From the Head Down: Six Questions and Answers About “No Easy Day”

I smell fish.

1.  Question: Has “Mark Owen,” the Navy SEAL from Team 6 who has written an account of the Osama bib Laden kill mission (real name: Matt Bissonnette), engaged in unethical conduct by doing so?

Answer: Of course. It is a basic breach of his duty of confidentiality and national security. There can be no excuse for it.

2.  Question: Should the Pentagon take legal action against him?

Answer: Yes. His book is a crime.

3.  Question: Is it ethical for a publisher to print and distribute a book that potentially risks national security and that is a violation of a vow of confidentiality by its author?

  Answer: No, it isn’t. Freedom of the Press permits the publishing of such books, but I believe that the ethical course for a publisher, like any other business, is not to assist in clear breaches of ethics, especially when they involve national security.

4.  Question: Is it unethical for the news media to help promote the book by interviewing the SEAL?

  Answer: No. The book is going to be sold, and that’s legitimate news. We can’t blame the news media for this one.

5.  Question: Why is this happening?

Answer: Good question! It is happening, I believe, because the Commander-in-Chief, President Obama, has permitted and possibly has approved of an unprecedented and dangerous number of leaks regarding classified intelligence and military operations, especially relating to the death of Osama, for purely political purposes. When leadership flouts laws, rules and principles, those under him, particularly at lower levels, absorb the message that such laws, rules and principles are not inviolate. Thus we should expect that the same administration where the unprofessional practice of leaking classified information has been epidemic and occurring with unprecedented frequency would also be the first to generate a Navy SEAL who does the same. And he may not be the last.

6.  Question: Is President Obama at fault for “No Easy Day,” then?

Answer: Not exactly. He  is responsible for the ethically flawed culture that generated it, however.

“The fish rots from the head down.”

So do all organizations, including governments.

“No Easy Day” is just another example.

__________________________________

Facts: Reuters

Graphic: Business Insider

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

31 thoughts on “From the Head Down: Six Questions and Answers About “No Easy Day”

  1. I am exhausted so I apologize in advance for any typos or rambling

    1. Question: Has “Mark Owen,” the Navy SEAL from Team 6 who has written an account of the Osama bib Laden kill mission, engaged in unethical conduct by doing so?
    Answer: Of course. It is a basic breach of his duty of confidentiality and national security. There can be no excuse for it.

    1. Expanded answer: Hell Yes it is. It is not simply a breach of his duty of confidentiality and national security. It is shattering the faith and allegiance he owes to everyone he served with, to everyone who supported the mission, from the agents who developed the intelligence, the mission planners, the pilots who flew him even to the cook who fed him. He failed all those who silently do their duty without recognition or accolades. Through his arrogance and self-serving actions he puts his fellow service members, his family and future operations at risk.

    2. Question: Should the Pentagon take legal action against him?
    Answer: Yes. His book is a crime.

    2. Expanded answer: Yes. His book is a crime. But it goes beyond the book, if he was willing to divulge this information to untold millions what other information has he divulged and to who? What other operations has he spoken about, what other operational security has spilled? How many others has he put at risk? His real identity will be known, someone will break the faith as he did and divulge his real name, and this will follow him and his family for the rest of his life.

    3. Question: Is it ethical for a publisher to print and distribute a book that potentially risks national security and that is a violation of a vow of confidentiality by its author?
    Answer: No, it isn’t. Freedom of the Press permits the publishing of such books, but I believe that the ethical course for a publisher, like any other business, is not to assist in clear breaches of ethics, especially when they involve national security.

    3. My Answer: The freedom to do something does not relinquish ethical responsibilities. At a minimum they had an ethical duty to inform the government, if only to insure the safety of those still in the fight.

    4. Question: Is it unethical for the news media to help promote the book by interviewing the SEAL?
    Answer: No. The book is going to be sold, and that’s legitimate news. We can’t blame the news media for this one.

    4. Agreed, subject to change based on how the coverage is presented.

    5. Question: Why is this happening?
    Answer: Good question! It is happening, I believe, because the Commander-in-Chief, President Obama, has permitted and possibly has approved of an unprecedented and dangerous number of leaks regarding classified intelligence and military operations, especially relating to the death of Osama, for purely political purposes. When leadership flouts laws, rules and principles, those under him, particularly at lower levels, absorb the message that such laws, rules and principles are not inviolate. Thus we should expect that the same administration where the unprofessional practice of leaking classified information has been epidemic and occurring with unprecedented frequency would also be the first to generate a Navy SEAL who does the same. And he may not be the last.

    6. Question: Is President Obama at fault for “No Easy Day,” then?
    Answer: Not exactly. He is responsible for the ethically flawed culture that generated it, however.

    5&6. My answer: This is not the first Squeal to break the faith with his fellow SEALs, it is not only a problem in the Navy, but the Navy is in the lead. The Navy has been unabashedly self-promoting from several reality TV shows to organizational operational security breaches in an effort to get press. Much of this predates President Obama and it is not only due to self-promotion but also cultural shifts of celebrating the famous for no other reason than their notoriety. Much of the Navy feel they are not as respected as the other services because much of the support our troop efforts are directed to the Army and the Marine Corps as they have the largest footprint in the wars. For the Navy as an organization the prestige factor is not as strong as the other services right now and that impacts recruiting and funding. With all that said the White house breaches may have had an impact but I would place them well down on the list for this one.

    • Reading the book would make you complicit in the unethical behavior. It would further serve to promote unethical behavior through rewarding that behavior with increased sales.

        • Now that comment made me laugh as I have heard several who have sworn that they will do anything to tank sales by copying/recording it and distributing it over the internet.

          With the retaliation that is likely to follow there could be an ethics train wreck acoming.

        • I wouldn’t read or buy the book, and I have treated other premature tell-alls from presidential staffs of both parties as well as celebrity lovers and other creeps, like Levi Johnston. It just encourages bad behavior.

  2. Read the book is good advice. Have you Mr. Ethics ever served in the military? I didn’t think so. This seal is doing exactly what every other one of Seat Team Six would like to do. If it is truthful then there has been no breach of ethical or other duty unless there is something classified that has been revealed. People give this President and the scumbag politicos that he has put in very sensitive positions ( I am not talking here about Napolitano’s girl (or LBGT) friends. If this is what I suspect it is then a first hand account of what happened does not cross any ethical lines.

    • I come from a military family and an thoroughly imbued with the values of same. STRIKE ONE.
      The fact that everyone would like to do something unethical doesn’t make it ethical, to which I would add, “DUH!” STRIKE TWO.
      The pledge of confidentiality that SEALS take does not just extend to classified information. STRIKE THREE.

      It’s unprofessional. It’s obviously unprofessional. If the SEAL waited until his Commander was out of office and all participants were out of the service, you might have a slivver of a point.

    • I did serve, ten years in the Marines, my father served 34 years in the Marines, my paternal grandfather served in the Black Watch in WWI, my maternal grandfather served in the 38 years in Navy including WWI , WWII and all the small wars inbetween and I can say with out any hesitation this Seal has violated his oath and broken many articles of the UCMJ.

            • I noticed he graduated high school in 1965 and then college in 1975. Spending ten years in school is a nice way to avoid Vietnam.

              • I didn’t even think about it, good observation, I was mostly thinking about how much different the Medical side is from the rest of the military.

                • Be careful. The medics and other attachments are vital to the mission. Patching up of the troops is a thankless job. They served our country in ways civilians can only pretend to understand. I saw alot of officers that loved authority, but were literally clueless.

                  • That was not a slight against the job the Medical services do, only their understanding of operational requirements and capabilities. A corpsman or medic I would expect not to make this mistake, they are as much a part of the tactical situation as anyone, not as true for much of the rest of the medical field. But the corpsmen and medics know only too well the need for opsec.

    • “Read the book is good advice.”

      That is bad advice.

      “Have you Mr. Ethics ever served in the military? I didn’t think so. ”

      This is a fairly basic call not requiring a detailed knowledge of the military.

      “This seal is doing exactly what every other one of Seat Team Six would like to do.”

      Simply not true, and demonstrably false as folks from his community and other tight lipped specialties have denounced his actions and he’s is persona non grata to most military associations.

      “If it is truthful then there has been no breach of ethical or other duty unless there is something classified that has been revealed.”

      If it is truthful it does not change “You are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed,” said the letter by Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s General Counsel.”

      “People give this President and the scumbag politicos that he has put in very sensitive positions ( I am not talking here about Napolitano’s girl (or LBGT) friends.”

      Huh?

      “If this is what I suspect it is then a first hand account of what happened does not cross any ethical lines.”

      Wrong, See above

    • I take it that you’re a man. Do you have a position on abortion? If so, do you (like me) like being told that it doesn’t count?

      This is one of the main causes of ethical rot: diverse perspectives are dismissed and ridiculed to protect compromised perspectives from accountability.

  3. I agree with Bill. I have served. My family has a strong military history like Bill. There is so much wrong with this. When I heard of the book, I became emotional and sick. It made me fear for the military operations of the present and future. It made me think of all the briefings I received. In simple language, we were required to sign multiple forms not to divulge what we saw, heard or took part in. (opsec-comsec=operation security and communication security) I can’t imagine the thoughts and feelingi (if they know about the book) of the operators still in-country pursuing American interests. I don’t read that sort of military literature. I like military history. But this is treasonous. Plain and simple, he broke the oath. God help us!

    • I think I need to point out that although the ethics of the White House leaks are easily called into question, that is the only parallel here as the distinct difference is the White House has the authority to disseminate whatever information they may chose, the SEAL does not.

      • Leaking is not legal disseminating. That’s a Richard Nixon argument, and its wrong. There are channels and procedures. It is just as wrong for teh White House to leak classified information as for anyone else.

        • I will concede the point, I should have clarified that I was speaking of this mission. Much of the parallels that have been discussed in the media and other blogs in regards to the details and opsec the White House has released was done officially, I said leaks and I should not have.

          Official releases and leaks have been lumped together as it pertains to this mission. Ethically I believe much of the official releases have been unethical and self-serving.

    • Stepping way outside my comfort zone here because the only things I know about Obama are that his campaign rocked social media and that I found it disappointing he chose a Portuguese Water Dog, missing a huge opportunity to save hundreds of shelter dogs. The only aspect of US politics I actively pay attention to is the state of your watersheds. Clearly none of which qualifies me as an expert but number 5 read to me like passing the buck. Whereby said SEAL gets to cry, Foul! Obama made me do it.

      Like every other child of the military here, I totally agree that it is an extremely important oath and he clearly broke it. It rests solely on him though. No matter what culture he lives in. So why it is happening is because the Navy sent a SEAL with no integrity into that operation. I am going to assume they did not know that about him when he was chosen to participate.

      • Well said, Danielle! Lack of integrity is one of my pet peeves in the military. It is ingrained in our culture. I may add that many wanted the White House to release the photos of bin Laden.

        • A lack of integrity in the Military has always baffled me. It took me about a year in to realize that there were officers and NCOs who were lieing pieces of crap. The two best and worst OICs I had both had something in common . They were both Naval Academy grades. The best one woukd do anything for his Marines and always had our back and woukd never screw us over. The worst one was a lieing POS who tried to treat us all like we were plebes and would lie to cover his ass. Then one day he lied about something to our CO and our brand new Sgt Major called him out on it. Three months later he was out of the Corps.

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