UPDATE: 9/1/2012, 2:12 p.m. EDT. Information on Bissonnette’s legal counsel has been added to the 13th paragraph of this story.
Dutton Penguin, an imprint of New York–based publishing giant Penguin Group, is set to publish the controversial book,
No Easy Day
, on September 4. Bissonette, who wrote the book about the secretive May 2011 raid into Pakistan under the pen name Mark Owen, has been making the media rounds since
Fox News identified him as the author last week
Bissonnette’s description of the events that unfolded the night that Navy SEALs killed the former al-Qaeda leader
differs in several key respects from the official narrative
put forth by the Obama administration and the Defense Department, according to advance copies of his book obtained by several news sources. (Among the most notable differences: Bissonette says bin Laden was unarmed at the time he was killed.)
The Defense Department, which was not provided with a prepublication copy of the
No Easy Day
manuscript to review for national security purposes, initially remained quiet about Bissonnette’s version of events. But in the letter sent Thursday, Johnson informed the 36-year-old Alaska native that writing the book had put him in violation of a 2007 nondisclosure agreement he signed with the Navy, despite the fact that Bissonnette has since left active duty. (
for Johnson’s letter,
courtesy of NPR
“In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed,” Johnson writes. “Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements.”
Given that the book’s topic is one of the defining events of President Barack Obama’s four years in office and that its publication comes as Obama seeks a second four-year term,
No Easy Day has quickly stirred political controversy—something to which Johnson, who served as general counsel of the U.S. Air Force during the Clinton administration, is not a stranger.
Johnson, who earned
$2.6 million in his last year at Paul Weiss
before becoming the Pentagon’s top lawyer in 2009, is a longtime Obama supporter. He raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for the then–U.S. senator from Illinois during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign,
according to a 2007 story in The New York Times
. Now, as the Defense Department’s legal chief, Johnson is tasked with potentially pursing legal action against Bissonnette and Penguin over the publication of
No Easy Day
Penguin has claimed publicly that a lawyer who once served as a special operations soldier vetted
No Easy Day to ensure that it did not contain tactical information that could be used against the United States by its enemies. But the identity of that lawyer has yet to be disclosed and lawyers at Penguin weren’t talking Friday.
, general counsel for Penguin, and
, group legal counsel for the publisher’s London-based parent company Pearson, were both out of the office Friday and unavailable for comment. A Penguin spokeswoman also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
, who began her career as a lawyer in Savannah before becoming Pearson’s CEO in 1997, also did not return an email requesting information on the identity of the lawyer who vetted Bissonette’s book or whether the media giant has engaged outside counsel to deal with the Pentagon’s threat of legal action against its subsidiary.
It remains unclear whether Bissonnette will face a similar fate. If so, the former Navy SEAL will likely have to part ways with a significant sum of cash. Originally set to hit stores on September 11,
No Easy Day had its publication date moved up and its initial print run increased from 300,000 to 575,000 copies due to high demand.