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Entries in Mark Owen (2)

Tuesday
Sep112012

Leon Panetta Blasts Ex-SEAL Who Wrote Bin Laden Raid Book

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta became the highest-ranking U.S. official to speak out against the former Navy SEAL who wrote a firsthand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, saying the commando broke his promise to America and could have given away secrets that "tipped off" the enemy.

"There's no question that the American people have a right to know about this operation. That's why the President spoke to the American people when that operation happened," Panetta said Tuesday on CBS' This Morning.  "But people who are part of that operation, who commit themselves to the promise that they will not reveal sensitive operations and not publish anything without bringing it through the Pentagon so we can ensure that it doesn't reveal sensitive information -- when they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise they made to this country."

"I cannot, as Secretary, send a signal to SEALs who conduct these operations [that] you can conduct those operations and then go out and write a book about it or sell your story to The New York Times.  How the hell can we run sensitive operations here that go after enemies if people are allowed to do that?" he said.

The book No Easy Day is a first-person memoir written by a former SEAL Team Six member under the pseudonym Mark Owen that includes a detailed account of the May 2011 operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to get bin Laden.  According to the book, Owen was the second man in the room after bin Laden was shot and put a few bullets in the terror leader himself before taking the unreleased pictures of the dead al Qaeda leader.

The book follows Owen's rise through the Navy's ranks to elite SEAL Team Six and describes the various levels of training, walks through some on-the-ground operational tactics employed by the SEAL commandos and gives a minute-by-minute account of the bin Laden raid.  Owen left the service in April, less than a year after the mission, according to military records provided to ABC News.

Beyond writing under a pseudonym, Owen said he changed the names of other people involved in the operation, including a CIA analyst, to protect their identities and took pains not to reveal sensitive information. The book's publisher, Dutton, also said the memoir was vetted by a former special operations attorney to make sure Owen wasn't betraying any classified information.

But officials from the Pentagon to the CIA to the White House said they were not provided a copy of the book to review before publication.  In late August, the Pentagon wrote a letter to Owen in which it said it was considering legal action against him for breaking non-disclosure agreements, sparking a brief back-and-forth between the Pentagon and lawyers for Owen, who said he had not violated the agreements.

While Panetta declined to say whether or not he thought Owen should be prosecuted, he said the government has to "take steps to make clear that we're not going to accept this kind of behavior."  Panetta said that leaking such information could "jeopardize other operations and the lives of others that are involved in those operations."

"I think when somebody talks about the particulars of how those operations are conducted, what that does is tell our enemies essentially how we operate and what we do to go after them.  And when you do that, you tip them off," he said.

No Easy Day was originally intended to be released Tuesday, on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, but the sale date was moved up after the book's existence leaked, causing a tidal wave of controversy and demand for the first-ever inside look at the historic raid.

Owen said he plans to give a majority of the proceeds from the book to charities that support the families of fallen SEALs, but at least one major SEAL charity, The Navy SEAL Foundation, already announced it would not be accepting donations from the book sales, citing Owen's possible legal troubles.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug312012

Lawyer: Navy SEAL Author Did Not Violate Non-Disclosure Agreements

John Moore/Getty Images)(NEW YORK) -- The attorney for the former Navy SEAL whose tell-all book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden has led the Pentagon to consider taking legal action against him says the author did not violate non-disclosure agreements cited by the Pentagon as the reason for potential legal action.

On Thursday, the Defense Department's General Counsel Jeh Johnson sent a letter to the pseudonym "Mark Owen" notifying him the Pentagon was considering taking legal action against him because he was in "material breach" of non-disclosure agreements about the release of classified information. According to Johnson those agreements required him to "never divulge" classified information even if he is no longer on active duty.

In a response to Johnson's letter issued Friday, Robert Luskin, a partner at the Washington, D.C. firm Patton Boggs, said Owen did not violate the agreements he signed in 2007 and that he "takes seriously his obligations to the United States and to his former colleagues." He added, "They are as important to him as any mission he undertook while on active duty."

Luskin points out that Owen had sought legal advice prior to agreeing to publish his book, No Easy Day, and "scrupulously reviewed the work to ensure that it did not disclose any material that would breach his agreements or put his former comrades at risk. He remains confident that he has faithfully fulfilled his duty."

The attorney said that one of the two non-disclosure agreements signed by Owen did not require the former SEAL to submit his work for pre-publication review. He said the other agreement, the Sensitive Compartmented Information Nondisclosure Statement, does require a pre-publication security review "under certain circumstances" limited to "specifically identified Special Access Programs."

In his response Luskin argues that the Sensitive Compartmented Information Nondisclosure Statement applies to Special Access Programs identified on the date it was signed. "Accordingly, it is difficult to understand how the matter that is the subject of Mr. Owen's book could conceivably be encompassed by the non-disclosure agreement that you have identified."

Luskin said Owen is proud of his service and "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."

A Defense official who had reviewed Luskin's response told ABC News that the former SEAL's security clearance compelled him to seek pre-publication review and that the non-disclosure agreements pre-dating the bin Laden raid are still binding. This official points out that though one of the agreements requires pre-publication reviews by DOD "under certain circumstances," they are always required.

Earlier Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters the letter was sent to Owen because he had violated the non-disclosure agreements and not submitted his book to the Pentagon for pre-publication review. "We take our agreements very seriously," he said. "We are very concerned that this book did not go through the pre-publication review."

He also said that no determination has been made yet as to whether the book does contain secrets. Little said Johnson's letter indicates "there is potential disclosure. He is not rendering determination."

Johnson's letter also warned "further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements." Little did not identify what potential actions the Defense Department is considering and would not say if there are plans to halt the book's scheduled release next Tuesday.

Little said the "onus" was on the author to take unspecified action and that the letter "was not meant to be any kind of intimidation."

Though the former SEAL said he will donate a majority of the book's profits to charities that help the families of fallen SEALs, Johnson's letter suggested that all of the book's royalties belong to the U.S. government.

According to Johnson, in signing the non-disclosure agreements the SEAL acknowledged he "assigned to the U.S. government ... all royalties, remunerations, and emoluments that have resulted, will result or may result from a disclosure, publication or revelation of classified information not consistent with the terms of this agreement."

Luskin represented Karl Rove during the investigation into who "outed" Valerie Plame as a CIA agent and most recently represented Lance Armstrong during his legal fight with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio