Published August 23, 2012
The author of a recently announced insider account of the raid that killed Usama bin Laden has been identified to Fox News as a 36-year-old former Navy SEAL Team 6 member from Alaska who also played a role in the high-profile rescue of an American captain kidnapped by Somali pirates.
The book, "No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden," is set to hit shelves on Sept 11. It is penned under the pseudonym "Mark Owen," according to the publisher, but multiple sources told Fox News his name is in fact Matt Bissonnette, 36, of Wrangell, Alaska. Bissonnette could be exposing himself to legal trouble, as the Pentagon has not vetted the account.
The tell-all book also has apparently upset a large population of former and current SEAL members who worry about releasing information that could compromise future missions. One Navy SEAL told Fox News, "How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won't?" Other SEALs are expressing anger, with some going so far as to call him a "traitor."
And Col. Tim Nye, a Special Operations Command spokesman, said 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.”
According to a press release from his publisher, Penguin Group, "Owen (Bissonnette) 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."
In the book, Bissonnette writes "it is time to set the record straight about one of the most important missions in U.S. military history."
An experienced member of the elite Navy SEAL special operators, Bissonnette also participated in the highly publicized rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean in 2009. That mission involved a daring rescue that ended when SEAL snipers shot and killed three Somali pirates with direct shots to the head.
Bissonnette received the rank of chief before he retired.
The book is co-authored with Kevin Maurer, author of four books, many of which were based on Special Operations.
Along with using the pseudonym "Mark Owen," Bissonette protected his fellow SEAL Team 6 members by changing their names in the book.
Both the Pentagon and CIA said Wednesday that the book was not in any way vetted by either department to prevent unwanted classified information from being released. When asked about the book, officials in both departments said they were unaware of the SEAL's true identity, but described co-author Kevin Maurer as a well-respected journalist.
Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, a Navy spokesman, said it's possible Bissonnette or any former service member could be punished for revealing national security secrets. "Any service member who discloses classified or sensitive information could be subject to prosecution -- this doesn't end when you leave the service," Servello said. "There is nothing unique to the special warfare community in this regard."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said that because the author is a retired service member, any potential criminal prosecution would be handled by the Department of Justice.
A spokesman at Dutton, a division of Penguin Group, said proceeds from the book will be donated to charitable causes that benefit the families of fallen Navy SEALs.
Much attention has been given to the issue of security leaks in the ongoing presidential race. Supporters of Mitt Romney accuse President Obama of intentionally leaking operational details surrounding the bin Laden raid for political gain.
OPSEC, a group of retired military and intelligence officers, came under fire this week from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who told Fox News on Tuesday he was "disappointed" by the group's political use of the military uniform in a recent anti-Obama advertisement. Dempsey said he feels those who serve ought to remain "apolitical."
OPSEC fired back, arguing that Dempsey's criticisms can be applied equally to the Obama campaign's "One Chance" ad, which featured images of Blackhawk helicopters in flight and military pilots. The video suggests Romney would not have made the same decision to call for the raid that killed Usama bin Laden.
Film producer Kathryn Bigelow received help from the White House when she produced "Zero Dark Thirty," a highly anticipated film detailing the bin Laden raid that was originally set to be released before the November election but was pushed to a later date after Republicans cried foul.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.