The government often claims former military employees sign away any rights to publish books. A recent example is the book “No Easy Day” written by Mark Owen, the pen name for Matt Bissonnette. His book recounted the famous “Osama bin Laden” raid in Pakistan. Bissonnette claimed the book was only written because the Obama administration “outed” SEAL Team Six and he wanted to set the record straight.
His attorney, Robert Luskin, told CNN, “Mr. Owen is proud of his service and respectful of his obligations. But he has earned the right to tell his story; his abiding interest is to ensure that he is permitted to tell it while recognizing the letter and spirit of the law and his contractual undertakings.”
Both of these precedent-setting cases seek to enforce the constitutional right to contract, which the authors contend pre-empts the government’s right to assert broad national security privileges.
“Mr. Shaffer’s First Amendment interest in his book is not limited to any contract he has signed thus far with a publisher in the United States or abroad,” the judge wrote in her order. “He has professed his intent to publish an un-redacted version of his book beyond the confines of his publishing contracts. He maintains standing to seek relief from the defendant agencies’ classification decisions regarding his text.”
Shaffer’s attorney, Mark Zaid, agrees his client has a right to challenge the redactions in his book under the First Amendment. The legal hurdle that Shaffer overcame in the preliminary hearing was the government’s assertion that he had contractually waived his First Amendment Rights under his employment contract.
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