An al Qaeda-linked website has posted a call for the killing of Matthew Bissonnette, the retired Navy SEAL Team 6 member who wrote a book about his role in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. Bissonnette wrote under a pseudonym, but was identified last week by Fox News. And the possibility that terrorists might come after him is just one of his worries when No Easy Day, his firsthand account of the raid on bin Laden's Pakistan hideout, hits shelves on Sept. 11. Here, a guide to Bissonnette's rough road ahead:
Who is making this death threat?
The Al-Fidaa Islamic Network, an online forum that is one of two websites officially endorsed by al Qaeda, posted a picture of Bissonnette, who wrote under the name "Mark Owen." The site identifies the former U.S. commando by his real name, calling him "the dog who murdered the martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden." Al-Fidaa said jihadist "lion's cubs" were waiting for their chance to destroy Bissonnette. Commenters beseeched God to make an example of him, as well as the other SEALs who participated in the mission. "O' Allah," one commenter wrote, "kill every one of them."
Is Bissonnette worried?
If he is, he's not showing it. If anything, Bissonnette, who hasn't commented publicly, appears to be doubling down. On Sunday, he met with director Steven Spielberg to discuss making a movie about his story. He also has reportedly met with HBO co-president Richard Plepler. But Evan Kohlmann, founder of the New York-based security firm Flashpoint Global Partners, says it would be foolhardy of Bissonnette not to take this threat seriously. "I wish that all this was bluster, but there are a lot of would-be jihadists out there, including some in North America," Kohlmann tells Britain's Daily Mail. "This is the ideal opportunity for those kind of people."
Does Bissonnette really have something to fear?
Yes, according to other counterterrorism experts who concur with Kohlmann. Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity expert, said al Qaeda would probably use Bissonnette to woo young Islamists. "He's going to become the poster child for recruitment and assassination," Carr tells the Daily Mail. And revenge attacks aren't the only potential trouble Bissonnette faces.
What else should he be worried about?
Jail. Navy SEALs conduct clandestine missions all over the world, often with national security hanging in the balance, so the Pentagon insists that they sign a non-disclosure agreement binding them to secrecy even after they leave the service. SEALs who wish to write about their experiences are obligated by law to let military officials vet their texts to make sure they don't spill any sensitive secrets. Bissonnette's publisher — Dutton, an imprint of Penguin — had a former special forces lawyer go over his book, but didn't give the Pentagon an advance look. But current and former special operations personnel "have a moral obligation, and a legal duty," to submit their books for a pre-publication security review, says Admiral Bill McRaven, and they face criminal prosecution if they publish sensitive classified information anyway.