WASHINGTON: The US government was surprised by the news that a Navy SEAL who participated in the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan has written a book about the operation in which the al Qaeda leader was killed, US officials said on Wednesday.
"No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden" was written by a Navy SEAL under the pseudonym Mark Owen with co-author Kevin Maurer and is to be released next month on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
It was not vetted by government agencies to ensure that no secrets were revealed.
"The book was vetted by a former special operations attorney. He vetted it for tactical, technical, and procedural information as well as information that could be considered classified by compilation and found it to be without risk to national security," Christine Ball, a spokeswoman for the publisher, Dutton, told Reuters.
The book will be published at a time when Washington has been roiled by controversy over national security leaks ahead of the November 6 presidential election.
Republicans have charged that President Barack Obama’s administration has engaged in selective leaks to bolster the Democrat’s national security credentials. The White House denies those accusations and says it takes leaks of classified information seriously.
In the wake of Congressional criticism, the administration assigned federal prosecutors in Baltimore and Washington to conduct criminal investigations into leaks related to an undercover counter-terrorism investigation in Yemen and alleged US and Israeli cyber-warfare against Iran's nuclear program.
But the coming book on the bin Laden raid appeared to catch officials off guard.
"We learned about this book today from press reports. We haven’t reviewed it and don't know what it says," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
The Pentagon said it hadn't vetted the book or helped provide information to the authors. There are at least two Pentagon regulations requiring the Defense Department review writings by retired troops that contain sensitive material.
"This book came as a surprise to folks at the Pentagon," a senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. "Naturally, we'll be interested to read the book when it is made available."
CIA spokesman Preston Golson said: "As far as we can determine, this book was not submitted for pre-publication review."
Time to set the record straight
Dutton, which is a member of the Penguin Group (USA), said the Navy SEAL author's experience culminated with "Operation Neptune Spear" in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he led one of the assault teams on bin Laden's compound and was "one of the first men through the door on the third floor of the terrorist leader’s hideout and was present at his death."
The Navy SEAL is described as a former member of the US Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as SEAL Team Six, who was involved in hundreds of missions around the world.
His name and the names of the other SEALs mentioned in the book were changed for security reasons, the publisher said. The majority of the proceeds from the book will go to charities that support families of fallen Navy SEALs, the publisher said.
"It is time to set the record straight about one of the most important missions in US military history," the Navy SEAL author said in the book, according to the publisher's statement. "'No Easy Day' is the story of 'the guys,' the human toll we pay, and the sacrifices we make to do this dirty job."
Congressional Republicans criticized the administration for granting generous access to policymakers and some intelligence and defence personnel to a Hollywood team preparing a film on the bin Laden raid for release later this year.
The fact that US officials said the Obama administration was unaware of the book about the raid until Wednesday suggests it will be difficult for Obama critics to attack him over the new book.