Navy SEAL Author of Bin Laden Raid Book Sues Attorneys for Malpractice

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Matthew Bissonnette, a former Navy SEAL who wrote the book “No Easy Day,” is suing his former lawyers for malpractice.

According to CBS New York, Bissonnette, whose pen name is Mark Owen, alleges that his former attorneys told him that the federal government did not need to perform a pre-publication review of his book, which describes the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. He later relied on their advice that they told him they had performed pre-publication review themselves and removed all classified and sensitive government information. Bissonette alleges that his former attorneys’ guidance “prompted a Pentagon inquiry that evolved into a criminal probe by the Justice Department,” which “tarnished his reputation, cost him his security clearance and caused him to surrender much of the book’s income to the government,” as well as ruined his “‘exemplary military record’ by the false accusation that he sought to profit from disclosing military secrets.”

Bissonette claims he had to forfeit $4.5 million to the government for following his attorneys’ advice and publishing his book without the government’s permission.

The former Navy SEAL seeks unspecified compensatory damages, but claims his losses are at least $8 million, partly because he believes his tarnished reputation will cause him to lose consulting positions, speaking engagements, and other future employment opportunities.

Since book publishers are in the book business, they are not strangers to pre-publication reviews, which are reviews undertaken by attorneys to prevent defamation lawsuits. I have had the privilege of assisting in pre-publication during some of my internships, and it’s quite an interesting process, during which an editor will ask an attorney to read a manuscript for any libelous statements. The attorney looks for any false statements of facts or opinions that may be construed as false statements of fact.

Pre-publication review can be implemented for both fiction and non-fiction books; however, from my experience, I have noticed that editors request more non-fiction books for pre-publication review. This may be because non-fiction books are about real events and real people, and reported facts can sometimes also be false. A potentially defamed person can easily point to the words in the story and claim, “I’ve been defamed. It says so right there in this book.” This may be harder in fiction where the author can presumably make anything up, notwithstanding that fiction authors can still be sued for defamation (e.g., a person believes he or she is a particular character that portrays him or her in a false light). Nevertheless, pre-publication review is quite common in book publishing.

Moreover, when publishers attempt to publish books about the government, there is a second stage to pre-publication review in which the federal government routinely vets manuscripts in order to redact any classified or sensitive information that may harm national security.

Thus, I would like to know why Bissonnette’s attorneys supposedly advised him that the government did not need to perform a pre-publication review, especially considering that he participated in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden and “decided to write the book after realizing that others who did not know the accurate facts were writing about and discussing the daring May 2011 raid by SEAL Team 6 in Pakistan that resulted in the killing of the head of al Qaeda and inspiration behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” They knew the government would want to make sure that Bissonnette’s version of the 2011 raid did not hamper national security, and they had nothing to gain from advising Bissonnette to forgo pre-publication review. Their alleged misstep could easily have been avoided.

I will be eagerly waiting to see what happens in this case.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry is a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law whose goal is to become a publishing and media law attorney. He has interned at William Morris Endeavor, Rodale, Inc., Columbia University Press, and is currently interning at Hachette Book Group and volunteering at the Media Law Resource Center, which has given him insight into the legal aspects of the publishing and media industries. Contact Joe at



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