On Wednesday, Fox News announced it planned to reveal the identity of the Navy SEAL who shot Osama Bin Laden in a documentary set to air this month.
But in a statement issued to Business Insider, the Pentagon stressed that anyone who participated in the 2011 operation that left the Al Qaeda leader dead was “still bound” by a “non-disclosure agreement to not discuss classified information, especially in a nationally televised interview.”
This seems to indicate the SEAL could face a criminal investigation for participating in the documentary.
The statement came from Navy Commander Amy Derrick-Frost, a Defense Department spokeswoman, who said the military had not confirmed that the person participating in the Fox News documentary was indeed the SEAL who fired the fatal shot at Bin Laden.
However, Derrick-Frost spoke generally about whether that person would be allowed to discuss the operation on TV. She began by noting that all members of the military would sign nondisclosure agreements.
“As a private citizen, former or retired service members are free to speak with the media and exercise their First Amendment rights,” Derrick-Frost told Business Insider. “However, it is important for all former service members to adhere to their signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) when they seek to openly discuss classified or sensitive information, or make claims about their active duty operations or accomplishments.
“NDAs are voluntarily executed by service members. After a thorough briefing on the NDA and what each paragraph contains, the service member is aware that his/her signature signifies their understanding and intent to comply with the lifelong obligation for protecting National Defense Information.”
Derrick-Frost went on to remind the “individual” involved in the Fox News documentary that he would still be “bound” by this NDA.
“If in fact this individual was associated with the military unit that carried out the UBL raid, which is yet to be determined, he is still bound by his non-disclosure agreement to not discuss classified information, especially in a nationally televised interview,” Derrick-Frost said.
This is not the first time someone who claimed to have been involved in the raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan has spoken publicly about the operation. In 2012, ex-Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette released a book about the raid. Earlier this summer, the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into whether he leaked classified material.
Derrick-Frost concluded her statement on the Fox News documentary by encouraging any former SEAL to be discreet about his past work.
“Navy SEALs continue to serve and fight bravely around the world, accomplishing critical missions that keep our nation safe. The major details of the bin Laden mission are well known, many of them a matter of public record,” she said. “We urge any former SEAL to abide by the SEAL Ethos, particularly the core tenant, ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.'”
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether it was concerned the person in their documentary may have violated an NDA.