The federal government has settled its lawsuit against former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette (aka “Mark Owen”), a participant in the SEAL Team Six raid that killed Osama bin Laden and author of the book No Easy Day that described his experience.
The Justice Department is dropping the charges that Bissonnett’s book revealed classified information, but they are still exacting over $6.6 million from the author for his failure to secure the Pentagon’s approval before publishing his book.
“After the initial accusations of me leaking all that classified stuff… they found nothing,” Bissonnette told The Daily Beast. “They were just upset with me and wanted to get me one way or another. For four years, they looked into every little thing. Now… one signature and it all goes away,” he said.
“That’s the dog that didn’t bark,” Bissonnette’s Washington, D.C.-based litigator, Robert Luskin, confirmed to The Daily Beast. “When they heard him out and they made an extensive review of what they thought might be classified, I think they decided the right result was to walk away from that.”
But Bissonnette will be still be required to forfeit all past and future proceeds from his book for his failure get the Pentagon’s signature before publishing potentially sensitive information.
Bissonnette claims to have received advice from former Army lawyer Kevin Podlaski, who, after reading Bissonnette’s manuscript, said he did not need to seek pre-approval from the Pentagon. Podlaski and his lawyers have denied these claims, and Bissonette’s Dallas-based malpractice lawyer Randy Johnston said he expects to sue Podlaski next year.
“Unfortunately, the advice I got—that I did not need to submit the book for pre-publication review—was wrong,” Bissonnette wrote in his statement. “I acknowledge my mistake and have paid a stiff price—personally and financially, for that error.”
Despite the hefty fines, the Justice Department was quick to acknowledge Bissonnette’s service: “This enforcement action does not discredit Mr. Bissonnette’s military service,” said Justice Department spokesman Nicole Navas.
It does, however, “reinforce that it is important for our service members… to protect classified information after leaving the U.S. military and government in an effort to protect our nation’s national security.”
Navas conveniently fails to mention that her employer wasn’t able to find any information in Bissonnette’s book that would have compromised national security. So while Bissonnette may have failed to secure the approval of the proper authorities, it isn’t clear why such a hefty fine should be levied for a publication that revealed little more than the movie Zero Dark Thirty, which describes the same operation in uncanny detail.