There’s more trouble ahead for the US Navy SEAL behind the controversial account of the Bin Laden raid, “No Easy Day,” recently revealed to be retired commando Matt Bissonnette.
In a letter obtained by Reuters, the Pentagon warned Bissonnette it was considering legal action for breach of non-disclosure agreements in his first-hand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden – and hinted that the government may seize the book’s royalties.
“You are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed,” said the letter from Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson, according to Reuters. “The Department of Defense is considering pursuing against you and all those acting in concert with you, all remedies legally available to us in light of this situation.”
The letter was addressed to “Mark Owen,” the pseudonym under which Bissonnette wrote. His identity was revealed by Fox News and confirmed by Reuters soon after the book was announced.
The Obama administration and Pentagon officials have said they were surprised by the announcement of “No Easy Day,” and had no prior knowledge of it. Early reviews suggest Bissonnette’s account in the book contradicts previous accounts by White House officials, particularly as to whether Osama bin Laden presented a threat when SEALs first fired at him. The differing accounts could potentially raise a public relations nightmare for administration officials.
According to the terms of Bissonnette’s non-disclosure agreements, he would have to submit any manuscript for pre-publication review and obtain permission before publishing it, according to the letter obtained by Reuters. The book was not vetted by government agencies prior to publication. Disclosure of classified information is a crime and the US government may be entitled to all “royalties, remunerations, and emoluments” from Bissonnette’s disclosures, the letter warned.
“The letter did not say what classified information the book revealed but the book says an unarmed bin Laden was looking out from his bedroom door when he was shot in the head during the May 2011 raid on his hide-out in Pakistan,” Reuters reported.
(Reuters is also reporting that – in addition to possible legal troubles with the US government – Bissonnette also faces threats against his life, as an al Qaeda website last week posted his name and photograph, calling him "the dog who murdered the martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden.")
“No Easy Day” has stirred a media controversy in recent weeks, with many in the White House, Defense Department, and Special Operations community expressing unhappiness with the book and the attention it has received.
For his part, Bissonnette said in a statement released through his publisher that the first-hand account was written “with respect for my fellow service members while adhering to my strict desire not to disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way.”
Earlier the Navy SEAL said he hopes to give a majority of the book’s proceeds to military support groups.
At this point, it’s unclear if he’ll see any of those royalties.