'No Easy Day' Debuts at No. 1 on Amazon Amid Continuing Controversy

Special Forces veterans challenge author Matt Bissonnette as early reviewers praise the book about the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Matt Bissonnette (writing under the pen name Mark Owen), a member of the elite SEAL Team 6 that killed the terrorist leader, debuted today at the top of Amazon’s sales charts, amid continuing controversy but generally positive reviews.

Bissonnette (in disguise to protect his identity) is scheduled to make his first television appearance promoting the book on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Sept. 9, in an interview with Scott Pelley.

A group of former Special Operations veterans (for example the Army’s Green Berets, Rangers and Delta Force, as well as the Navy’s SEALs) challenged Bissonnette’s reasons for writing the book in an instant ebook titled No Easy Op, which was released on Sept. 3.

No Easy Op claims Bissonnette wrote the book in retaliation for having been critized by his fellow SEALs for broaching the idea of retiring and starting a business.

The authors speculate that being ostracized by his fellow soldiers freed Bissonnette to justify to himself that it was okay to break the informal code of silence among Special Forces veterans.

The ebook also takes Bissonnette to task for failing to give the Pentagon an early copy of his book to vet.

Initial reviews for No Easy Day have been generally positive.  Publisher’s Weekly, offering one of the most critical takes, called the book “generalized and … scrubbed of “classified information” but authentic,” praising the “atmospheric details.” Overall, it found the book to be “not reflective.”

The New York Times said the book “gets off to a worrisomely formulaic start… but it quickly becomes an exciting, suspenseful account.”

The paper downplayed the revelations in the book, noting Bissonnette was “careful to avoid all but the most basic information about his SEAL experiences.”  His account of the exact manner of Bin Laden’s death “differs crucially but not materially” from the White House’s version and other accounts.

The Washington Post review by Peter Bergen, a veteran reporter who was the only journalist allowed inside Bin Laden’s compound before it was demolished, is more positive. 

While the early chapters “ably” take the reader through Bissonnette’s training and early SEAL days, the detailed account of the raid is a “roller-coaster ride” that does “not disappoint” readers.

Bergen specifically notes the extent to which No Easy Day undermines the account of the raid in last year’s bestselling SEAL Target Geronimo, by Chuck Pfarrer, another former SEAL, advising readers not to “waste your money” on that book.

The late August announcement by Dutton revealing No Easy Day less than a month before its scheduled Sept. 11 publication generated huge attention. Pre-orders immediately propelled the book to Amazon’s top spot. 

Dutton advanced the publication date by a week to Sept. 4 and increased the first printing from 200,000 copies to 575,000.

Fox News outed Owen as Bissonnette, a recently retired SEAL originally from Alaska. The Los Angeles Times noted he had also served as consultant for the newest version of the hit video game series Medal of Valor.

The Department of Defense sent Bissonnette a letter threatening to sue him for violating a military non-disclosure agreement.  Bissonette’s lawyer Robert Luskin, who represented Karl Rove for his role in the Valerie Plame leak, denied that his client had broken his NDA with the Pentagon.

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