Fox News today published the name of a U.S. Navy SEAL who led the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan last year that ended up in the al-Qaeda leader’s death. The SEAL under the pseudonym Mark Owen is the author of a book set to be released on Sept. 11 detailing the events of the raid. The book’s publisher says Owen “was one of the first men through the door on the third floor of the terrorist leader’s hideout and was present at his death.”
Fox News said that “multiple sources” told the news outlet Owen’s real name but Fox did not provide any details about its decision to publish it. The book seemingly provides some clues as to the SEAL’s real identity as, according to the New York Times, Owen “recalls his childhood in Alaska.”
Defense Department, CIA and White House officials said they have not reviewed the content of Owen’s book and that they first heard of its existence from media reports. And as the Fox report publishing Owen’s name notes, he “could be exposing himself to legal trouble, as the Pentagon has not vetted the account“:
Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, a Navy spokesman, said it’s possible [Owen] or any former service member could be punished for revealing national security secrets. “Any service member who discloses classified or sensitive information could be subject to prosecution — this doesn’t end when you leave the service,” Servello said. “There is nothing unique to the special warfare community in this regard.”
Current and former SEALs criticized Owen for speaking out. “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?” one SEAL told Fox while others reportedly called Owen a “traitor.”
Mother Jones’s Adam Weinstein notes that Justin Fishel, the Fox News reporter who revealed Owen’s name, also reported last year that the SEALs who participated in the bin Laden raid wanted to protect their identities out of concern for their safety. “There has been a consistent and effective effort to protect the identity of those that participated in the raid and I think that that has to continue,” Fishel reported then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying at the time.