Anonymity was shortlived for the former Navy SEAL member who has written a first-person account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Less than 24 hours after the book’s existence was first reported, Fox News revealed the author as Matt Bissonnette. Defense Department and military officials later confirmed his identity.
Penguin, the book’s publisher, said it would forge ahead with its publication plans despite the reports that named the author. The book will be released on Sept. 11 under a pseudonym, Mark Owen, with a co-author, Kevin Maurer. Penguin said the book, “No Easy Day,” gives a “blow-by-blow narrative of the assault” on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in May 2011.
Bissonnette, 36, has been awarded five Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, according to his service record. Penguin’s press release on the book said he spent his youth in Aniak.
But Penguin also faced accusations on Thursday that its author had broken protocol by not submitting the manuscript to the Defense Department for approval.
The Defense Department said the author had violated department regulations. Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman, said any official information intended for public release that pertains to military matters, national security issues or subjects of significant concern to the department shall be reviewed for clearance before release. That did not happen in this instance, he said.
Another regulation says a lecture, speech or writing that pertains to military matters, national security issues or subjects of significant concern to the Defense Department shall be reviewed for clearance, Gregory said.
The Pentagon has not seen the book and not yet formally requested a copy. Because the author is now a civilian, any legal action by the government over the material in the book would come from the Justice Department.
Christine Ball, a spokeswoman for Dutton, the imprint of Penguin that will release the book, said there was no classified information in “No Easy Day.” It was vetted by a lawyer for “tactical, technical or procedural information,” she said.
“The two reasons he wrote this book were to raise awareness about the sacrifices the SEALs make and to raise money for charities that support fallen SEALs,” Ball said.
She said Penguin had not altered publicity plans for the book, which was kept a close secret within the publishing house until Wednesday. The book will still be published under the pseudonym, and the author plans to be interviewed on television and the radio in disguise.
One of his most high-profile appearances will be on “60 Minutes” on Sept. 9, two days before the book is released.
Bookstores have been advised by the publisher that the book is strictly embargoed and cannot go on sale before Sept. 11.
Preorders were so strong in the first 24 hours on sale that by late afternoon on Thursday the book had moved up to the No. 2 spot on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble best-seller lists, leapfrogging all three novels in the “Fifty Shades” erotic trilogy.
The enormous early interest in the book prompted Dutton to increase the planned print run to 400,000 from the original 300,000.
Books written by former SEAL members and other members of the military have proliferated recently, though few, if any, had the firsthand drama that “No Easy Day” promises.
Chuck Pfarrer, a former SEAL member and the author of “SEAL Target Geronimo,” an account of the bin Laden raid published by St. Martin’s Press in November, said Thursday that he submitted his book to the Defense Department for vetting not because he believed it was a requirement, but “as a courtesy.” He decided to write the book, he said, to set the record straight after varying accounts published in The New Yorker and elsewhere.
“What’s going to be interesting is, what story does he tell?” Pfarrer said of the new book.