Navy SEAL Settles With Feds on Bin Laden Book

     ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) — The former Navy SEAL who wrote about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound admitted that he made a costly mistake in sidestepping the government with his bestselling memoir.
     Matthew Bissonnette has been mired in controversy since 2012, as Penguin Group geared up for the release of “No Easy Day,” a book about the bin Laden raid that Bissonnette published under the pen name Mark Owen.
     Amid an investigation of whether he leaked classified details from a top-secret military operation, Bissonnette has long stipulated to forfeiting the millions his book made.
     The United States formalized its proceedings against Bissonnette on Friday with a federal complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia. Defense attorneys with the D.C. firm Paul Hastings provided a copy of the simultaneously filed consent decree in an email, accompanying a statement in which Bissonnette said the settlement puts “an end to a lengthy and painful chapter of my life.”
     “After a decade of direct combat action with our nation’s worst enemies, I would rather gear up for another mission than face another room full of lawyers,” Bissonnette said. “My years spent in the SEAL teams taught me to learn from my mistakes and move on.”
     Echoing lawsuits Bissonnette has filed against his attorneys for his publishers, the Navy SEAL blames his predicament on bad counsel.
     “Unfortunately, the advice I got — that I did not need to submit the book for pre publication review — was wrong,” Bissonnette’s statement continues. “I acknowledge my mistake and have paid a stiff price, both personally and financially, for that error. I accept responsibility for failing to submit the book for review and apologize sincerely for my oversight.”
     The complaint against Bissonnette says the Purple Heart-decorated veteran directly violated terms of a “classified information nondisclosure agreement, [a] sensitive compartmented information nondisclosure statement, [a] sensitive compartmented information indoctrination memorandum and a personal attestation stating that he understood his responsibility to protect classified national security information.”
     Specifically, the nondisclosure agreement Bisonnette signed required him to submit any information he had compiled for publication to a review board for a final stamp of approval.
     The complaint says this is standard procedure for members of the military, enforced by a directive of the Clearance of Department of Defense Information for Public Release. That directive “provides that all personnel must submit for security review and clearance proposed books pertaining to military matters of national security.”
     In another provision, according to the complaint, Bissonnette agreed that if he did publish anything without final review, he would forfeit “all royalties or other payments resulting from an unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” the complaint says.
     Bissonnette noted in 2015 that he had already forfeited $4.5 million in book profits and movie rights nearing $1 million at the time. The New York Times reported Friday that Bissonnette’s forfeiture tab is nearly $7 million — including roughly $6.8 million from the book and $180,000 from consulting gigs.
     U.S. Attorney Dana Boente wrote in the complaint that Bissonnette conducted leadership seminars after the book’s release that used slides with similar content.
     “By breaching his contractual and fiduciary duties with respect to the slides used in his leadership presentations, [he] has harmed the United States by undermining its ability to use non-disclosure agreements and the prepublication security review process to protect sensitive national security information,” the complaint says.
     Government transparency advocates at the James Madison Project filed suit last year to obtain government records about its opposition to Bissonnette’s book.
     Bissonnette’s statement notes that he has a new book forthcoming, “No Hero,” this time with review and approval by the Defense Department.
     “I served my country loyally for 14 years through 13 combat deployments,” the SEAL’s statement says. “By the time I left the service in 2012, I had earned the rank of senior chief petty officer and had been awarded a Silver Star, Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars with Valor, along with numerous other decorations. … The last thing I ever intended to do was to spend the next four years at odds with the government for which I willingly sacrificed so much.”

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