The Deed is All, Not The Glory

These words hang on a sign at the back entrance of certain units within JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), which in itself explains the current problem and conflict created in the SEAL community. It’s likely why the SEAL Admiral and Master Chief sent out a stern letter seemingly directed at Matt Bissonette and Robert O’Neill with regards to their media blitz. I’ll explain the meaning of these words later.

This article represents my own opinions and in no way represents the Naval Special Warfare community. Hopefully, by reading the lines, and in between them, you can arrive at a better interpretation of the recent media drama surrounding “Who shot UBL?” and why Naval Special Warfare (NSW) leadership is rightfully upset.

Putting A Rumor To Bed

SOFREP’s contributing editors are comprised of former Special Operations veterans from US and Coalition units. By composition, we admittedly have a pro-SOF (Special Operations Forces) bias. It’s not our preference, nor is it in our best interests, to dig up dirt on SOF units or commands.

In the past, we’ve actually had some very positive exchanges with senior members of U.S. Special Operations Command (US SOCOM) about media-related issues. Before I turned over the Editor-in-Chief position to Jack Murphy, I did my best to warn them about bad things we heard on the street as it related to the main stream news press. And as much as we try to stay out of Special Ops drama, some topics become unavoidable, and sometimes Operators themselves from commands or units force our involvement.

Such is the case with Bissonette and O’Neill. We had no interest in outing Robert O’Neill, it was only after we learned he intended to come out on Fox news that one of our writers named him. We’ve known about him for a long time.

The editors of this website have heard other rumors floating around the Internet and not-so-secret SOF facebook pages regarding SOFREP’s involvement in the UBL and Team 6 drama. Some are outlandish, and some require a deeper look. We’ve heard, “SOFREP is writing a war crimes book”, “Brandon and Jack are trying to bring down ST6…” and many others.

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At the top of the list is a rumor perpetuated by Matt Bissonette himself. Bissonette made a public statement on his Instagram account that I was in fact responsible for his NCIS investigation. He even quotes mysterious sources in his post.

Matt Bissonette on 60 Minutes
Matt Bissonette (Courtesy CBS)

These are false statements. Why would Bissonette do this? Popular shows like True Detective and The Shield on TV, while fiction, do teach something about motive and consequence. Look at the situation closely, analyze the motives, and arrive at your own conclusions. To suggest that I or anyone on this site is responsible for Bissonette’s criminal investigation  is ludicrous.

During July of this year, our law firm confronted Bissonette’s Washington DC lawyer, Bob Luskin (his new attorney, his old one is being sued), when we learned that false statements were being made publicly by Bissonette. We formally asked that Matt stop, and we informed Mr. Luskin that two agents from NCIS had in fact contacted SOFREP (one from the financial crimes division). Our attorneys informed his lawyer that we declined to speak to either of the NCIS agents on the subject of his client Bissonette and his former command (commonly known as SEAL Team 6).

To my knowledge, Bissonette has stopped making false statements about myself but surely some damage has already been done. I’ve lost two close friends (and teammates) because of his false statements.

Why would someone like Bissonette do this? Is he hiding something else? Fear? Stress? Blaming others for his bad judgement? You’ll have to make up your own mind. In my opinion, it appears to be an attempt to shift blame and anger from his former teammates (they’re mad as hell) to SOFREP and me. Maybe it has worked partially, maybe not. Only time will tell and the gold bell will surely toll for Bissonette sooner or later.

Mark Owen/Matt Bissonette Instagram

Photo: Sourced from Mark Owen’s Instagram account (Matt Bissonette’s pen name)

Do I take some offense to Matt Bissonette and his comments? Yes, I guess I do.

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I was meritoriously promoted to E-6 at Naval Special Warfare Group One (NSWG-1), promoted to Chief Petty Officer the first time I was eligible for advancement, and then went on to be one of Naval Special Warfare Center’s Sniper Course Managers. I deployed four times to the Middle East and once to Afghanistan. I’ve fired my weapon in combat, called in airstrikes, put my own ass on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan, and done things post-military as a contractor working in Iraq which the general public will never know. Why regarding the latter? Because I signed a piece of paper that said I can’t talk about it, and I plan on keeping that commitment.

Yes, I’m a bit puzzled by Bissonette’s statements but it speaks to his character in my opinion, and the current situation he finds himself in.

When we were still friends, right before he left the Navy, he called me on the phone to ask me how much money he could get for a book. “How much do you think I can I get for my story?”, he said. There was no mention of money going to charity. I was standing outside one of my favorite Manhattan restaurants, La Esquina and remember it as if it happened yesterday. I had no idea he was going to write about the UBL raid and not get it cleared through official channels. I’ve never told anyone this until now. It was on my antiquated AT&T iPhone 4 and the cell records are all there, the call is well documented.

Making false statements and slandering someone on an Instagram account doesn’t reflect well on Bissonette and opens him up to further liability. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on the broader SEAL community, who are associated with him by proxy.

After SOFREP reported on O’Neill’s coming out party (don’t shoot the messenger) on Fox news, SOFREP opted out of the  UBL “Shooter” drama. The staff has turned down over 40 TV interview requests from the likes of NBC’s Today Show to Fox News. The question we routinely ask ourselves as contributing editors of SOFREP is, “Would participating in this network news TV segment represent ourselves and the SOF community in a positive way?” We said “no” to the UBL Shooter drama and opted out.

But the following frenzy on Bissonette’s second 60 minutes appearance and the O’Neill appearances have painted us into a corner of response.

Three Reasons Why SEAL Leaders Are Upset at O’Neill & Bissonnette

I believe it’s important for history’s sake to record personal stories and interpretations of significant events. Veterans write books for many reasons and motives. I made a personal decision to end my career early to spend more time with my children, and decided to write a memoir so my kids would have something to look back on later in life. Hopefully, my book explains to them who Dad is and why I was away for the first parts of their lives. My oldest son was born November 30th 2001 while I was deployed to Afghanistan with SEAL Team 3 ECHO platoon.

So that said, write it down, participate in a documentary, film project or video game, or talk about it on TV. Exercise your Constitutional rights (if any have earned that, it’s a combat veteran) however, don’t break the law in the process.

It’s also important to represent yourself in a professional manner, keep your integrity intact, and honor the commitments you’ve made to America, its citizens, and your teammates. If there’s any doubt, anything at all, get it cleared by the government; many former CIA personnel do this. The submittal process within the Department of Defense is well-known and relatively easy for former Operators.

Robert O'Neill Fox News
Robert O’Neill (Courtesy Fox News)

Also, it doesn’t matter if other people, especially some politicians in Washington, don’t hold the same ethic. In the SEAL community, trust is incredibly important, your word is your bond, and you earn your Trident (SEAL pin) everyday.

1.The Deed is All, Not The Glory: This is an ethos that hangs on signs in of many units within JSOC. It addresses Fame (seeking recognition at the sake of the command or unit), Fortune (seeking to profit off of the command or unit’s actions), and Ego (using team or unit accomplishments to inflate your own self importance).

2. Potential Classified Information Disclosures: This is serious. Even the slightest hint has the potential to compromise people, and in worst-case scenarios it gets them killed.

You can say, “POTUS said this and POTUS said that,” but you and I don’t know what was or was not classified. The President is the Commander in Chief. SEAL leadership, and the Pentagon for that matter, can’t have personnel entrusted with SECRET or TOP SECRET security clearances, who are “read on” to Special Access Programs (SAP), openly talking about things that shouldn’t be talked about.

If you are read on to a SAP, then you can’t talk about it, period. All evidence that I’m aware of points to the UBL mission as being a compartmentalized Special Access Program. It doesn’t matter what the President or his staff said in this instance – two wrongs don’t make a right. Ask yourself this question. Do you want exemplary behavior within the SOF community or do you want them to measure themselves with the same yard stick used to measure some politicians and their poor behavior?

3. Overexposure in the MediaPublishing a book about the UBL raid so soon after, and coming out to openly talk to the press about the mission has created a media frenzy that comes with unexpected consequences. It also has investigative journalists looking for really bad stuff and Hollywood clamoring to grab whatever they can of the SEAL brand.

Burning In The Media

Fanning the media fire further are the inconsistencies in the UBL story as told by Bissonette and O’Neill, this make matters even worse. This turns an honorable and historically significant operation into a circus sideshow. Both Bissonette and O’Neill have conflicting narratives, and while no two people experience events alike, there are fundamental inconsistencies with their two stories.

This means only on thing – someone isn’t telling the truth.

“Two of my buddies gave every single one of their tomorrows so I could have a today, and you’re going to put a medal around my neck? I struggled with that. I worry about these gentlemen. I worry this is becoming a slippery slope and it puts them in danger. The enemies will learn and will be better prepared.”

-Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta when recently asked about O’Neill and other members of SEAL Team 6 who have spoken openly about the UBL mission.

And the media brush fire rages.

My Own Conclusions

With regards to O’Neill’s account. Common sense has me scratching my head at how someone (the point man in his story), that well trained, would drop cover on a male threat the point man actively engaged (with his weapon) with no follow up. Unless the point man was confident that the threat was neutralized from the shots he fired to the head (the only exposed part he had to engage).

Also, why was anyone in a rush to assault the top floor with only a couple of assaulters? The third floor had the most time to prepare a defense once the bottom floors were cleared, and seems like it would warrant more support. And again, why would O’Neill engage UBL point blank in the face, after visually identifying him, when SOFREP has heard from insiders (and a few bar girls in Virginia Beach apparently) that the mission brief was to NOT shoot UBL in the head in order to preserve facial recognition.

“But upon his return stateside, O’Neill identified himself as the trigger-man to members of the public while drinking in some favorite SEAL bars in Virginia Beach, VA. (This account was independently verified by a second source.) O’Neill’s behavior prompted his superiors to counsel him that the operation was classified, the former official said.” –The Daily Beast

This is where I side with Bissonette’s narrative, which supports that the point man took the deadly head shots that left UBL dead. It is said that the point man took his initial shots at his target’s head, which was the only presentable threat to engage (again a head shot) was popping out. He most likely unknowingly killed UBL, and then moved on to the women, knowing that his threat had been neutralized.

Is somebody likely not being entirely truthful? Why? What are the motives? Arrive at your own conclusions.

Will we ever know what happened that night? Unlikely.

Should we? Probably not.

One thing is for sure, everyone who served in a US or Coalition Military unit since September 11th, 2001 had a hand in sending UBL straight to Hell that night. They’re all my heroes and all contributed in some way.

Some gave all.

Summary

US SOCOM and the Naval Special Warfare Command (WARCOM) are comprised of exemplary individuals who take their commitments and responsibilities to America, its citizens, and their teammates seriously.

I’m sure reigning in social media participation amongst active duty SEAL members, stricter language around post career writing, and clearer rules are coming, and this is good. The community would also be wise to engage, not isolate, the large veteran SEAL community.

As for the rumors floating out there among my fellow SEALs I’ll say this: I’d be less concerned with rumors and more concerned with concrete facts as it relates to the NCIS criminal allegations against Bissonette. SOFREP declined to speak with NCIS and we’re going on record and putting this in writing for a reason.

I’m proud to have been associated with the incredible men and women who make up SOCOM and the SEALs. It’s a sad day to see this unfold the way it has, to see our small community being torn to shreds in the press. However, I believe that SOCOM, JSOC, and WARCOM will become stronger as a result. It’s what good men and good leadership do.

And for the two individuals, Matt Bissonette, and Robert O’Neill apparently seeking fortune, and fame with regards to the UBL spotlight? I have only to point to a small wooden sign hung over a back door entrance to a place most people will never go or see, which has the following words burned into it:

The Deed is All, Not The Glory

Editors note: This post was modified slightly from its original published format.