WASHINGTON (AP) - Special operations chief Adm. Bill McRaven warned his troops, current and former, that he would take legal action against anyone found to have exposed sensitive information that could cause fellow forces harm.
"We will pursue every option available to hold members accountable, including criminal prosecution where appropriate," the four-star commander wrote, in an open, unclassified letter emailed to the active-duty special operations community Thursday, and obtained by The Associated Press.
The warning came a day after a retired Navy commando revealed he is publishing a first-hand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Pentagon officials say they have not been given a chance to review the book, but Pentagon spokesman George Little said Friday officials expect to receive a copy "very shortly."
Little said the Pentagon will decide whether to take any action against the author once officials review the book's contents to determine whether it includes classified information. He said the Department of Justice would have the lead role if any legal action were to be taken.
It also follows a media campaign by special operations veterans, decrying alleged leaks by President Barack Obama's administration of secret operations, and criticizing Obama's highlighting the raid as part of his reelection campaign.
McRaven also took former special operators to task for "using their 'celebrity' status to advance their personal or professional agendas."
He acknowledged that former service members are "well within their rights to advocate for certain causes or write books about their adventures," but he cautioned them against claiming to speak for all special operations troops and against endangering troops by what they write.
News broke Wednesday that one of the SEALs McRaven commanded on the bin Laden raid would be releasing his book, "No Easy Day," on Sept. 11, with the author listed under the pseudonym of Mark Owen.
The author was identified Thursday by Fox News as Matt Bissonnette, who left the Navy last summer.
One current and one former U.S. military official confirmed the name, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss military personnel matters.
Penguin Group (USA)'s Dutton imprint, the publisher, asked news organizations Thursday to withhold his identity.
"Sharing the true story of his personal experience in 'No Easy Day' is a courageous act in the face of obvious risks to his personal security," Dutton spokeswoman Christine Ball said in a statement. "That personal security is the sole reason the book is being published under a pseudonym."
Bissonnette also changed the names of the other SEALs in the account, the publisher says.
Expecting a major best-seller, Dutton has already increased the initial print run of 300,000 copies to 400,000 copies. "No Easy Day" was No. 1 on Amazon.com as of late Friday morning, displacing the million-selling erotic trilogy "Fifty Shades of Gray."
The publisher says the author will be donating the majority of the proceeds from the book to charities.