Asked in a network interview if he thinks the writer should be prosecuted, Panetta replied, "I think we have to take steps to make clear to him and to the American people that we're not going to accept this kind of behavior."
Panetta was referring to the newly published account of the U.S. SEAL raid that led to bin Laden's killing in May 2011 in Pakistan. The book was written by a retired SEAL under the pseudonym of Mark 0wen. He was subsequently identified in media accounts as Matt Bissonnette.
In the interview, broadcast Tuesday on "CBS This Morning," Panetta told co-host Norah O'Donnell that if the Defense Department failed to take any action in response to the book, "then everybody else who pledges to ensure that that doesn't happen is gonna get the long signal, that somehow they can do it without any penalty to be paid."
Asked if the revelations could put future such operations at risk, Panetta said, "I think when someone who signs an obligation that he will not reveal the secrets of this kind of operation, and then does that and doesn't abide by the rules, that when he reveals that kind of information, it does indeed jeopardize operations and the lives of others that are involved in those operations."
The secretary stopped short of accusing the author of revealing classified information, but said Pentagon officials "are currently reviewing that book to determine exactly, you know, what is classified and what isn't, and where those lines are."
Panetta said the book, which went on sale this week, raises troubling national security questions.
"Well, I think when somebody talks about the particulars of how those operations are conducted, it tells our enemies, essentially, how we operate and what we do to go after them," he said.