By Barbara Starr
The commander of all Navy SEALS is sharply critical of claims attributed to a man called "The Shooter," identified in a published report to have been the SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden but felt mistreated by the military when he left the service.
Esquire magazine's riveting account of the 2011 bin Laden raid in Pakistan was based on an interview with the former SEAL, who was not named but complained about losing his health care coverage when he left the Navy last year.
He was short of the full 20-year career required to receive such benefits.
"Concerning recent writing and reporting on 'The Shooter' and his alleged situation, this former SEAL made a deliberate and informed decision to leave the Navy several years short of retirement status," said Rear Admiral Sean Pybus, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command.
By Chris Lawrence
Pentagon officials are considering a preliminary assessment by Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, on "what he needs going forward" in the country as the U.S. looks to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, a U.S. official tells CNN.
One of the options being considered is "to keep a force of roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan post-2014," according to the official who did not want to be identified discussing ongoing deliberations. The official said that force would comprise a small number of special operations forces dedicated to counterterrorism missions, while the remaining troops "would either continue to train and advise Afghan forces, or assist with logistical issues such as medical evacuations and air support operations."
The "10,000 option" is just one of several being examined, the official said. The options represented "different ends of the spectrum" in terms of troop levels, the official added, but the official did not provide any detail as to what those options are.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not presented a formal recommendation to the White House, Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Monday. FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
Body armor plates used by special operations forces in combat are being recalled after a manufacturing defect was found in what the military says is a small percentage of the Generation III ballistic armor plates.
"No USSOCOM service members have been killed or wounded as the result of a defective ballistic plate, but the command is removing failed plates from the operational inventories," said Kenneth McGraw, a spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Sampling of production lots discovered failure in the lamination of ceramic and steel portions in less than 5% of the GEN III ballistic plates, which are worn inside armored vests during combat. As a result, the flawed vests are being recalled, along with specific production lots in which testing has determined the flaw has occurred.
McGraw said a procedure has been developed to test plates in the field. The problem, he said, stems from "the manufacturer's internal manufacturing and quality assurance processes. The manufacturer has provided the government all information that applies to the defect and has developed a corrective action plan designed to solve the delamination problem."
The manufacturer is Ceradyne Inc. of Costa Mesa, California.
Special Operations Command is now issuing an older generation of plates until a full inventory of GEN III replacement plates is manufactured. A contract has been awarded to Leading Technology Composites Inc. of Wichita, Kansas, to manufacture replacement plates.
Cerradyne also will produce replacement plates using the revised manufacturing and quality assurance plans, McGraw said.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spelled out the future battle against al Qaeda, praising what has been done so far but warning much more work remains.
Speaking about the September 11 attacks in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, Panetta said, "We will do everything possible to ensure that such an attack never happens again. That means counterterrorism will continue as a key mission for our military and intelligence professionals as long as violent extremists pose a direct threat to the United States."
He said efforts against the core al Qaeda group have been largely successful. "Al Qaeda's leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of al Qaeda's five top leaders in the last 2½ years alone - Osama bin Laden, Shaikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi."
By Larry Shaughnessy
The new book "No Easy Day" by former U.S. Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette has attracted a great deal of attention for his first hand account of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Bissonnette chronicles the drama of the daring operation and the al Qaeda leader's final moments at his compound in Pakistan. But it also details quieter revelations, including one in which Bissonnette talks about the use by SEALS of the powerful sleep drug Ambien.
Available by prescription, Ambien is known to cause some potentially troubling side effects including sleep walking, hallucinations and amnesia, according to Dr. Thomas LoRusso, the medical director of the Northern Virginia Sleep Diagnostic Center.
According to Bissonnette's account, between the time the SEALs left the United States for the bin Laden raid in Pakistan and their return flight less than a week later, he took at least six Ambien pills, always two at a time.
By Barbara Starr
(CNN) - Deep inside the military's special operations forces there is a crisis of conscience unfolding. The publication of "No Easy Day," a former Navy SEAL's account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, is forcing many to rethink a fundamental point of military honor. How much should America's commandos talk about what they do?
It's a debate that goes beyond disclosure of classified information, which is a crime. The discussion now centers on honor, ethics and cultural values inside the ranks.
"This is a battle for the conscience of the SEALs," a recently retired senior SEAL told me.
He served for decades in operational positions in the force, and has never told me any of the details of his missions. For years he did what every SEAL has done: Go on raids, find targets and, if necessary, kill them. It's what the nation asks of them.
The question now: Is the SEAL community taking that Tom Clancy superman image and turning it into celebrity? "Was No Easy Day" indeed that last straw?
By Barbara Starr
A Pentagon official said Tuesday that a former Navy SEAL who helped kill Osama bin Laden included classified material in his new book and did not follow protocol for pre-publication review.
On the same day the much-anticipated memoir hit book shelves, CNN obtained a copy of message written by the SEALs' commander to members of his unit.
In it, Rear Adm. Sean Pybus, head of the Naval Special Warfare Command, said he was "disappointed, embarrassed and concerned" that troops are now openly speaking and writing about their secret work.
Pre-orders put the book at No. 1 on Amazon's bestseller list for two weeks.
But the Pentagon was not as as eager to see the release of "No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden."
The new book by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, published under the pseudonym Mark Owen, has some eye-opening, sometimes amusing details about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.
"No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden" goes step by step through the SEAL team's training and practicing for the attack, the assault itself and the aftermath.
One might find it odd that in the midst of one of the most important Special Operations missions ever, most of these elite warriors weren't exactly pumped up on the flight to bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"I think most of the guys on the helicopter actually caught some much-needed sleep on the ride in. ... All the hype was gone and it was just another night at work for us."
By Larry Shaughnessy
Hollywood loves a scandal, and it has one in a movie that drew criticism before filming began.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is about the hunt for and the eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden, made by Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the team who made the Oscar-winning film "The Hurt Locker."
The movie was originally said to be be releasing just before the election, but after Republican complaints that it was a Pro-Obama ad, it was pushed back until December. Although there is some dispute if it was ever meant to release before December.
But the trailer has been released. It's highly stylized assortment of clips from the movie, most of them made to look like satellite images you might see if you were in the CIA war room.
There are two mentions of bin Laden, but none of President Obama. And the film's screenwriter told Entertainment Weekly magazine that Obama's not mentioned in the film either. EW is owned by CNN parent company Time Warner.
"A lot of people are going to be surprised when they see the film. For example, the president is not depicted in the movie. He's just not in the movie," Boal said.
The movie's been the focus of a Washington partisan fight since last summer. The Department of Defense said it would investigate whether there was any impropriety in aiding the making of the movie. The CIA is also accused of giving the filmmakers too much access.
The probe by the Pentagon's inspector general came after questions were raised by Rep. Peter King, R-New York.
He demanded investigations by the Department of Defense and CIA inspectors general into what, if any, classified information about special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures were leaked to the filmmakers, calling the film a "potentially dangerous collaboration" between liberal filmmakers and the administration.
Some of what those investigations found did show collaboration between the administration and the filmmakers, but DoD and White House officials have said it's no different than what they give many filmmakers and news reporters on a regular basis.