Former Navy SEAL Team 6 Member Forfeits $6.8M in Book Royalties

Ex-Navy SEAL Punished for Not Requesting Pentagon Permission

by Josh Guckert

Matt Bissonnette is a former SEAL Team 6 member who wrote an account of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. On Friday, he agreed to forfeit $6.8M in book royalties and speaking fees to the government. This came after he failed to clear his disclosures with the Pentagon. This is in addition to $180,000 he gave up for consulting work he did while still a member of the SEALs.

Bissonnette wrote the book “No Easy Day” under the pen name of Mark Owen. The book led to more than two years of criminal and civil litigation. The Justice Department ultimately decided not to bring any criminal charges, only seeking the cash forfeitures.

The error came when he did not allow for vetting of his book prior to release. On Friday, Bissonnette said “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.”

His attorney, Robert Luskin, maintains that many others have assisted in the retelling of the Bin Laden raid. However, Luskin contends, only his client has had to pay a price.

Most libertarians likely acknowledge that some information is worthy of increased sensitivity. However, few would likely proscribe a punishment of this magnitude. Particularly given that this is Bissonnette’s personal account of events taking place, the inclination is to allow him to document his experiences. If there exists a thirst from the consumer market to read his stories, he should be able to profit.

The guise of “national security” has been used by government to justify many large programs. This includes anything from police militarization to increased surveillance. In this case, we see government taking from someone a profit he justly earned under this same justification. Other than just the time and effort he put into writing the book, Bissonnette literally sacrificed his life for the source material.

While he may have likely erred in not seeking vetting, this outcome certainly does not seem correct. It is difficult to gauge if Bissonnette will be able to recover financially from this major loss, but hopefully, his experience allows others to avoid a similar catastrophe.

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