A classified photo of Osama bin Laden's corpse was allegedly in the possession of a former Navy SEAL involved in the 2011 operation to kill the al Qaeda founder, reported the Intercept on Tuesday. Matthew Bissonnette, who wrote a best-selling book about the mission, is under investigation for unlawfully retaining the unauthorized material.
Bissonnette allegedly surrendered a hard drive with the photo to investigators under the terms that he would not be prosecuted, according to the report. The federal government has sealed photos of bin Laden's corpse from being released out of fear of a backlash. In 2013, a federal appeals court ruled that the CIA does not have to make the photos public of bin Laden, who was buried at sea.
"[T]his is not a case in which the declarants are making predictions about the consequences of releasing just any images. Rather, they are predicting the consequences of releasing an extraordinary set of images, ones that depict American military personnel burying the founder and leader of al Qaeda," the unanimous panel ruled.
Robert Luskin, who represents Bissonenette, confirmed there was probe at one time surrounding the former Navy SEAL, but did not say whether it involved an unauthorized photo of bin Laden.
“I can confirm that the criminal investigation of Mr. Bissonnette for alleged wrongful handling or disclosure of classified information was closed through declination by the DOJ in August 2015,” Luksin told the Intercept.
Bissonette, who is the author of "No Easy Day," was the subject of a criminal investigation involving the bin Laden raid after the first-hand account of the raid was published in 2012. The investigation resulted in a fine of $4.5 million to the Pentagon for publishing the novel without clearance from the government, according to the New York Daily News. The probe also looked into whether his paid speeches revealed classified information, reported the New York Times. His second novel, "No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy SEAL" was released in 2014 after undergoing review from the Justice Department.
— Matthew Cole (@matthewacole) January 19, 2016
Luskin told the New York Times that Bissonette's decision to publish the book came after the release of the movie "Zero Dark Thirty," which depicted the raid.
“Matt’s view was: ‘Wait a minute. This is our story, not their story,’” Luskin said. “And why should that story be told through the mouths of others?”