"I haven't read the book and am unaware that anyone in the department has reviewed it," Pentagon press secretary George Little said. White House and CIA officials also said the book, which will have a major first-print run of 300,000 copies, had not been reviewed by their offices.
The book announcement comes just as a group of retired special operations and CIA officers have launched a campaign accusing President Obama of revealing classified details of the mission and turning the killing of bin Laden into a campaign centerpiece. The group complains that Obama has taken too much credit for the operation.
Their public complaints drew a rebuke from Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other special operations forces, who called the partisan criticism unprofessional.
The author of the bin Laden book, who has left the military, is using the pseudonym Mark Owen. In a news release from publisher Dutton, Owen describes the book as an effort to "set the record straight about one of the most important missions in U.S. military history."
He said the book was about "the guys" and the sacrifices that the special operations forces make to do the job and is written in the hope that it will inspire young men to become SEALs.
If the book sticks to his personal thoughts about the job and mission, Owen may be in the clear. But often special operations forces must sign nondisclosure pacts. And they are not allowed to release classified information, such as intelligence data or military tactics and procedures used to ensure success of the May 2011 raid.
Christine Ball, a spokeswoman for the Penguin imprint Dutton, said the work was vetted by a former special operations attorney provided by the author.
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. James Gregory, said that if the book reveals classified information about the raid, the Pentagon would "defer to the Department of Justice."
According to Pentagon rules, retired personnel, former employees, and non-active duty members of the Reserves "shall use the DoD security review process to ensure that information they submit for public release does not compromise national security."
If there is classified information in the book, the author could face criminal charges.