Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reacted angrily Tuesday to the publication of a new book, not vetted by the Pentagon, that reveals details of the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
While Panetta conceded "that the American people have a right to know about this operation," he said the book, written by a retired SEAL involved in the mission, put troops in future operations at risk.
Service members who were part of that operation had committed "themselves to the promise that they will not reveal the sensitive operations and not publish anything without bringing it through the Pentagon, so that we can ensure that it doesn't reveal sensitive information," said the Defense secretary in an interview with CBS News. "When they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise they made to this country."
Asked by correspondent Norah O'Donnell why he used the phrase "sensitive" rather than "classified," Panetta said. "There's always fine lines here.
"But even beyond that, the fact that he did it without running it by the Pentagon so that we could take a look at it ... that's a concern," Panetta continued.
"I cannot, as secretary, send a signal to SEALs who conduct those operations, 'Oh, you can conduct these operations and then go out and write a book about it ... and/or sell your story to The New York Times.' How the hell can we run sensitive operations here that go after enemies if people are allowed to do that?"
Panetta also warned that the man — who wrote the book under a pseudonym but whose identity was quickly revealed — might be in danger now.
"He was very much a part of the operation that got bin Laden," Panetta said. "There's no question that that should make him concerned, makes us concerned about his safety."
The secretary was visibly upset by the content of the book — and by O'Donnell's next question: whether it was "irresponsible" for the Pentagon not to have developed a contingency plan if the proposed billions in cuts to the defense budget as part of sequestration came to fruition.
"What's irresponsible is the fact that they've put these cuts into place and that they are failing to come up with the answer as to how to prevent this from happening," Panetta said. "They put a gun to their head. That's what a sequester was all about. They said, 'Let's put a gun to our head and if we don't do the right thing, we'll blow the heads off.' But the purpose was for Democrats and Republicans to do the right thing and prevent this from happening. That's what's irresponsible."