It only took one day for Fox News to identify the ex-Navy SEAL responsible for a new book on the death of Osama bin Laden. It took even less time for Al Qaeda-affiliated websites to begin distributing his name and image while calling for his "destruction."
As NBC News' Mike Brunker reports, "several militant Islamic websites" such as the Al-Fidaa forum, which Al Qaeda uses to distribute its propaganda, have been targeting Matt Bissonnette, the 36-year-old author of No Easy Day, a firsthand account of the killing of the Al Qaeda leader. The report mentions photographs of Bissonnette posted on the forum but is very slim on details. Reaching out to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors online jihadists, Richard Wachtel offered more details on how Bissonnette is being targeted.
One of the forums with Bissonnette's image is headlined "First Image of One of the Dogs Who Killed Bin Laden," according to MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor Project. It vowed that "We ask Allah to kill him sooner, not later." Another commenter said "Oh Allah, make him a living example, and let us witness his dark day." Other comments were of a similar nature asking Allah to claim vengeance for bin Laden's death.
Though it's not clear where the cyber jihadists originally surfaced an image of Bissonnette, they posted the same photo displayed by The New York Post and Business Insider, which published the photo immediately after Fox News disclosed the name. "We tracked down pictures of Bissonnette on PatriotFiles.com and Flickr," wrote BI's Geoffrey Ingersoll. Each organization has come under fire for disclosing identifying information about Bissonnette given the likelihood of violent reprisals.
In response, Fox News executive editor John Moody said, "Once you write a book, anonymously or not, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy." Others in the media defended the publication of Bissonnette's information as well, noting that he surrendered all anonymity when deciding to publish. "If you write a book about killing Osama bin Laden, the American public is going to want to know your name," wrote Politico's Dylan Byers. The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik had a different take: "I'll go one further on behalf of Fox and say that the cable channel served the interests of democracy by giving citizens more information about this sensitive and controversial publication. Really, I mean it, good for Fox."