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Special ops brace for release of tell-all book

 

The military's U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is bracing for a new book about its most secretive units, sending out warning letters to special-forces operators ahead of the book's Tuesday release, according to its author.

The letters are being sent to everyone whose names appeared in the book, titled "Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command," its author Sean Naylor told a small group of journalists on Monday in advance of the book's release.

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The letters warn special operators that they may come under public scrutiny or be contacted by media, and are offered resources on how to deal with the response, said Naylor, a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

They are also "reminded not to talk about the content of the book in any way, shape or form," he added.

Naylor said he's been told that Fort Bragg, where the U.S. Army's Special Operations Forces is headquartered, "is going ape shit over your book."

In response to a query about whether the letters exist, the Special Operations Command told The Hill, "In general, USSOCOM reminded its personnel that they must follow the same protocols that govern sensitive material regardless of whether or not the information has been publicly released, and they are still bound by any nondisclosure agreements they signed."

"Aside from that, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further until we have had the opportunity to fully review the book," added Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt, the chief of media, plans and operations for USSOCOM.

Naylor, who previously covered special operations forces for Army Times, said he was not passed any classified documents for the book, or to his knowledge, given any classified information.

Nonetheless, the book has garnered the attention of top Pentagon leadership, which has struggled to keep a lid on information of special operations forces at a time when more operators have written books or spoken out about their experiences.

Many blame administration officials for first selectively condoning some movies or allowing defense officials to speak off the record or on background about high-profile operations.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter became the latest Pentagon official to issue a warning on Friday.

“Obviously, it’s not up to any individual who is entrusted with national security secrets to disclose them ... and especially when it would affect the ability to protect our people and our country, our compromised secrets," Carter told Defense One on Friday, when asked about the book.

The book's subject, Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, is a subdivision of USSOCOM made up of Navy SEALs, Delta Force and other special operators, tasked with the most secret and sensitive of missions, such as the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Naylor's book credits "SEAL Team 6 sources" for providing information about the 2011 Osama bin Laden raid, and also details other special operations missions. 

Naylor said he spoke to a "wide spectrum" of sources across the special operations community — and not any one rank or level in particular.

He said their attitudes ranged from "very nervous" to "not nervous at all." He also said he took measures to obscure sources' identities, and would never intentionally put them at risk. 

Naylor said sources talked to him for the book not because they wanted to disclose secrets, but out of a sense that "my guys or my buddies deserve recognition." 

Naylor said the book's release should be no surprise to USSOCOM; he said he reached out to the command years ago, and offered them the opportunity to weigh in or cooperate on the book, but they politely declined. 

"[They] painted themselves in a corner," he said. 

 Naylor said USSOCOM's stance on not releasing any information on JSOC "is no longer realistic."

More information about the secretive unit is necessary for oversight, he said, due to the sheer amount that JSOC has grown over the last couple of decades and the increasing importance of the unit as the counterterrorism mission has expanded during that time. 

Those who believe in "keeping everything under wraps" and "stiff arming people who ask about JSOC" are "fighting a losing battle," Naylor insisted.