I am sure Fox News will take some flak for naming the Navy SEAL who wrote about the killing of Osama bin Laden under a pseudonym.
It's already getting pretty heavy on Twitter following a tweet from Richard Engel, NBC's foreign correspondent, saying: "Al qaeda supporters in chat rooms call for death of Navy SEAL author."
But there is no legitimate journalistic controversy here -- at least, insofar as it involves Fox revealing that the former Navy SEAL who wrote the book "No Easy Day" under the pseudonym Mark Owen is 36-year-old Matt Bissonnette.
Despite the publisher, Dutton, putting out a disingenuous release saying essentially that anyone who publishes the author's name bears moral responsibility for any harm who comes to him, the truth is exactly what Fox has said in its defense: Anyone who writes such a book has no reasonable expectation of privacy.
Here's that statement from Dutton:
Mark Owen, like every SEAL he has served with, has put his life on the line time and again for his country for more than a decade. Sharing the true story of his personal experience in “No Easy Day” is a courageous act in the face of obvious risks to his personal security. That personal security is the sole reason the book is being published under a pseudonym. We respectfully request that all news organizations and all Americans consider these facts when deciding whether to pursue or publicize his real identity.
I'll go one further on behalf of Fox and say that the cable channel served the interests of democracy by giving citizens more information about this sensitive and controversial publication. Really, I mean it, good for Fox.
And shame on publishers like Dutton, an imprint of the Penguin Group, that try to profit off such enterprises while keeping key facts like the author's identity from the public. How can we judge the information in this book if we don't even know who the author is? The information in this book has the potential to shape and inflame public opinion. We need all the information the press can provide in order to judge such content.
Before anyone tries to beat Fox over the head with his or her righteousness stick, they need to ask themselves whether they are doing it because they despise Fox for its many other journalistic sins, or that they really believe the network did something wrong in providing us with the name of the person who is revealing national security information that the publisher wants us to believe is highly sensitive and exclusive information.
Pseudonyms and journalism do not mix. Pseudonyms are about secrecy. Why should a big commercial publishing house that exists first and foremost to make money know who wrote the book, but not the American people? I hate that mentality among some in the so-called media elite.
On the other hand, I have such low regard for Fox, that I did not trust its information on Bissonnette one bit until the AP confirmed it.
"The Navy SEAL who wrote an account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden under a pseudonym was identified Thursday as Matt Bissonnette, who retired from the Navy last summer," Kimberly Dozier, the former CBS News correspondent who is now a reporter covering national security for AP, writes.
I trust Dozier and AP as I trust no one at Fox. Here's more of what she wrote in her AP account:
Bissonnette was first identified by Fox News. One current and one former U.S. military official confirmed the name, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss military personnel matters.
The book, "No Easy Day," is scheduled to be released Sept. 11, with the author listed under the pseudonym of Mark Owen. Penguin Group (USA)'s Dutton imprint, the publisher, asked news organizations Thursday to withhold his identity.
... Bissonnette also changed the names of the other SEALs in the account, the publisher says.