(Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
The lawyer of the former U.S. Navy SEAL who has written a controversial, first-hand account of the killing of Osama Bin Laden says the Pentagon's warning that his client has violated secrecy agreements and broken federal law overlooks the right the commando has earned to tell his story.
Robert Luskin, the attorney for "Mark Owen," the pseudonym of the author of the soon-to-be-released book, No Easy Day, responded to a letter General Counsel Jeh Charles Johnson wrote last week saying the Pentagon was considering legal action against the former SEAL and his publisher, Penguin Putnam.
"Mr. Owen takes seriously his obligations to the United States and to his former colleagues," Luskin said in a statement. "They are as important to him as any mission he undertook while on active duty."
Owen sought legal advice about his responsibilities before agreeing to publish his book and scrupulously reviewed the work to ensure that it did not disclose any material that would breach his agreements or put his former comrades at risk, Luskin added. "Mr. Owen is proud of his service and respectful of his obligations. But he has earned the right to tell his story..."
CNN quoted Johnson's letter as telling Owen that in the judgment of the Department of Defense, he is "in material breach and violation of the nondisclosure agreements" he signed. "Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements."
In a "60 Minutes" interview to be telecast on Sunday evening on CBS News, Owen says he was anticipating opposition from the very beginning given that it's a political season. However, he maintains, "this book is not political whatsoever. Doesn't bad-mouth either party, and we specifically chose September 11th to keep it out of the politics."
The publisher has now pushed the original release date to Sept. 4 due to "overwhelming excitement in the marketplace." The book narrates how a point man for Owen's team shot Bin Laden as the al Qaeda leader peeked his head out of his bedroom. When Owen and his fellow SEALs entered the bedroom, Bin Laden was gravely wounded and unarmed, The Huffington Post quoted the book as saying.
Brandon Webb, Owen's friend and also a former Navy SEAL, has said the book will be used for political reasons. "I absolutely think he earned the right to tell the story," he said on "CBS This Morning: Saturday." "The big issue is there was no formal review and that – you get into a situation with the timeliness of this and even though you hear, I'm sure he believes in his heart that he didn't want to make the book political, but then you have a publisher trying to drive book sales and they're well aware of that, releasing a book of this nature right before the election in November."
Webb also said Owen, who left the Navy in April, wrote the book to "set the record straight." "You see a lot of articles and things about this particular operation," he said. "A lot of it really didn't tell the true story."
Owen has said he has mixed feelings about President Barack Obama, who ordered the operation that killed Bin Laden last May. "None of us were huge fans of Obama," CNN quoted him as saying in the book. "We respected him as the commander-in-chief of the military and for giving us the green light on the mission."