How would you handle this?


Tom Garrett 4 years, 3 months ago

A Navy SEAL, writing under the pseudonym "Mark Owen," but willing to speak to the media as long as his name is not revealed, has written a book on the death of Osama bin Laden during a classified mission.

He says the book was timed to the September 11 anniversary and that, the book was written "with respect for my fellow service members while adhering to my strict desire not to disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta disagrees. He maintains that Americans have a right to know details about the raid, but he points out that, "...people who are a part of that operation, who commit themselves to the promise that they will not reveal the sensitive operations and not make public anything ... when they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise that they made to this country."

I remember that very well. When I had a Top Secret clearance I was privy to a classification that most people have never even heard of: "Top Secret, Category II."

You know what "Category II" means? It means that it is NEVER be to be declassified because it relates to a foreign nation.

Panetta allows that while much of Owen's account is sensitive but not necessarily classified information, he adds that, "there are always fine lines here, but we are currently reviewing what is classified and what isn't."

He also points out what anyone who has ever served in the Military knows, namely that the book compromises the safety of men in uniform. "It tells our enemies... how we operate... what we do... and when you do that, you tip them off."

The SEAL had to have known that. That's why he took an oath not to reveal such things. Knowing how we do things an enemy can be lying in wait for us with catastrophic results.

When Secretary Panetta was asked how the SEAL's book is different from the many stories that have included in-depth details about the raid, he explained it very nicely.

"There's a fundamental difference ... the people that presented some of the details of the operation were authorized to do so by the president of the United States who has the authority to do that. In this [instance], that was not the case."

We do not yet know whether the SEAL will be prosecuted for writing the book.

How do you feel about it? . . . . . New subject: We may not have to worry about it.

Having made a buck with his book, he is now facing threats against his life. An official al Qaeda website last week posted the SEAL's photograph and his real name, calling him "the dog who murdered the martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden."

The SEAL is out of the service now, and we are obviously under no obligation to protect him for violating his sworn instructions.

I hope he's a light sleeper.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 3 months ago

I suppose what's bothering me here is a sense of betrayal. You may not feel the same way.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 3 months ago

Just so no one has any doubt about what I am saying, here it is in plain English:

When I was screened for a Top Secret clearance I thought nothing of it. It just seemed a given. I never for one minute doubted that I, or any of the 225 other men who had volunteered for the program I was entering, would be cleared. I suppose that if I had thought about it I might have decided that one or two might not be cleared--something in their past, too many traffic tickets, a problem in school that caused them to be kicked out, a misdemeanor conviction, incidental association with a Communist front, relatives overseas in the wrong place (who could have pressure applied to them)--something like that.

I was dumbfounded when 153 out of 225 men were removed from the program as security risks. The two men running the program (but not the security clearances, that was done by the FBI) were a pair of Yale professors. After we were cleared each of us had an interview with each of the two professors, one at a time. I got talking with one of them about what life at Yale would be like during the program. He asked why I wanted to know and I told him that I came from New London, only 45 miles away, and I wondered if I would get to visit my family once in a while (the program lasted 9 months in its first stage, and 2 years in its second stage; the answer was no, only between stages). As a result, we talked a little more than we might have, and being curious I asked him why so many men had not been cleared. His answer has stayed with me ever since.

He gave me a look like he was sizing me up, and then he told me that a major factor in being cleared for high level information was a question of integrity. I do not remember his exact words, but they were very close to, "Son, there are some who cannot wait to market what they know." I came away from that conversation with a strong feeling that he was speaking of a colleague at the university, and I still believe it now.

I had already started to write at that time, and I can tell with that the minute I became privy to certain types of classified information I realized that some of it would make a sensational story, one that was highly marketable, that I could have written, made a lot of money, and established myself as a writer. The thought of doing such a thing never crossed my mind, but it was one reason I never spoke to anyone else about anything I knew.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 3 months ago

Don't misunderstand me, I literally knew NOTHING, but there are things you learn in the course of an ordinary day in some programs that no one except those in the program have any right, or reason, to know. Even though it has been a long time since I handled any classified information, and even though I was very low on the totem pole, I could write an article right now, right this minute, talking about things that happened over 50 years ago, and that article that would create a sensation, both here and overseas.

It would also damage the United States. That is the only thing that should count when a man or woman decides to air what he or she knows.

It's a simple matter of trust. This SEAL knew some things. As always happens in an operation of this type, certain parts of what happened have not been revealed. While there is nothing highly secret about them as far as operational procedures are concerned they were no doubt adjudged to be highly inflammatory or needlessly painful to anyone who lost someone during the operation. Withholding that type of information is nothing new. It operates in the best interests of all concerned. This man, knowing what he knew, obviously decided that it would make a nice, juicy, sensational book. And it no doubt has, though I'll never read the %$#@! piece of s--t. Having been trained concerning what is, and isn't, forbidden by regulation, the man decided to walk a fine line, using his knowledge of the system to make an end run around regulations.

Ask yourself why?

For the benefit of his country? For the benefit of those who served with him? For the benefit of those now serving in similar operations? Because "the people" needed to know the "truth?" Because people overseas needed to know something?

Or to make a buck?

Those who put money ahead of nation are the lowest of the low.


Kim Chittick 4 years, 3 months ago

You know Tom, you are so right. My husband has a saying, "the difference between character and integrity is that, character determines how one behaves when others are watching, integrity is how one behaves when no one else will know." I believe that this SEAL was in the wrong and violated a sacred trust. As for punishing him, I think that he has been the author of his own punishment. I can't imagine that his former teammates will want to be close to him since they can no longer trust him and by his disclosure of top secret methods and tactics, he placed them and their safety in jeopardy. And it is my understanding that as he is identified as one of the persons responsible for the killing of "the martyr Osama Bin Laden", he has been targetted by Al Qaeda. Not a distinction I would want.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 3 months ago

You're right, Kim. His real name and photograph have been posted on an Al Qaeda site, along with a call for his death.

As soon as I read that a question popped into my mind: Who provided that name and photograph to Al Qaeda?

That, of course, brings up another question: Who would have his name and a picture of him?

Answers: The people who published his book. His former teammates. A friend or relative. The Navy.

I can't help but think it was most likely either his former teammates or friend or relative who now knows what kind of person he is--and maybe knew it all along.

I rule out the Navy, although I would not rule out the possibility that someone in Naval Personnel might do it on his own.

As for the book publisher, It's tempting to think that they may have released his picture to Al Qaeda to cause a stir and enhance sales, but I find that hard to believe unless they knew full well that they were releasing sensitive information in the book and chose to do it anyway just to make a buck. If that's the case, then this whole thing gets even sicker.


Pat Randall 4 years, 3 months ago

A dollar is a dollar and some people don't care how they get it. Who may be killed or thier family harmed. America destroyed.
How did he ever get to the position he was in to be there? Who placed him there? Seems there is more than the publisher and author involved.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 3 months ago

"Who placed him there? Seems there is more than the publisher and author involved."

I'm not quite sure I know what you mean, Pat.

Who are you suggesting, and what do you think they might have done?


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