NEW YORK (AP/WANE) — A former Navy SEAL who wrote a book describing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden sued his former lawyers Wednesday for malpractice, saying they gave him bad advice that tarnished his reputation, cost him his U.S. security clearance and caused him to surrender much of the book’s income to the government.
Using the pseudonym “Mark Owen” that he published the book under, Matt Bissonnette filed the lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan. His 2012 book, “No Easy Day,” prompted a Pentagon inquiry that evolved into a criminal probe by the Justice Department.
Bissonnette seeks unspecified compensatory damages, saying his losses will amount to at least $8 million after he agreed to surrender most of the book’s proceeds. He said he also will lose consulting jobs, speaking engagements and future employment.
Named as defendants were attorney Kevin Podlaski and the Carson Boxberger LLC firm in Indiana. Podlaski, who is now with a different law firm in Fort Wayne, did not return NewsChannel 15’s call. A spokesperson with Boxberger referred questions to the law firm’s lawyer, who also did not return a call for comment.
Bissonnette said he acted on the advice of his former lawyers when he did not let the Department of Defense and other governmental agencies perform a pre-publication review of his book and when he relied on their advice that they had reviewed the book and removed all classified and sensitive information.
The lawsuit said Bissonnette decided to write the book after realizing that others who did not know the accurate facts were writing about and discussing the daring May 2011 raid by SEAL Team 6 in Pakistan that killed the head of al-Qaida, who was the inspiration behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.
“From the beginning, I’ve always tried to do the right thing,” Bissonnette told CBS News’ Scott Pelley during a segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes news program. “Had we purposely tried to go around what my obligations were, absolutely I should be held accountable. But the fact is, I didn’t. I hired a lawyer with my own money off to the side because I wanted to do the right thing. I got horrible advice and I’ve dealt with that for the past two years.”
According to the lawsuit, Bissonnette always had intended to donate a substantial portion of proceeds from the book to charity and was always aware that the disclosure of sensitive information could put other SEALs in danger.
“He was devoted to not disclosing anything he thought could be used by America’s enemies. To insure he complied with all his obligations of confidentiality, he sought out legal counsel to advise him,” the lawsuit said.
He said he was referred to Podlaski and the Boxberger firm by his literary agent and publisher, both located in New York.
The lawsuit noted that Bissonnette referred to Podlaski and the firm when he said in the book that he hired a former special operations attorney to review the manuscript to ensure no “forbidden topics” were mentioned.
The lawsuit said Bissonnette has agreed as part of a negotiated settlement to forfeit to the U.S. government the majority of all income he has received from the book, along with future income. It said the payment to the government has already exceeded $4.5 million.
According to the lawsuit, Bissonnette will also lose all movie rights and income attributable to those rights, an amount believed to be in excess of $900,000.
The lawsuit said the controversy has tarnished his reputation and “exemplary military record” by the false accusation that he sought to profit from disclosing military secrets and had cost him his security clearance for not submitting the book for review.
“Did I disclose anything that would have put the guys in harm’s way? That’s absolutely not what I intended to do,” said Bissonnette. “These are my brothers that I served beside for years. And a lot of them continue to serve.”
The suit contains an email shared between Podlaski and Bisonnette when the two parties first entered into a lawyer-client agreement. In it, Podlaski said under the “Scope of Representation,” ….no promises have been made by me as to what result we can or will achieve for you.”
CBS News has reported that Podlaski has denied that the legal advice was faulty but won’t comment further.
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