The top U.S.military special operations officer is concerned that sensitive information could be released by former special operations troops looking to "advance their personal or professional agendas."
Adm. William McRaven, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, sent a blunt message late Thursday night to 63,000 special operations forces under his command, after the name of the anonymous author of an upcoming book on the Osama bin Laden raid was identified.
"I am becoming increasingly concerned about how former members of the special operations community are using their 'celebrity' status to advance their personal or professional agendas," McRaven said in the message obtained by CNN.
The identity of the Navy SEAL behind the much-anticipated firsthand account of the raid that killed bin Laden has been published by several news organizations. Although CNN has confirmed the name of the SEAL, the decision to not publish his identity honors a request from Pentagon officials who say the book "No Easy Day" could have dangerous repercussions.
The member of SEAL Team Six, who is now retired, wrote the book under the pseudonym Mark Owen. Officials say the manuscript was not vetted as required by the Pentagon, and members of the military are worried that identifying him could jeopardize colleagues and his family.
"While as retired or former service members, they are well within their rights to advocate for certain causes or write books about their adventures, it is disappointing when these actions either attempt to represent the broader SOF (Special Operations Forces) community, or expose sensitive information that could threaten the lives of their fellow warriors," McRaven said in the written statement.
The publisher says the book, which is expected to be released on September 11, 2012, provides a "blow-by-blow narrative of the assault" on bin Laden's compound in 2011.
McRaven also explained that if classified information is revealed in such publications, authors could face punishment.
"Every member of the Special Operations Community with a security clearance signed a nondisclosure agreement that was binding during and after service in the military. If the U.S. Special Operations Command finds that an active duty, retired or former service member violated that agreement and that exposure of information was detrimental to the safety of U.S. forces, then we will pursue every option available to hold members accountable, including criminal prosecution where appropriate," he said.
Pentagon officials told CNN that Owen and the publishing company did not submit the manuscript through the proper Department of Defense channels to check if secret tactics, techniques and procedures were revealed about the 2011 bin Laden mission.
Owen spent more than a decade in the military and left the service last April, Pentagon officials said. If classified military or intelligence information is found to have been revealed in the book, Owen could be charged by the Department of Justice.