The former Navy SEAL who co-authored a controversial first-person book about the raid to kill Osama bin Laden promised to donate most of his earnings to charity. But at least one nonprofit wants nothing to do with it.
The Navy SEAL Foundation says it will not accept any donations generated by the memoir, "No Easy Day," which the Pentagon says likely contains classified information that could put military personnel at risk.
The book quickly climbed to the top of best-seller lists after it hit shelves Tuesday.
In a statement posted on its website Wednesday afternoon, the Navy SEAL Foundation said it "is committed to providing immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families. With this principled mission in mind, the Foundation will not be accepting any donations that are generated from the book or any related activities."
The Virginia Beach-based charity took in more than $6.5 million in 2010, according to tax filings, and reported a surge of donations in 2011 after the bin Laden mission. Jim Smith, the foundation's executive director, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment Wednesday evening.
The Department of Defense has threatened legal action against ex-SEAL Matt Bissonnette, who, with the help of a journalist co-author, penned the book under the pseudonym Mark Owen. A Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday that the book included sensitive information and that its release was "a material breach of nondisclosure agreements."
The book offers a blow-by-blow account of the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and the events leading up to it. Bissonnette, 36, was among the commandos in the room when bin Laden was killed and describes the scene in gritty detail.
After a point man shot the al-Qaida leader in the head, Bissonnette and another SEAL trained assault rifles on him and fired a few rounds into his chest. "The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless," he wrote.
The book's release has generated mixed reactions within the close-knit and highly secretive SEAL community, which was thrust into the spotlight after the bin Laden mission.
The Navy SEAL Foundation is among a few groups identified in the book as charities that Bissonnette supports. No other group has stated plans to reject donations.
Christina Valentine, director of the Beach-based All in All the Time Foundation, another SEAL charity listed in the book, said her board hasn't yet decided how to proceed.
Valentine started the fund after her SEAL husband, Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Valentine, died in a parachuting accident in 2008. Valentine has been out of the country and hasn't had a chance to read the book, she said.
"I need to sit here and really mull it over," she said. "I don't want to judge anybody or make an uninformed comment. I wonder how many people out there haven't read the book and are making a statement?"
Mike Hixenbaugh, 757-446-2949, firstname.lastname@example.org