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DoD rules for buying, discussing ‘No Easy Day'

Sep. 30, 2012 - 10:17AM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 30, 2012 - 10:17AM  |  
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The Defense Department released a memo detailing how employees should handle the classified material in "No Easy Day," a former SEAL's account of the bin Laden raid.
The Defense Department released a memo detailing how employees should handle the classified material in "No Easy Day," a former SEAL's account of the bin Laden raid. (Dutton via the AP)
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There has been much controversy surrounding "No Easy Day," a former Navy SEAL's first-person account of the Osama bin Laden raid. Defense Department officials say the book, written under a pseudonym by 14-year combat vet Matt Bissonnette, contains classified and sensitive unclassified information. The author disputes the claim.

Making matters worse, DoD says Bissonnette violated nondisclosure agreements by failing to allow military officials to review his book before publication.

So what does this mean for you? Can you still read the book? Can you get in trouble for carrying it on base?

To answer those and other questions, DoD released a list of rules in a Sept. 20 memo providing "Official DoD guidance concerning the book, ‘No Easy Day.'"

DoD says you are free to purchase and read the book.

Further, there are no rules when it comes to handling the book. The memo specifically states you don't have to store or transport it as you would other classified information — for now. The memo says this could change if and when DoD identifies classified statements within the book.

The biggest restriction is what you can say about the book to others.

Personnel "shall not discuss potentially classified and sensitive unclassified information with persons who do not have an official need to know and an appropriate security clearance," states the memo, written by Timothy Davis, the DoD's director of security.

The DoD hasn't specified what parts of the book are classified. And it doesn't want anyone else to do so, either.

People who have firsthand knowledge of classified parts of the book, or think they may know what portions are classified or sensitive information, should not discuss the matter outside official channels. Official channels include your chain of command, public affairs or security, according to the memo.

The apparent strategy: Keep those who don't know guessing.

The memo specifically warns troops not to discuss classified and sensitive unclassified portions of the book on social networking websites or on nonsecure government computer networks.

This isn't the first time DoD has worried about the mass publication of sensitive material, but this is one of the more relaxed approaches.

In 2010, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer wrote "Operation Dark Heart" about his time in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer. Just before it hit bookstores, the Army stepped in. The publisher withdrew books and agreed to reprint them after the Army had the chance to edit out sensitive information. In December 2010, after WikiLeaks released thousands of government documents, DoD told employees and contractors not to read the documents on either government or personal computers.

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