The decorated former Navy SEAL who penned a best-selling book about the operation to kill Osama bin Laden has reached a financial settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.
Matthew Bissonnette has agreed to forfeit "all of the proceeds" he received from the book, No Easy Day, which court papers peg at $6.64 million. Bissonnette offered a formal apology for failing to submit the book for review by authorities before it was published.
"I acted on the advice of my former attorney, but I now fully recognize that his advice was wrong," Bissonnette's apology said. "It was a serious error that I urge others not to repeat."
Bissonnette launched the book in 2012, under the pen name Mark Owen, as public demand spiked for information about the raid that killed bin Laden. In connection with his 14-year military service, including a stint as a member of the storied SEAL Team 6, Bissonnette had signed documents agreeing to protect national security secrets.
But the government said he failed to seek clearance for the book and at least a half-dozen paid "leadership" speeches he delivered to corporate sponsors and others, which earned him more than $100,000.
The consent decree resolves four years of legal fights over civil allegations that Bissonnette had breached his contract and fiduciary obligations. Officials from the Justice Department and lawyers in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the Pentagon is headquartered, signed the deal. No criminal charges were filed.
In a statement Friday, Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas said, "This enforcement action does not discredit Mr. Bissonnette's military service, but reinforces that it is important for our service members and individuals who have been assigned positions of trust and granted access to classified information to comply with the obligations set forth in their non-disclosure agreements to protect classified information after leaving the U.S. military and government in an effort to protect our nation's national security."
Robert D. Luskin, a lawyer for Bissonnette, pointed out in a statement that his client was only one of many current or former government officials who boasted about the bin Laden raid.
The episode featured in a New Yorker magazine story and the Academy Award-nominated feature film Zero Dark Thirty. The killing also was widely discussed in Defense Department and intelligence circles and became one of President Obama's selling points on national security during his 2012 re-election bid.
"The government has a right to keep its secrets and to enforce procedures that are designed to protect them from inadvertent disclosure," Luskin said. "But it is shameful that — of all the people who leaked, talked, whispered and backgrounded about the mission — Matt Bissonnette, who risked his life to make it a success, is the only one to pay a price."