Navy SEAL Author’s Profits Can Be Seized

Monday, 10 Sep 2012 04:35 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C. — The government can seize all profits received by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette for his book “No Easy Day,” according to John L. Martin, who headed the Justice Department section that prosecutes spies and leakers of classified information.

Even if the book, written under the pseudonym Mark Owen, contains no classified information, the author breached his contract with the government by not submitting it for pre-publication review, Martin tells Newsmax.

See Why Pentagon Is Nervous: Get 'No Easy Day' for ONLY $4.95 With Special OfferGo Here Now

Martin cites a 1980 Supreme Court decision upholding such a contract that was signed by Frank Snepp, a former CIA officer. In that case, no classified information was disclosed, but the proceeds from Snepp’s book were placed in trust for the government.

“In the Snepp case, he failed to submit his book for review, and the government seized the profits from the book,” Martin says. “Snepp took the case to the Supreme Court. So there is a Supreme Court decision on this very point that stands for the proposition that notwithstanding the fact that no classified information was published, the contract with the government prevails, and the former employee still has an obligation to put that book through pre-publication review and that the remedy for the government is the seizure of the profits.”

A lawyer and former FBI agent, Martin headed Justice Department espionage prosecutions for nearly 25 years and supervised the prosecution of 76 spies. They included John A. Walker Jr., a Navy warrant officer; Jonathan J. Pollard, a spy for Israel; Ronald Pelton, a former NSA employee; and Aldrich Ames, a CIA officer.

As it happens, the Pentagon has said the book does contain classified information. The book itself refers to the entire mission as being top secret. But Martin says, “You do not have to bring criminal charges against anyone, and you can punish him by seizing his profits, and you remove the incentive, which was the big point in the Snepp case — removing the incentive of making profits from breaching your contract with the government.”

In his book, Bissonnette says he is donating “most of the proceeds from its sale in honor of” the Navy SEALS who have lost their lives since 9/11. However, the Navy SEAL Foundation, one potential recipient, says on its website that it “will not be accepting any donations that are generated from the book or any related activities.” Martin says the proceeds would be seized by the government regardless of how they are spent.

See Why Pentagon Is Nervous: Get 'No Easy Day' for ONLY $4.95 With Special OfferGo Here Now

Given the remedy of seizing the profits from the book, Martin sees no need for a prosecution.

“If you go after this guy with an indictment for allegedly disclosing classified information, you are going to give credibility to the book and increase its sales,” Martin says. “You are also going to make him more of a celebrity because every First Amendment advocate in this country — the American Civil Liberties Union, The New York Times, the faculty at Harvard Law School — will be coming after the government, accusing the government of suppressing the poor guy’s First Amendment rights.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.








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