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Should 60 Minutes have pressed ex-Navy SEAL more on writing book about killing Bin Laden?



60_minutes_mark_owens_620_120909.jpgThe 60 Minutes interview Sunday with "Mark Owen," the retired Navy SEAL who wrote a book about the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, was the best kind of newsmagazine television.

Exciting, revelatory, newsworthy and exclusive, it was an hourlong look at the mission which resulted in the shooting of America's Number One terrorist enemy, complete with a detailed model of Bin Laden's compound and special makeup used to disguise the appearance of the author, who was only referred to on the show by his pseudonym.

But I left Sunday's 60 Minutes segment feeling a little uneasy about one aspect of the story -- how hard the show worked to challenge Owen's explanation for writing the book, which loosely describes the training schedule and tactics of a group so secret, no one lacking security clearance is even supposed to know their names.

In particular, I was surprised that anchor Scott Pelley didn't ask the author two simple questions: Why didn't you submit the book to the military for prior approval before its publication? And how do you know that you're not revealing classified information in describing how the assault occurred?

There are probably good answers to these questions. We may even hear them in the public space, depending on how intent the government may be in seeking redress for the author's actions, which it maintain has revealed "sensitive and classified" information.

But I wonder if Pelley couldn't have pressed "Mark Owen" further. Is it really fair to say he hasn't given away tactics, when he has revealed how long they trained, where they trained, the original planned sequence for taking the compound and the improvised sequence they employed when one of the helicopters crashed?

Pelley seemed to take the author's word that his fellow SEALs aren't upset about the book, though a fairly sympathetic e-book written by other Special Operations veterans said the former SEAL may have also been upset about being pushed out of SEAL Team 6 after expressing interest in leaving the Navy and starting a business. 

The Sunday interview was an exclusive that CBS has been touting for many days, kicked off by an excerpt aired during the CBS Evening News when the show was in Tampa for the RNC.

And while I acknowledge I'm picking a few nits here, I do wonder if the show challenged parts of this story strongly enough -- especially given that they had an exclusive centered on one of the hottest books of the year. 



[Last modified: Sunday, September 9, 2012 9:52pm]


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