Foundation to Navy SEAL Author: We Don’t Want Your Donations

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September 6, 2012; Source: Virginia-Pilot

No Easy Day, a first-person nonfiction book from one of the Navy SEALs who participated in the raid that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden, soared to the top of the bestseller list this week. The book was written by Matt Bissonnette (along with a co-author) under the pseudonym Mark Owen, and the Pentagon is not at all happy about its release. Pentagon officials say that Bissonnette, whose work included photographing Osama bin Laden’s dead body, did not follow the standard process for pre-publication review of any material that could contain sensitive national security information. The Pentagon is not saying that the book actually contains such information, but clearly considers Bissonnette’s alleged affront to the standard protocol problematic.

In the book, Bissonnette lists a few charities that he supports, and one of them is the Navy SEAL Foundation, but the foundation says it will not accept any donations that might be generated by the book’s sales. The foundation posted the following brief statement on its website:

“The Navy SEAL Foundation has received numerous inquiries regarding receiving potential proceeds from the sale of the book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden. The Navy SEAL Foundation is committed to providing immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families. With this principled mission in mind, the Foundation will not be accepting any donations that are generated from the book or any related activities. The Department of Defense (DOD) is considering pursuing legal remedies against the author. As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Foundation is not involved with any of the actions taken by the DOD. The Navy SEAL Foundation honors our warriors and protects their families.”

In addition, Navy SEALs Rear Adm. Sean Pybus has reportedly instructed his team that, “We do NOT advertise the nature of our work. NOR do we seek recognition for our actions.” However, as Rick Cohen notes in another newswire today, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta himself hasn’t been entirely tight-lipped about Bin Laden’s capture, and a Pakistani doctor employed by the C.I.A. may now be paying the price for that.

Will other Armed Forces charities follow the Navy SEAL Foundation’s lead on this, or will others accept Bissonnette’s potential donations despite the Pentagon’s qualms about his alleged disregard for publishing protocol? It’s not always simple to figure out what constitutes “tainted money” in this world, a debate that has surfaced many times over the years, including the 40 years past iconic discussions about whether feminist groups should accept money from the Playboy Foundation. Paul Dunn’s “When a Donor Becomes Tainted” offers some considerations on such matters and is an excellent read. Let us know what you think about this situation. –Mike Keefe-Feldman

  • Conrad Powell

    As an attorney myself, it is clear that the battle lines are drawn. The requisite provisions of the law in relation to Mark Owen’s claim for First Amendment Expression runs counter to the Government’s need for secrecy under the rubric of protecting lives. It is well settled, according to the US Supreme Court, that the government may regulate Free Speech according to time, place and manner restrictions that are justified vis a vis health and safety considerations. The DOD could make the argument that they are within their right to curtail Mark Owen’s freedom of expression because it would endanger the lives of other officers. Interesting, I too wrote a book entitled NO EASY DAY: A Fictional Account of the Mission that “Killed” Osama Bin Laden” ( ) However, mine is total fiction. My book was published May 09, 2011.
    Conrad Powell, Esq. – Attorney-at-Law,

  • Douglas Snow

    Absurd–do the families of Special Operations Warriors deserve your refusal. Resign your position with this Charitable Organization with this biased view. Matt Bissonnette risked his life and now wants to support the families that need the foundations support. Non-Political Charity? Remember the fallen and the surviving ! You and all the Foundation members live in a free United States and sleep safely because our service members are vigilant.

  • John Cavallo

    Sacrifice, without interest in or desire for personal reward or recognition, seems to be one principle among those that make SEALs who and what they are. Some say that ethical codes and honor principles can be taken too far, applied so strictly that they become irrelevant and counterproductive when it seems easy to say this or that should be an obvious exception. This has been said about military academy honor codes – strict adherence has been considered ridiculous or overzealous. The problem could be expressed as a question: “Who gets to decide how much compromise is OK, or where the line between acceptable exception and violation exists?” As many understand and appreciate it, SEALs don’t decide which orders or missions should be followed or carried out based on whether they think the order should be carried out or the specific mission should be prosecuted fully. It’s safe to say, “Thank God they don’t.” Sometimes, an individual who believes his intentions are good enough to supersede orders, procedure, or required process should reconsider before acting – he might be wrong. There did not seem to be any exigent circumstance requiring this author to proceed without submitting his product for the clearance/review procedure Mr. Feldman described. There must have been a reason for seeking counsel in support of a decision not to follow publishing protocol, and the whole picture should be considered. This would include whether the author’s intentions were selfless, whether personal recognition was a reason, and whether there was a legitimate exception to protocol. The best judges of whether this matter constitutes an exception to basic principles, and whether any money from the book or movie is more important than the principles and precepts, would probably be US Navy SEALs who live, fight, bleed, and die by their principles on behalf of the rest of us. I don’t say I know the answer, but I do say that it seems too easy for many who don’t have to count on and live by basic principles in order to survive and prevail to decide that this or that is an easy exception to the rules. It isn’t that simple. Leave that decision to the people who make the commitments and live them to protect the rest of us. They know best whether some interest is a legitimate exception.