Those of you who read No Easy Day probably have some fond memories of the author, originally known by his pen name, Mark Owen. He took part in the now famous raid which brought Usama bin Laden to justice, as well as to room temperature. It was one of the great moments in modern military history and served to add to the legend of the Navy SEAL teams. But the hero in question, now known to be Matt Bissonnette, has run into some trouble of a different sort long after his military mission was concluded. The federal government has come calling and Matt is being forced to give back all the money he made from the book, along with any other income which may come from it. (Fox News)
The former Navy SEAL who wrote a book about his role in the raid that killed Usama bin Laden will pay the government more than $6.6 million for violating non-disclosure agreements and publishing without getting the document cleared by the Defense Department, according to federal court documents.
Matt Bissonnette, who wrote “No Easy Day” under the pseudonym Mark Owen, will give the U.S. government all profits and royalties from the book or movie rights. The proceeds already total more than $6.6 million. He will have four years to pay the bulk of that.
The payments were outlined in settlement documents filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia…
The book triggered a Justice Department probe, including claims it contained classified material. Bissonnette had signed non-disclosure agreements during his service as a SEAL, and he took part in a number of highly secret operations including the bin Laden raid.
Even with four years to put together the cash, that’s a big check for anyone to write. On top of the $6.6 million, Matt has just 30 days to cough up an additional $100K which he made from speeches and presentations that he gave without getting prior approval from the Department of Defense. He may have access to some funds to cover this because his second book, No Hero: the Evolution of a Navy SEAL, was not subjected to the same official sanctions.
This is a maddening story to read even though the law clearly appears to be on the side of Uncle Sam. Bisonnette did sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the terms of his service and that’s a binding contract. Even more so than your usual corporate development gig where patent concerns come into play, the information Matt knows could easily fall into the category of sensitive national security secrets, so that’s obviously a concern as well.
On the other side of the equation is the fact that the government is emptying the pockets of one of the guys who took out bin Laden.
I suppose we should note that if Matt didn’t like his non-disclosure agreement he could have challenged it in court. It’s been done before with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately for the author, he’d be going up against the Department of Defense who would only have to intone the phrase “national security” in front of a judge once or twice to win the day. Additionally, he could have simply submitted his book to the DoD for review and approval to avoid this mess. But they would no doubt have chopped some of the juiciest portions of the tale out, making it far less appealing to the public and damaging sales.
So the government seems to be in the right here, at least as far as the legalities go. But did they really have to swoop in and take all of the guy’s money? It seems that a stern letter of reprimand and a demand for a public acknowledgement that he’d violated his agreement, along with a promise to not do so again would have sufficed. (He has to provide such an admission as part of this deal anyway.) Wouldn’t that really have been enough? The guy helped slay one of the worst monsters to ever walk the face of the Earth.
Not to be repetitive here, but… C’mon, man.