Banned Books Awareness: “No Easy Day”

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It is perhaps the most provocative foreign policy issue of our time- the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the man responsible for the largest foreign attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

Like Pearl Harbor, which resulted in the United States officially entering World War II, the events of September 11th would spark two foreign wars as part of the largest manhunt in world history.

Imagine if there were a first-hand account of the events that transpired in Hitler’s bunker. What secrets of the war would or could have been revealed? Imagine if Twitter had been as prolific in the 1940s as it is today. We have become accustomed to an overload of immediate information as historical events unfold, debating them in the public forum before they have even concluded, or their total impact made clear.

Written under the pseudonym Mark Owen, and co-authored by Kevin Maurer, No Easy Day is a first-person narrative of the planning and carrying out of the raid that would finalize in the death of Osama Bin Laden in his compound in Pakistan by one of the Navy SEALS who was part of one of the most touted, yet controversial, military missions in history.

Kevin Maurer is a journalist that has covered special operations forces for nine years, including having been embedded with Special Forces in Afghanistan six times and U.S. forces in Iraq and Haiti.

Mark Owen is actually Matt Bissonnette, a former member of SEAL Team Six and, as a team leader on Operation Neptune Spear, was one of the first men through the door. He changed his name, and the names of other key figures in the account to protect their security and privacy, yet amid the Department of Defense’s hast to silence the book’s release, his real name was announced to the world and what followed was an immediate bounty on his life by members of Al Qaeda, endangering himself, his family, and his associates.

The DOD is taking the book to task for contradicting the official state account of the events involved in the raid and are seeking to militarily prosecute Bissonnette on charges of divulging classified information and failure to follow protocol. They have been seeking to block the release and sale of the book, but by doing so the DOD is only increasing its success.

The DOD has informed Bissonnette of their intent to prosecute him for violating his oath to the United States if the book is published, but such efforts will only strengthen his credibility and fuel book sales should his account be fact. There’s no such thing as bad press, after all, and controversy creates cash.

The DOD should learn from the mistakes of the British government. In 1985, British officials made the error of banning the publication of the book Spycatcher, by Peter Wright, a science officer for MI5, the British Security Service. The book claimed that Roger Hollis, the former director-general of MI5, was the Fifth Man in the highly-damaging Cambridge spy ring.

The “Five,” who believed in the future of communism after they claimed failure of capitalism during the Great Depression, were recruited by the Soviets to infiltrate the Foreign Office, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), and MI5. The book, by former British intelligence service officer John Le Carré, along with the recent film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, is a fictional parallel to the Cambridge Ring story.

Kim Philby, Donald MacLean, and Guy Burgess gained important postings abroad as Foreign Office diplomats. MacLean and Burges were assigned to Washington just before their defection to the USSR in 1951 when they were warned that MI5 was on to them by fellow mole Anthony Blunt. Philby defected to Moscow in 1963 amid a barrage of media coverage. In 1977, Blunt admitted under pressure that he was the Fourth Man in the Cambridge Ring, leaving one more to uncover.

The hunt for the Fifth Man captivated the world in the late 1970s and early 1980s, reaching its peak when Spycatcher was banned in England. The action to prevent publication created a wave of publicity. An Australian company published the book and it became an overnight bestseller around the world, largely due to the effort to prohibit its release.

In 1990 Christopher Andrew released KGB: The Inside Story with former KGB Colonel, Oleg Gordeivsky, who worked as a double-agent for the British. The authors cited documents from KGB archives that the Fifth Man was not Roger Hollis, but John Cairncross, who was living quietly in the South of France, assuming his secret was safe.

To millions of readers and conspiracy theorists the misinformation in Spycatcher remains the “truth” due to the popularity of the book caused primarily by the efforts to ban it. Now the DOD risks the same by attempting to ban No Easy Day. The end results will depend on whether Bissonnette is right or wrong in his recollection of the events of that mission. If he is wrong, the censorship efforts will place a big black asterisk on the book as it takes its place in literary history. But if he is correct in his account, and should he be successfully prosecuted for leaking sensitive material, the infamy of his crime and the ban will cause his fame and book sales to reach astronomical levels

A similar situation playing out in today’s headlines concerns the British Foreign Office use of threats in attempts to force WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, out of Ecuador’s embassy building.

Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to the United States from the United Kingdom, is claiming that Assange is “a dangerous and seditious agent” for publishing ‘secret’ U.S. State Department documents. But the real offender in the leaking of the documents case is Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who stole the documents, not Assange for publishing them. The New York Times wears its publication of the secret Pentagon papers like a Medal of Honor, yet the U.S. and British governments would rather hang Assange, the messenger, than deal with reality.

No Easy Day allows readers to walk beside Owen and the other members of the team through a blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have killed Owen to the radio call confirming Bin Laden was dead. It is an integral component of this generation, and an indispensible piece of modern military history.
No Easy Day also gives a valuable insight into the inner workings of America’s War on Terror and details with bravado the selection and training process for one of the most elite units in the military. In telling the true story of the SEALs whose talents, skills, experiences, and exceptional sacrifices led to one of the greatest victories in the War on Terror, Mark Owen feels that his story leaves readers with a deep understanding of what these men endure and honors the men he has fought beside who continue to risk everything to keep America safe.

The original release date was September 11th, but demand and publicity was so intense that the release was moved up to September 4th. Citing the fact that pre-publication versions of the book were already being circulated inside and out of military exchanges, the Pentagon ruled out attempting to force publishers from selling the book. They have instead chosen to focus on criminally prosecuting the voice of the book.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters that “there’s been no directive from this department to withhold sale of the book from military exchanges. This book is being made widely available in bookstores and online. It is not our typical practice to get into the business of deciding what and what does not go on bookshelves in military exchanges, but that doesn’t mean in any way, shape, or form that we don’t have serious concerns about the fact that this process of pre-publication review was not followed.”

If the Pentagon determines the book discloses classified secrets, the government could bring federal criminal charges against Bissonnette and seize profits of the book’s sales in a civil proceeding if he violated a previously-signed nondisclosure agreement. The potential charges and penalties would depend largely on what type of secrets were disclosed.

 

For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://www.deepforestproductions.com/BBARK.html

Sources: Amazon, American Thinker, The Star, Kingsport Times
© 2012 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions