A Navy SEAL that took part in and wrote a book about the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden is being forced to forfeit $6.8 million in book royalties as well as speaking fees and legal fees for not clearing disclosures with the Pentagon before writing the book, according to federal documents. The total amount comes to almost $8 million.
Matt Bissonnette, the former Navy SEAL was a part of SEAL Team 6 that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Bissonnette’s book, “No Easy Day” detailed his participation in the Bin Laden raid and went on to become a best-selling book that pulled in roughly $6.6 million. For the book, Bissonnette went under the pen name, Mark Owen.
In a statement on Friday, Bissonnette said that he wishes that he could have gotten the book vetted by the Pentagon before it was published so that classified information was not included in the book, but also mentioned that he had gotten bad advice from his lawyer, telling him that he did not need the book vetted.
“Unfortunately, the advice I got—that I did not need to submit the book for pre-publication review—was wrong,” 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.”
Over the past several years, the Justice Department has conducted criminal investigations to see if Bissonnette disclosed classified information in his book or in his speeches that violated conflict-of-interest laws for companies that worked with SEAL Team 6. Instead, after dropping the claim that he revealed classified secrets, they decided that they would receive royalties from Bissonnete for breaking non-disclosure agreements.
Bissonnette was ordered to forfeit almost $6.8 million as a part of the settlement, according to documents filed in Federal District Court in Alexandria on Friday. To date, he made that money through movie rights, revenues generated through the book and from six speeches he gave that used information that was in the book.
In addition to the cash forfeiture, Bissonnette will have to pay the government more than $1 million in legal fees, leaving him in massive debt.
“When I left the military, I got a plaque with my name misspelled, shitty medical care, and now I’m a million dollars in debt,” Bissonnette said. “Thank you for your service.”
Since the book has been published, the United States government never formally accused Bissonnette of disclosing classified information.
“After the initial accusations of me leaking all that classified stuff…they found nothing,” Bissonnette told The Daily Beast. “They were just upset with me and wanted to get me one way or another. For four years, they looked into every little thing. Now…one signature and it all goes away,”
Any vet has earned the right to tell his story. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done,” Bissonnette said.
Bissonnette said he intended to give his profits to charity and wanted to remain anonymous.
“Yeah, I’m the asshole who wrote the book…but I hope I’ve proven I wasn’t trying to get famous,” he said. “I still don’t advertise. I still don’t show my face. I still use the name Mark Owen, and make people call me Mark at speaking events.”
“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,” Nicole Navas, a Department of Justice spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.
During his time in the military, Bissonnette earned multiple awards for valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.