WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon formally warned a former Navy SEAL who has written a first-person account of the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden that he has violated his signed agreement not to divulge classified information, and threatened him with legal action.
“In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed,” Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson said Thursday in a letter addressed to Mark Owen, the pen name of author Matt Bissonnette.
The letter says the Pentagon is considering "all legal remedies available to us." Officials said they could include a lawsuit aimed at claiming profit from Bissonnette's book, "No Easy Day." Due to be released next week, it is already on bestseller lists.
Bissonnette did not submit the book to the Pentagon to undergo a review for classified information, even though the requirement to do so was contained in a non-disclosure agreement he signed in 2007, Johnson said in the letter.
The account is the first by a member of SEAL Team Six, which carried out the stealthy nighttime assault on Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Johnson did not specify what information in the book constitutes improperly disclosed classified information. The book, a copy of which was provided to The Times by the publisher, offers a detailed account of the raid and of the killing of Bin Laden.
Many of the details have already been made public, including in accounts provided by senior White House officials.
In an author’s note in the book, Bissonnette said that “all of the material contained within this book is derived from unclassified publications and sources,” and a list of sources is printed at the end of the volume.
He also says he hired a former Special Operations attorney to review the manuscript for classified information. But Bissonnette and his coauthor, Kevin Maurer, at times provide specific descriptions of tactics, planning and meetings that appear likely to involve classified information.
-- David S. Cloud
Photo: A book cover image released by Dutton shows "No Easy Day" by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer.