The Book “No Easy Day” Just Got More Difficult

In the next few days, the book No Easy Day is going to be released to the public by Penguin Books. It was written by one of the Navy SEALS who entered the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed and was directly behind the soldier who apparently shot bin Laden in the head.
The official account of the killing was that the men charged up the stairs, shooting bad guys along the way, burst into bin Laden’s bedroom and shot him dead as he resisted. They also wounded at least one of the women by shooting her in the leg as she tried to protect bin Laden.
The author’s account differs from the official account. What this man, using the pseudonym “Mark Owen,” says happened is that as they charged up the dark stairs, a man opened the door to a bedroom at the top of the stairs to peer out and see what was going on, at which time the soldier in front of the author coming up the stairs fired shots at him. The man being shot at disappeared back into the room and the SEALS, then, believing they were still looking for bin Laden, burst in to find the man they’d apparently shot, on the floor, dying, still twitching from a bullet in the head, and women weeping over him. The SEALS identified him as bin Laden, then pushed the women away, and, to make this person good and dead, put a couple more bullets in him, one of which came from the author.
In any case, it didn’t seem to me to be much different from the official account. In the official account, bin Laden had the opportunity to see eye-to-eye with the American who was about to shoot him. Revenge would be sweet. In Owen’s account he may or may not have gotten that chance.
At first, I had no real interest in buying this book. It just seemed to me to be a big chance to make a lot of money. Penguin would be printing 300,000 copies. “Owen” would go on talk shows and have his face blurred and his voice altered. The big bucks would flow.
But things began to happen after it was announced No Easy Day would be available on September 11 that convinced me I would really like to have this book.
First of all, Fox News also announced that they had been reliably told that Mark Owen’s real name was Matt Bissonnette, who is a 36-year-old Navy Seal from Wrangell, Alaska. Within hours, al-Qaeda supporters were demanding a fatwa be issued and calling for Matt Bissonnette’s death. After that, the government announced that Bissonnette had violated the nondisclosure contract he had signed. He apparently hadn’t cleared this with the Pentagon. The government is now investigating the book to check if classified material is being released, and it is unclear how they will proceed or what legal action will be taken. There is also talk in the media about the possibility that all 300,000 copies of the book be rounded up and destroyed.
Revealing the name of the author did not make me feel I wanted to read the book. The fatwa didn’t move me. The government investigation didn’t. He had, after all, started this. He had to take responsibility for it. But what did move me was this business of rounding up and destroying the 300,000 copies of the book. Okay, now I COULDN’T read it. So, of course, I wanted to read it.
I have a copy of a book printed by McGraw-Hill books 40 years ago called The Autobiography of Howard Hughes, who at the time was the richest man in the world. The author of this book, Clifford Irving, who lived in East Hampton, fooled McGraw Hill into giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars in advance for what was, in fact, a hoax. Irving had written it without Howard Hughes’s knowledge, much less his approval. The government arrested Irving, McGraw Hill destroyed all the books they had printed, and Irving went to jail.
And yet, perhaps because I knew Irving, I was able to get a copy of it. How did I do that? I’ll never tell. I considered it sort of a prize. And I read it. It was, frankly, pretty good.
But that was then. In the current case, determined to get around the possible banning of this book, I got a great idea.
We didn’t have the Internet back then. But now, what about buying it online?
I have a Nook, which I use to download and read books from Barnes & Noble. It was less than 24 hours since the Pentagon’s warning letter. I got my Nook, went online, and tried to download No Easy Day, which I might add, already was the #2 best seller in the country. Guess what? They took my $14.50, which is the price of the download. Or maybe they didn’t. Where the button usually said ORDER, where if you pressed it you’d unleash a 100,000 word or so download, there was now a button that said PREORDER. Book available on publication date Sept. 11. So I pre-ordered. This was on Aug. 31.
It is now September 3. And now I read they intend to release the book on September 4 and it will be not in a printing of 300,000 but of 575,000. Will they get the paperwork together to stop downloads by then? Will the secret police come and have me arrested for buying top-secret confidential information? Will the military lawyers knock on my door to ask me to serve as a witness in the prosecution of Matt Bissonnette, who passed along this top-secret confidential information to an innocent bystander? Will they send in military Internet experts to zap my No Easy Day file?
Well, Salman Rushdie had a fatwa put out against him. But he’s still walking around, and, I might add, squiring some very pretty ladies to parties in the Hamptons from time to time.
September 4 is past this newspaper’s deadline. Next week, I’ll let you know what happens.

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