As a nation mourns wartime loss, controversy and threat surround No Easy Day

As Australia mourns the loss of five defence force personnel in Afghanistan, it feels almost irreverent to join the discussion about a former US Navy Seal's book about the killing of bin Laden. Our collective grief is much closer to home.
But the author Matt Bissonnette (briefly known by the pseudonym Mark Owens) is adamant he chose to write the book No Easy Day to remember the fallen of 9/11. The war in Afghanistan is almost a direct consequence and there are many fallen there too.
The book is top of Amazon's best-seller list well before its hardcover release on September 4 and paperback release on September 7.

Author wears disguise for 60 Minutes interview

In a US 60 Minutes interview to be screened on September 11 (portion above), Bissonnette was disguised by Hollywood make-up artists to conceal his identity, although CBS said he had been willing to appear without disguise. Now that his name and identity have been revealed - first by Fox News - the disguise is a waste of time. CBS anchor, Scott Pelley, told his colleague Nora O'Donnell: 'You would be astounded. It's not anything like he looks like.'

Killing of bin Laden detailed

One of the key points of interest in the book is the eyewitness account of how Navy SEAL Team 6 entered the compound, fund and killed Bin Laden. No Easy Day does not disappoint readers seeking these details and will learn that it differs in some regards to the official version of events. In fact the author claims to have shot and killed the already wounded and dying Bin Laden while he lay on the floor of his bedroom.

Legal action threatened

When news of the book first broke, the Obama administration and Pentagon officials said they had no advance knowledge of  No Easy Day, and that it had not been submitted for security review. Having now reviewed a copy, the Pentagon has now written to the author under his pseudonym Mark Owen warning it was considering legal action for breach of non-disclosure agreements and hinted that the government may seize the book’s royalties.

“You are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed,” said the letter from Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson, according to Reuters. “The Department of Defence is considering pursuing against you and all those acting in concert with you, all remedies legally available to us in light of this situation.” Many analysts believe the Pentagon would not risk legal action against someone regarded as a national hero but might pursue royalties.

Publisher has interesting history

Dutton Publishing, the Penguin Imprint that is handling the book, says that the manuscript was checked carefully to ensure that it did not reveal state secrets. In addition their lawyers claim that the non-disclosure agreement from 2007 does not apply and in any case only invites submission of documents for review.

Dutton handles many of Penguins biggest clients but started out in Boston and then New York as a religious publisher. Its first bestseller was the two-volume Life of Christ by Frederic Farrar, published in 1874. It continues to publish successful spiritual or religious authors including New York's Rev Timothy Keller and his New York Times Bestseller, The Reason For God.

Threats against author's life

US media are reporting the Bissonnette is receiving death threats and the subject of jihadist anger on many website. "Oh Allah, make an example of him for the whole world and give him dark days ahead," is a rather tame example given. More seriously, Reuters reports that an al Qaeda website last week posted his name and photograph, calling him "the dog who murdered the martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden."

Origins of the title, No Easy Day

The title of Owen’s book comes from a piece of Navy SEAL lore that “the only easy day was yesterday.”

Spielberg talking to author?

Media have also widely report that film maker Steven Spielberg was keen to talk with Bissonnette and his publisher about film rights for the book. This claim has been quickly dismissed: “Neither Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Studios, or DreamWorks Television will be optioning Mark Owen's book, No Easy Day,” Spielberg’s long-time rep, Mark Levy said. A new movie is being based on the killing of bin Laden and it has already landed the US administration in hot water. Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's new film Zero Dark Thirty was involved in controversy earlier this year after it emerged that Obama's administration shared information with the production team. (See trailer below.

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer. Dutton. 316 pp. $26.95

- Peter Hallett ©Cread


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