March 31, 2023

Media Decoder: Book Will Describe Raid That Killed Bin Laden

The day after, local residents and the news media gathered at the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed by United States forces.Aamir Qureshi/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesThe day after, local residents and the news media gathered at the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed by United States forces.

3:38 p.m. | Updated A detailed first-person account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, written under a pseudonym by a member of the Navy SEALs who participated in the mission and was present at bin Laden’s death, will be released next month, the publisher said on Wednesday.

The book, “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden,” which is scheduled to be released on Sept. 11, has been a tightly held secret at the publisher, Penguin. It promises to be one of the biggest books of the year, with the potential to affect the presidential campaign in the final weeks before the election.

The author’s name will be listed as Mark Owen by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin. For security reasons, he used a pseudonym and changed the names of other SEAL members.

A former member of SEAL Team 6, the author was a team leader in the operation that resulted in the death of Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011. According to a description of the book provided by the publisher, the author gives a “blow-by blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen’s life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death,” and is “an essential piece of modern history.”

Penguin officials would not say to what extent the book was vetted by government agencies. Colonel Tim Nye, the chief spokesman for the military’s Special Operations Command, said he would reserve comment until he had an opportunity to read the book.

The author also recalls his childhood in Alaska, his grueling preparation to become a member of the SEALs and other previously unreported SEAL missions. He completed 13 combat deployments since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and retired within the last year.

A co-writer, Kevin Maurer, is the author of four books and was embedded with Special Forces in Afghanistan six times.

The book could get caught up in the politically charged arena of the presidential campaign. That’s what happened with another planned narrative account of the raid, a film by Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty.” That film was originally scheduled for release in October, but was moved to December after Republicans said it would help dramatize one of the president’s signature achievements right before the election. The project also prompted complaints from some Republicans that the administration had provided improper access about the raid to the filmmakers, a charge the White House denied.

In August 2011, The New Yorker published an account of the raid that was so detailed it included information about what the pilot of a Black Hawk helicopter was thinking as the aircraft was on the verge of crashing. That article relied on interviews with officials who had debriefed members of the SEALs team, not with the individuals themselves.

Bookstores were first given a few clues about the book last month. One independent bookstore owner said in July that she was told only that Dutton had added a “big, major book” written by an anonymous author to its fall list.

Members of Dutton’s sales staff were given a detailed description of the book during a conference call with executives on Wednesday.

The publisher is expecting a major best seller, with a planned print run of 300,000 copies in hardcover, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Because the book is written under a pseudonym, the author will appear in disguise during television interviews to promote the book. At least one major network prime-time appearance has been planned, a person familiar with the plans said, and during interviews on television and radio, the author’s voice will be altered.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.

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Japan Weighs Nationalizing Stricken Utility

TOKYO — Japanese lawmakers publicly debated nationalizing Tokyo Electric Power Company on Tuesday, as there seemed no end in sight to the problems at the company’s crippled nuclear power plant.

The prime minister’s office said the government was not considering a takeover of Tokyo Electric “at the moment.” But the plunging stock price indicated investors were abandoning hope that the company could cope with the cost of its rebuilding and the still unfathomable potential liabilities from its nuclear disaster.

The share price plunged an additional 19 percent Tuesday with virtually no buyers, before activating an automatic stop.

The closing price of 566 yen, or $6.93, was the stock’s lowest close since at least 1974. The day before the March 11 earthquake, the shares had closed at 2,153 yen — or $26.36. The stock collapse has already erased more than 2.5 trillion yen ($30.61 billion) in market value.

“There’s room for debate on the future of Tokyo Electric,” Koichiro Gemba, a member of the lower house of Parliament, said at a news conference. Mr. Gemba represents Fukushima Prefecture, where Tokyo Electric’s damaged plant, Fukushima Daiichi, is located. He is also the national strategy minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Mr. Gemba spoke not long after the country’s largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, cited unidentified people as saying the government was considering a plan to temporarily acquire a majority stake in the company, help it shoulder the liabilities that are likely to be incurred from the nuclear accident, and then eventually take it private once again.

But fearing that a debate about the future of the company could create a divisive and costly distraction at a time of crisis, Mr. Kan and his chief spokesman, Yukio Edano, sought to tamp down the speculation.

“At the moment, the government is not considering” nationalization, Mr. Edano said Tuesday at a televised news conference. He added: “The first priority is the accident response. Then it needs to help those who’ve been affected.”

If the government were to acquire a majority stake, Tepco — as the company is known — would presumably issue new stock to the state, diluting existing shareholders.

The utility’s image has been hurt by the rolling blackouts it has instituted to cope with the loss of generating capacity after the earthquake and by the fact that its president, Masataka Shimizu, was invisible for several days after the quake. Tepco said Monday that Mr. Shimizu had been sick but had since returned to work.

Taxpayers outside the greater Tokyo area that the company serves are likely to balk at the cost of what could be seen as a bailout.

But with no end in sight to its nuclear problem, Tokyo Electric will have to lean on the state for support, analysts say.

“If you were the government, would you let it go bust?” said Paul J. Scalise, a former financial analyst who is writing a book on Japan’s electric power system. “I think the answer is no. The effect on the larger economy at a critical time would be too great.”

Estimates in the Japanese news media had already put the damage from the radiation leak to local homes, businesses and farms in the trillions of yen, even without knowing if anyone would suffer health damage. But it is impossible to calculate what the ultimate cost to the company will be. That is partly because the crisis appears to be far from over, and partly because it is not clear how much of the liability will actually be Tepco’s to bear.

Mr. Scalise said that under Japanese law governing compensation for nuclear damage, companies are liable for the cost of all nuclear accidents resulting from reactor operations except when the accidents are provoked by a “grave natural disaster of an exceptional nature or by an insurrection.” The company might plausibly seek to avoid liability altogether within that definition, he said.

Nicholas Benes, head of the Board Director Training Institute of Japan, said Tepco’s legal liability related to the Fukushima Daiichi plant would be covered by private and government insurance up to 120 billion yen, and even over that amount the government had wide latitude to provide financial assistance.

“I just don’t see the case for nationalization at this point,” Mr. Benes said. “Unless it’s for safety reasons — for example if you think the company is utterly incapable of managing itself. But even then you’d have to assume that a bunch of nuclear engineers put together hodge-podge by the government would do a better job than the company’s own management. I don’t think the bureaucrats possibly believe that, or would want the responsibility.”

He and others said that Mr. Kan might also prefer to keep the company at arm’s length to avoid having it serve as a lightning rod for criticism of his administration.

Kazuma Ogino and Toshihiro Uomoto, credit analysts at Nomura Securities, suggested in a report that what was under discussion might best be described as “a virtual nationalization,” in which the state would provide the company “with the means of paying compensation on almost all fronts.”

If the state is going to end up paying most of the cost anyway, they wrote, “it would make more sense to temporarily nationalize Tepco” to “move ahead with the recovery work, rather than just paying compensation.”

The decline in the stock does not immediately endanger Tepco’s survival, although its cost of capital is tied to its share price. Tepco is in negotiations for loans of as much as 2 trillion yen ($24.49 billion), a person close to potential lenders said last week.

In any case, Mr. Benes said it was probable that senior executives would be ousted if Tepco were nationalized or received some sort of government bailout. “It’s not necessarily an admission of fault or negligence,” he said. “It’s just what society demands, ritualistically, so as to move on.”

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