The former US Navy Seal who wrote a soon-to-be-published book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden is now facing threats against his life in addition to possible criminal prosecution. An official al-Qa'ida website on Friday posted a photograph and the name of the former Navy commando responsible for the book, calling him "the dog who murdered the martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden".
The Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News made public on Thursday what it said was the real name of the former Seal who, with a journalist co-author, wrote No Easy Day, using the pseudonym Mark Owen. The book is due to be released next month on the anniversary of the 11 September attacks on the United States. By early on Friday, the man's name, photograph and age had been posted on the "the Al-Fidaa Islamic Network" online forum, one of two websites officially endorsed by al-Qa'ida, according to Evan Kohlmann, founder of the New York-based security firm Flashpoint Global Partners.
It was followed by comments that called for the man's death. The Navy Seal was also identified by other US media. Reuters has confirmed his name but is not publishing it, given concerns about his safety.
Mr Kohlmann said the former comando could now be in physical danger from al-Qa'ida sympathisers seeking revenge for Bin Laden's death, or hoping to gain prestige for themselves. "They have a photo of the individual, they have his name, his age," Mr Kohlmann said. "I wish that all this was bluster, but there are a lot of would-be jihadists out there, including some in North America. This is the ideal opportunity for those kind of people."
The book's publisher, Dutton, said the author was "one of the first men through the door on the third floor of the terrorist leader's hideout and was present at his death". It is not known whether No Easy Day contains details of commando operations that the US government considers secret, but Washington officials said the account had not been submitted for a required pre-publication review. "Even if there is nothing classified disclosed, it should have been reviewed, and it was not," said one official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The publisher has said the book had been vetted "for tactical, technical and procedural information as well as information that could be considered classified by compilation" by a former "special operations attorney". Jeffrey Carr, a cyber-security expert, said al-Qa'ida officials were adept at using the internet for recruitment, training and other searches, and he fully expected them to target the former Navy Seal now that his identity had been disclosed. "He's going to become the poster child for recruitment and assassination," Mr Carr said. He said the man's relatives and former Navy Seal colleagues could also be in danger if they could be traced through the internet.
US military officials have said the author could face investigation because he failed to clear the book with the Defense Department before publication, even if it does not disclose specific classified details. The head of US Special Operations Command told current and former troops that the military would take legal action against anyone found to have exposed sensitive information that could cause harm to US forces.