8 months, 3 weeks ago
From Heavy.com, where the author points out ten things we allegedly need to know, this is extracted.
The Navy SEAL Team 6 member who used the pseudonym Mark Owen to write No Easy Day, the tell-all book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has been outed by Fox News. His name is Matt Bissonnette, age 36. What do we know about him?
According to White House and CIA officials, the military didn’t know about this book until the story was leaked online. When ex or current military personnel release a book about their military service, standard protocol is to give a copy to the Pentagon before the book is released publicly. This enables officials to comb through it and make sure that no confidential information gets leaked to the public. Bissonnette didn’t do this and is now taking heat for it. Dutton publishing house (a subsidiary of Penguin) claims that it did go through the book and deemed none of the information confidential. White House reps were quick to respond that Dutton’s vetting was not sufficient. If confidential info gets released in this book Bissonnette could face major jail time.
Word on the street is that Bissonnette is releasing the book in order to fight President Obama accidently (sic) taking credit for Bin Laden’s death. Bissonette was quoted saying “It’s time to set the record straight about the most important mission in US Military History.”
The SEALs are not happy with Bissonnette and his book. Fox News quoted one SEAL saying “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?” Other accounts have members of the SEALs going as far as calling him a “traitor.”
The only real description I can use to describe Seal Team 6 is “Scary Awesome.” SEAL Team 6’s official name is “ The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group” (DEVGRU for short). DEVGRU is “awesome” because it is one of four counter terrorism/special mission units in the military and is so covert that most of the details and techniques of Seal Team 6 are not even commented on by the White House or DOD. Seal Team 6 is “scary” because it has the ability to work outside of both U.S. and international law. Bissonnette achieved the rank of chief in this elite group. He retired last summer.
Analysis & Commentary
Make sure to read the entire report, and there are others available as well. In no certain order, I offer up the following observations.
I am not impressed with the whole OPSEC / FOUO classification. It is a knee jerk, reflexive reaction to literally everything that the military produces, from mission details to PowerPoint presentations. Oftentimes (or more correctly, most often) no thought whatsoever is given to the classification of some piece of knowledge, signals information or report. The information released by Bradley Manning is a prime example, and except for the release of information with names of informants (which ultimately led to their deaths), I remarked at the time that the Manning information was mostly boring and worthless, and not useful for someone who had followed the details of the campaign for years like I had. I basically learned nothing from it.
The instance surrounding the release of the presentation on Taliban tactics, techniques and procedures is a more detailed example of the reflexive tendency to classify everything. In this case the presentation was classified FOUO, obtained my Michael Yon and posted to his site with some observations, linked by Glenn Reynolds, and then linked and discussed by me. The officer who authored this presentation at one point attempted to force me to take the presentation down, but I refused, and for the better.
The Taliban already know of their own procedures. The enemy doesn’t learn of their procedures by reading my web site, but our own Marines might be better equipped and prepared by doing so. No matter, said this officer. It was classified as FOUO and thus it should ever remain whether it had been released on another web site or not. I again refused, still do so, and am convinced that some Marine somewhere (many Marines read this web site) benefited from knowing information that they would have never seen if it had not been made available by Michael and me.
One final example would be the information I describe about satellite patrols. The things I learned from my son about them are based on what they did in Fallujah in 2007. Al Qaeda doesn’t need to read this web site to learn about these things. They observed them as they are happening, and they can no more (while it is happening) do anything about the fact that they don’t know where the next fire team will show up than if they read this web site.
Operations by Special Forces is similar in my opinion. They are so secretive that names, dates, locations, TTPs, equipment, orders, logistics, etc., etc., are all off limits for conversation or even training items for the other forces. Oftentimes I am convinced that it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, or another way to put it is that the secretive nature of their operations adds to their mystique but not the success of the mission.
So what TTPs were used is not important regarding secrecy. What might indeed be of great importance is the fact that helicopter technology apparently fell into Pakistani hands, and then ultimately into Chinese hands. The greatest failure of the mission for UBL was the fact that inadequate barriers were in place to prevent this from happening. Whether the mission included Matt Bissonnette, how long they trained, what weapons they brought, where they trained, what happened to UBL’s body, timing of mission details, names of other team members, and so on and so forth, aren’t critical to past or future missions.
Knowing when a ship is going to be in a strait or knowing when a patrol is going to pass by is OPSEC, and it is traitorous to divulge it. Knowing that Matt Bissonnette was on the raid to kill UBL is not, and talk of traitorous actions on Matt’s part is juvenile. Knowing the materials in the design of the helicopter they used that night is OPSEC; knowing that someone killed UBL with a double-tap to the head is not. Some of my military readers will disagree. So be it. You won’t change my mind.
Next, to Matt’s claim that this was “the most important mission in US Military History.” Oh my. Oh goodness. Of all of the Marine Recon missions in the South Pacific, of all of the Ranger missions in Europe in World War II, of all of the recon missions during the War of Independence, this one was the most important.
Um, I don’t think so. Not by a long shot. I have made it abundantly clear that I am no advocate of the high value target campaign. While being one pseudo-useful tactic, it doesn’t even nearly rise to the level of a being a functional strategy, which is what we have tried to do in Afghanistan.
It would have had far greater strategic value to have killed the Haqqanis, Hassan Nasrallah or especially General Suleimani than bin Laden. There is no question that a generation of Americans had a sense of accomplishment when bin Laden was killed. But making this out to be something that it isn’t is no better than the administration being offended at the “OPSEC” divulged in the book.
No one questions that the SEALs are the best on earth at what they do. No one should question the bravery of those who conducted the mission. I just think we should keep this all in proper perspective. And I would be happy to review the book – for a free, signed copy.