Is 'No Easy Day' Author Credible? Special-Ops Vets Defend Ex-Navy SEAL's Account of Bin Laden Killing: 'It's a Warrior's Perspective'
Much of the press surrounding "No Easy Day," has obsessed over the book's possible intelligence leaks. It's no secret at this point that the ex-Navy SEAL's firsthand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden doesn't gel with the story popularized by the U.S. government. But, is that because it's the truth? Or, is this situation just as complicated as the Department of Defense contends?
Heavily disguised with makeup, the book's author, who wrote under the pseudonym Mark Owen, discussed his account of the bin Laden killing Sept. 9 on CBS' "60 Minutes" in great detail. Owen reported surveying a grievously wounded man, and trying to determine whether it was, in fact, bin Laden. "In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing," he writes.
Owen then describes what happened next: "Another assaulter and I trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds."
With that action, America's No. 1 enemy -- the Ace of Spades -- was killed by the US Navy's SEAL Team 6.
Hours later, President Obama would announce bin Laden's demise on national television.
The former Navy SEAL then describes how a fellow assaulter squirted water from his CamelBak hose onto bin Laden's face to clear away blood so that the SEALs could better recognize him for identification purposes.
"I started to wipe the blood away from his face using a blanket from the bed," Owen tells readers. "With each swipe, the face became more familiar. He was younger than I expected."
Rather than faded grey, bin Laden's beard was black. Although, Owen reports later finding a box of "Just for Men" hair dye in bin Laden's bathroom.
The SEALs took photos with two different cameras, and collected duplicate samples of blood and saliva. They tried to use "a spring-loaded syringe the CIA gave us to get a blood-marrow sample," he recalls, but the spring-load mechanism didn't work.
Copies of the photos and samples went to two SEALs traveling on two different helicopters, so that if one was shot down, Owen explains, the evidence of bin Laden's death would survive.
While plenty of fellow Navy SEALs have taken issue with Owen's decision to publish the details of the raid in his memoirs, speculating on the author's real motives, few have taken issue with the accuracy of the details themselves.
A group of former US Special Operations Forces and intelligence operatives who offered their own take on Owen's memoir in their own account, "No Easy Op: The Unclassified Analysis of the Book Detailing the Killing of OBL," think Owen's book is "very significant."
The authors, who are contributing editors for the Special Operations Forces Situation Report (SOFREP), an internet publication, add that the book is "written by someone who experienced the event first-hand."
"People who say, 'It's a grunt's perspective,' are wrong. 'Grunt' is Army or USMC [US Marine Corps] slang for an infantryman, and the author, a US Navy SEAL, is a sailor, not a soldier," they explain. "But accuracy of terms aside, 'a grunt's perspective' doesn't come close to doing the book justice. It's a warrior's perspective, complete with the raw, nostril-burning stink of death."
The Pentagon, however, differs with Owen on a key part of his account. While defense officials report that bin Laden was killed in his bedroom, Owen says the Al Qaeda mastermind was first shot in a hallway, when he peeked around a corner, unarmed.
Therefore, he was already gravely injured--not on the run--when SEALs delivered the "double tap" that killed him.
Pentagon officials have said they are investigating legal action against Owen, who did not submit his book to the Defense Department for review.
Representatives of both the book's publisher, Dutton, as well as the author's lawyer, have asserted that the book was carefully reviewed before publication to ensure it did not contain any secrets. But U.S. officials said the book was not submitted for official pre-publication review, and that the author therefore had exposed himself to potential legal risks.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the author says he did "not disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way."
For their part, though the Special Ops vets who wrote "No Easy Op" say Owen would have been "best-served" by consenting to the official review "even if this would have meant delaying the book's publication - which it surely would have," they also sympathized with his decision not to.
"It has been our experience as writers that DOD reviews are painfully long and typically are more concerned with removing information that might make senior leadership look bad than with ensuring operational security [OPSEC]," they note.
"Such a review would have come with intense scrutiny," they add, "and put the integrity of the story at risk."