Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Mark Wilson/AP

Panetta: Ex-SEAL’s bin Laden book jeopardizes Defense operations

The Defense Secretary speaks frankly on CBS' This Morning.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had harsh words on Tuesday for the ex-Navy SEAL whose new book details the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, saying that the author is jeopardizing sensitive defense operations and the safety of his fellow Navy SEALs.

Panetta said in an interview that aired on CBS’ This Morning that, although people have a right to know about the operation, the Pentagon must ensure the security of its operations and the safety of its personnel.

“How the hell can we run sensitive operations here that go after our enemies if people are allowed to [reveal sensitive information]?” Pannetta said. “When somebody talks about the particulars of how those operations are conducted, what that does is it tells our enemies essentially how we operate and what we do to go after them, and when you do that, you tip them off.”

Panetta distinguished between “sensitive” and “classified” information, and said the Pentagon is still reviewing the book to see if any classified information was revealed.

Panetta stopped short of saying that he wants to prosecute the retired Navy SEAL, although he said the Pentagon needs to “take steps” to make clear that his behavior was unacceptable.

“If we don’t, then everybody else who pledges to ensure that this doesn’t happen is going to get the wrong signal that somehow they can do it without any penalty,” Panetta said. 

Panetta also expressed frustration about the looming mandatory cuts to defense spending scheduled to go into effect as part of the bipartisan deal reached on debt reduction last summer. He called the defense sequester “irresponsible.”

“They said let’s put a gun to our head and if we don’t do the right thing, we’ll blow our heads off," Panetta said. "But the purpose was for Democrats and Republicans to do the right thing and prevent this from happening. That’s what’s irresponsible.” 

NEXT STORY: Documents disclose 9/11 warnings