Should Journalists Allow NAVY S.E.A.L. to Remain Secret?

Ethics

Matt Bissonnette did not intend for you to know his name.  His publisher says he is one of the Navy SEALS who participated in the raid on the binLaden compound.  That’s right-his publisher.

Bissonnette wrote a book that provides what he says are undisclosed details of the assault that conflict with the Obama version of the story.  But the publisher asked journalists not to disclose the author’s name, and use a pen name Mark Owen instead.

For journalists, there is a question of whether to grant confidential status, even when they know for sure who this writer is.  Various military websites claim, without proof that he is trying to make a movie deal too.

-What privacy does he give up when he writes a book?

-Without knowing his name, how would the public know whether to trust the source?

-How should journalists weigh the need to know against the safety concerns that might come with being a public person who participated in killing the world’s most wanted man?

Interestingly, it was FOX News that first identified Bissonnette.

Fox reported:

The tell-all book also has apparently upset a large population of former and current SEAL members who worry about releasing information that could compromise future missions. One Navy SEAL told Fox News, “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?” Other SEALs are expressing anger, with some going so far as to call him a “traitor.”

And Col. Tim Nye, a Special Operations Command spokesman, said the author “put himself in danger” by writing the book.

“This individual came forward. He started the process. He had to have known where this would lead,” Nye said. “He’s the one who started this so he bears the ultimate responsibility for this.”

According to a press release from his publisher, Penguin Group, “Owen (Bissonnette) 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.”

In the book, Bissonnette writes “it is time to set the record straight about one of the most important missions in U.S. military history.”

An experienced member of the elite Navy SEAL special operators, Bissonnette also participated in the highly publicized rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean in 2009. That mission involved a daring rescue that ended when SEAL snipers shot and killed three Somali pirates with direct shots to the head.

Bissonnette received the rank of chief before he retired.

CBS’s 60 Minutes chooses not to identify Bissonnette, even though his name is public now.  CBS disguised him this way.