The Pentagon’s top lawyer wrote a terse letter Thursday to “Mark Owen” – Jeh Johnson fastidiously put the author’s pseudonym in quotes – warning that “Owen” is in legal jeopardy for penning No East Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden without the allegedly-required prior approval from the U.S. military.
The one-page missive, which politely begins “Dear `Mr. Owen,’” was sent to the attention of Alexander Gigante, the lawyer for the publisher, Penguin Putnam. The book is to be formally released next Tuesday, Sept. 4. Even if the Defense Department concludes the author disclosed no classified information, he could face charges that he failed to submit the manuscript to the government for review prior to publication as required.
Johnson informs “Owen” that he has violated a pair of non-disclosure agreements he purportedly signed on Jan. 24, 2007. “You have a continuing obligation to `never divulge’ classified information,” Johnson writes, “and this commitment remains in force even after you left active duty Navy.” Johnson adds that “Owen” reaffirmed this commitment when he was debriefed upon leaving the service in April.
“In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements that you signed,” Johnson adds. “I write to formally advise you of your material breach and violation of your agreements, and to inform you that the Department is considering pursuing against you, and all those acting in concert with you, all remedies legally available to us in light of this situation.”
So there you have it. “Mark Owen” – actual name Matt Bissonnette – apparently did give his word that he wouldn’t spill his guts. He violated that sworn pledge, and now he needs to pay the piper. Otherwise, anarchy.