US threatens lawsuit over bin Laden book
WASHINGTON - Reuters
Barack Obama (2nd L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against bin Laden in the White House in this 2011 photo. REUTERS photoThe Pentagon warned on Aug. 30 that it was considering legal action against a former U.S. Navy SEAL for material breach of non-disclosure agreements with his first-hand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
In a letter subsequently released by the Pentagon, the Pentagon’s top attorney said the Department of Defense was also considering legal action against anyone “acting in concert” with the author. It hinted that the book’s royalties might be subject to government claims.
The letter, addressed to “Mark Owen,” the pseudonym under which the book “No Easy Day,” was written, identified two separate non-disclosure agreements he signed with the Navy that legally committed him to never divulge classified information, which is a crime. “You are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed,” said the letter by Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s General Counsel. “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 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. The book has received widespread media coverage and the Pentagon letter noted that some copies have already been released, ahead of the book’s formal release next week.
Death threat against author
The author may have hoped to publish the book anonymously but his identity as Matt Bissonnette was quickly revealed and confirmed independently by Reuters. It was unclear how many others the Pentagon may consider legally culpable, given the broad language in Johnson’s letter. The author now faces threats against his life. An official al-Qaeda website last week posted a photograph and the real name of the former Navy commando, calling him “the dog who murdered the martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden.”