations. The party platform, ratified at this week's convention, charged that leaks concerning the bin Laden raid and other covert activities have "damaged our national security" and "served the single purpose of propping up the image of a weak President." A spokesman for the White House National Security Council, HuffingtonPost reported, sent out an email noting that Obama had given due credit to the "special ops" personnel who carried out the mission against bin Laden:
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."
The author of No Easy Day, meanwhile, drew sharp criticism from some of his former comrades in arms, with some even calling him a "traitor," according to the Fox report.
"How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won't?" one Navy SEAL said. Col. Tim Nye, a Special Operations Command spokesman, told the cable news channel that the author put himself in danger by writing the book.
"This individual came forward. He started the process. He had to have known where this would lead," Nye said. "He's the one who started this so he bears the ultimate responsibility for this." The controversy provides a stark contrast to the picture of unit cohesion and mutual trust President Obama described in this year's State of the Union address, when he spoke of the bin Laden raid.