October 1, 2012  

SEALS and secrecy

To the Obama administration and senior military leadership for trying to have it two ways. For years, they have put SEALs and their secret methods in the limelight when it served their purposes — from video games to television shows to this summer’s “Acts of Valor” movie to the day-after leaks about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. And now senior leaders all the way up to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are grousing about “No Easy Day,” the book written by a former SEAL about the bin Laden mission.

One wonders whether part of the reason for the official ire is that the author, Matt Bissonnette, contradicts part of the “officially leaked” version of events, including just how and where the leader of al-Qaida was shot.

This is not to excuse Bissonnette, if indeed he violated review procedures or his own written agreements, and particularly not for any revelations that might put his former teammates at risk. But as pointed out by Brandon Webb, himself a former SEAL, the aggressive publicity thrust upon the Navy’s special operators helped set the market conditions that make such books million-dollar propositions.

The episode is one more illustration of the games that are played with official secrecy, and it should serve as a reminder: If the revelation of a fact, image or other information wouldn’t hurt national security, no one should classify it; if it would, everyone should shut up.