There’s plenty of disagreement over whether it was appropriate for SEAL Team 6 member Mark Owen — a pseudonym — to write a firsthand account of the Osama bin Laden raid. While I haven’t read the book myself, it seems (from interviews and excerpts) that Owen is not intending to spill tactical secrets or act in ways that are malicious and harmful to national security — despite the fact that he didn’t allow the Pentagon to vet the book beforehand and appears to have broken his non-disclosure agreement.
The question isn’t whether Owen should be held accountable for writing a book that may violate the non-disclosure agreement he signed with the Pentagon. Of course he should. But the controversy has also exposed the administration’s glaring double standard when it comes to classified information.
The same administration that is suing Owen for his book reportedly gave unprecedented, classified access and assistance to Hollywood filmmakers working on a tick-tock movie about the mission. The difference? The Obama administration was providing the filmmakers with classified information that backed up its narrative about the bin Laden raid. Owen’s book, in contrast, is the only minute-by-minute account that the White House didn’t sign off on.
If the men who risked their lives in the bin Laden mission aren’t allowed to publicly give accounts of the raid, then the administration should honor that by also keeping quiet. Instead, the White House has pushed its authorized bin Laden narrative to the media and Hollywood, with selective release of classified information. This narrative has portrayed Obama and the administration in a favorable light, but as Owen’s book shows, it’s not the whole story.