The US Navy has expanded an investigation into the bestselling author and former Navy SEAL commando who killed Osama bin Laden to determine if he illegally profited from his military service while on active duty, according to a published report.
Matthew Bissonnette, who wrote No Easy Day, a first-hand account of the 2011 bin Laden operation, was already being investigated by the US Department of Justice and the Navy for possible breaches of classified information.
But the Navy probe was expanded after Bissonnette turned over a computer hard drive containing an unauthorized photo of bin Laden's corpse. This was in exchange for an agreement that Bissonnette would not be prosecuted for unlawfully possessing classified information, two sources familiar with the probe told the Intercept.
But officials discovered details in emails and records on the hard drive concerning Bissonnette's work as a consultant while he was on active duty, allegedly including business ventures with military companies supplying products that were used by his unit, SEAL Team 6. Investigators are attempting to determine if the companies were helped by Bissonnette's role in the unit's procurement process, a source told the Intercept.
Element Group, a company Bissonnette helped set up in Virginia Beach about five years ago which has since been shut down, is among the companies the Navy Criminal Investigation Unit is reportedly examining. Element Group designed prototypes for, and advised, private companies that make sporting and tactical equipment and did business with at least one Defence Department contractor — Atlantic Diving Supply (ADS) — that had military supply and equipment contracts with SEAL Team 6, the Intercept reports.
"Biss was part of the procurement process," said a former SEAL Team 6 operator who has talked to investigators. "It was natural for him to deal with companies making our gear."
No Easy Day was published in 2012 shortly after Bissonnette was honourably discharged from the Navy. It broke a code of silence long honoured among members of military special forces. Bissonnette was fined $4.5m (£3.2m) for failure to get Defence Department clearance on his manuscript before it was published.
The Navy discovered Bissonnette organized a group of fellow SEAL Team 6 operators to consult for the video game Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and participated in the filming of promotional videos for the game in 2012, according to many former SEALs.
Bissonnette's attorney, Robert Luskin, said he negotiated the deal with the Pentagon in 2014 to turn over some of the former SEAL's millions in profits from Bissonnette's book and movie deals to the military. He said an earlier investigation into his client was closed August 2015, and he declined to comment on Intercept's report of an expanded probe.