One leaker earns a publishing deal, the other goes to prison
“Osama = dead = tequila shots. Greek Town crazy!”
That was the text that woke me on the eve of Sunday the 1st of May 2011. I was a journalism student at the University of Missouri in the town of Columbia. Like any aspiring journalist, I rose immediately, grabbed my camera, and headed to the neighbourhood called Greektown.
Crazy was an understatement. I was astounded to see a mass crowd of American college students partying in the streets to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. Streets were completely blocked. Police were helpless. Cars were trampled.
Pictures of Bin Laden were being burnt while onlookers cheered. Patriotism was contagious and everyone held or wore an American flag. Continuous ‘U-S-A’ chants were deafening.
Curious as to the general consensus, I asked people their opinions. “He should be hung as a warning”, people said. “Merica!”, others shouted. “I would give anything to be the man who shot that fucker!”
No one cared about the details. Admittedly, people were in the moment. College kids looking for an excuse to party. (It turns out the reaction of my humble mid-western college town was ranked inside America’s top ten celebrations to Bin Ladens death, just behind reactions at the ground zero memorial.) But it took days for the important questions to arise.
How long had this been going on for? What happened to everyone else in the compound? What was with the hasty sea burial? Was it a kill mission from the get-go?
President Obama’s 2011 statement on Bin Laden’s death failed to answer these questions. Instead, Obama went into a highly emotive account of September 11, and its worst images of “the empty seat at the dinner table”, or “parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace”, being unseen to the world.
But Obama assured the American people that “the death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda.”
Many believe the death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement in Obama’s almost four year reign. Fitting then, that the release of No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden, is scheduled for September 11. Not only is this more than a year from the actual event, but also just before the November election.
The book is a first person account of the Bin Laden mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan, written by Navy SEAL team 6 leader under the pseudonym Mark Owen. Owen was identified as Matt Bissonnette in a series of leaks to FOX news.
Owen writes in the book, “it is time to set the record straight about one of the most important missions in U.S. military history.”
According to the book publisher Penguin Group, Owen gives a “blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen’s life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death.”
In relation to the book, Governor Romney has accused President Obama’s foreign policy as a “national security crisis” at a speech to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nevada.
“It betrays our national interest”, said Romney, “it compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special council, with explanation and consequence…the time for stonewalling is over.”
The Pentagon, CIA or White House Officials say they have not yet reviewed the content of the book, nor was it submitted to U.S. government officials - a publishing protocol for any publications divulging highly classified information.
Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, a Navy spokesman, stated “any service member who discloses classified or sensitive information could be subject to prosecution.”
Such was the case for Bradley Manning in May 2010, who was accused of releasing thousands of US military documents, including Collateral Damage, to Wikileaks while employed under a top secret SCI clearance. Manning has spent over 800 days being held by the US military, facing 22 espionage charges and life in prison.
So how is Manning in jail, and Owens about to become a best-selling author? Both expose top secret government information. One simply favours President Obama, while the other does not.
One broke the law to expose a truth that was heroic, righteous and noble. While the other broke the law to expose a truth that was blasphemous, harsh and disloyal.
Although proceeds from the book will be donated to charities that benefit families of fallen Navy SEALs, this is hypocrisy at its finest. The historic event during the War on Terror needed transparency when it was timely, not a year later.
Let’s not let it take a few days like it did in Greektown to raise the real questions. It’s unacceptable for it to take an entire year for the facts of “the most significant achievement to date in [America’s] effort to defeat Al Qaeda”, according to president Obama, to be revealed.
Selective secret-sharing and/or silencing is not OK.
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