AN INCONVENIENT BOOK: “We’ve done this a million times,” former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette recently told 60 Minutes as he described the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The author of No Easy Day, a controversial new book detailing his role in the operation, Bissonnette was steps behind the SEAL who shot the Al Qaeda leader after he poked his head out of his bedroom doorway. As bin Laden’s wives and children watched, Bissonnette and another SEAL fired several more rounds into his twitching body. Yet Bissonnette says it was not an assassination mission and that their orders were to take bin Laden alive, if possible.
The account contradicts official reports claiming that bin Laden reached for a weapon, and others that described an extended firefight. Bissonnette says the raid was “reported like a bad action movie” and claims his book is an effort to “set the record straight.” Out of safety concerns, he wrote it under the pseudonym Mark Owen, but almost immediately after the book was announced, Fox News revealed his identity. An Al Qaeda–linked website has called for his death.
No Easy Day comes after four years in which the White House cracked down heavily on whistleblowers while selectively leaking national security information to major news outlets. The Pentagon claims that Bissonnette leaked classified information and has threatened legal action. (He didn’t submit the book for government review before publishing it.) Whether the government will bring legal action against a man many Americans consider a hero in the middle of an election season remains to be seen.
Bissonnette served thirteen consecutive combat deployments as a SEAL, mostly with the Navy’s premier counterterrorism unit, SEAL Team Six. He recounts missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, offering a glimpse into these intensifying “capture and kill” missions, which seem to show no sign of slowing down in the wake of bin Laden’s death. RYAN DEVEREAUX
TWITTER AND THE PRESIDENT: In an unusual move at a campaign rally on September 8, President Obama paraphrased a tweet that went viral during the Democratic National Convention. Recalling Bill Clinton’s detailed, wonky speech about economic policy, Obama said, “Somebody sent out a tweet… ‘He needs to be made Secretary of Explaining Stuff.’”
The original tweet, by New Yorker editor Ben Greenman, drew more than 8,000 retweets, reflecting both massive interest in Clinton’s address—25 million TV viewers—and interest in the cheeky proposal from Greenman, who has about 10,000 followers on Twitter. “Obviously, a lot of people were thinking something similar,” Greenman told The Nation. The tweet was shared by everyone from journalists and politicos to Anita Baker and MC Hammer. While Greenman hasn’t heard directly from the Obama campaign, he says the rapid spread of the tweet all the way to the president shows how ideas can filter up via the social network. He likened the online explosion of the quip to watching “an inconsequential stock market.”
Consequential or not, Greenman is standing by his proposal to appoint Clinton the secretary of explaining things. “I’d like to go to the swearing-in ceremony,” he told The Nation. That’s about as likely, he added, as the Dolphins making it to the Super Bowl this year. ARI MELBER