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Rooney: House and Senate Intelligence Committees Will Take Up Bin Laden Raid Book

Posted Sep 10, 2012 by Howard Altman

Updated Sep 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM

The controversy over No Easy Day, the book written by a former Navy SEAL on the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, is not going away anytime soon.

Now that Congress is back in session, expect questions about the book to be raised by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. So says a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-16).

“Over the last several months we’ve had numerous hearings on problems with leaks,” Rooney told me tonight, “and the issue of sources and methods being exposed to our enemies is a problem. And it has been a bipartisan concern in both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. I am confident now we are in session, we will be talking about the book.”

After word of the book, written under the pseudonym “Mark Owen,” filtered out, the Department of Defense said that “Owen” was in breach of two non-disclosure agreements he signed with the Navy and they were considering taking legal action against him. Lawyers for Dutton, a member of the Penguin Group, fired back, saying ” ‘Owen’ is proud of his service and respectful of his obligations. But he has earned the right to tell his story; his abiding interest is to ensure that he is permitted to tell it while recognizing the letter and spirit of the law and his contractual undertakings.”

Soon it will be Congress’ turn to weigh in, Rooney said.

“Members have questions about the book and its contents,” said Rooney, adding that No Easy Day may be part of a larger discussion on operational security.

The committees will be looking to “primarily, make sure that anything that is written is not harmful to existing, ongoing operations, or to tip off our enemies on how we do things, what could be planned in the future, which would enable them to defend themselves against how we do things and what we might be doing.”

In the book, and in an interview that aired Sunday night on 60 Minutes, Owen, whose real name I am not using, avowed that he gave up no secrets. Owen also wrote that he had the book reviewed by a former special operations attorney to ensure no classified information was divulged. But in a press briefing last week, Pentagon spokesman George Little said “We do think that sensitive and classified information is probably contained in the book.” 

Rooney told me that what concerns him the most is that even though it has been more than year since bin Laden was dispatched by the SEALs, “a lot of information and intelligence was gained from that operation…Without going into detail, the information we gained from that operation is still very much in play.”

In his book, Owen argues that he wrote it because all other reporting about the raid was wrong. And besides, President Barack Obama and then-Joint Special Operations Command head Vice Adm. William McRaven had talked about it, so he could too, Owen argued.

Rooney, who hasn’t read the book yet, scoffed at that reasoning.

“I think that is weak argument,” said Rooney, a former Army captain. “His job is not to feel like because anybody else had talked about it, that is a green light for him or me or anybody to reveal details of that operation.”

Owen should have vetted the book with the Department of Defense first, said Rooney.

“There is away to cooperate to make sure whatever information is out there, isn’t putting us in weaker position,” he said.  “That is the correct way to do things. Certainly, he is putting himself at risk by writing this book. It being discovered who he really is, is obviously a problem for him. And, if you can find out who he is, it is probably easier to find out about” his fellow SEALs.

Last week, I reported that death threats against Owen were posted on one of al-Qaida’s main Web sites.

Rooney, who as a House Intelligence Committee member was briefed on the bin Laden raid, also disagreed with Owen’s rationale that he wrote the book to set the record straight.

“The bottom line is this,” said Rooney.  “We have so much reverence for these guys who do what the SEALs do, mostly, like I said, in a quiet, deliberate way, without looking for notoriety. Once we go down this road, if others feel like they can now do the same, just because he believes the President talked or the admiral talked, it is a discredit to SEALs generally. It is not who they are and I just think this is a bad road to go down.”