An ex-Navy SEAL, who has written a book on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, has not violated any non-disclosure agreements, his lawyer said, rebutting Pentagon's charge that the author had leaked classified information.
"He has earned the right to tell his story," Robert Luskin, the former Navy SEAL's lawyer, said in a letter to the US Defence Department.
Luskin said in the letter to Defence Department General Counsel Jeh Charles Johnson, "Mark Owen," the pen name of author Matt Bissonnette, "remains confident that he has faithfully fulfilled his duty" not to disclose classified information.
The denial comes just a day after Pentagon threatened to take legal action against the ex-Navy SEAL.
Bissonnette, 36, in his tell-all account of the operation titled 'No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden', has given an insider's account of the raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief in May 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"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 recognising the letter and spirit of the law and his contractual undertakings," Luskin was quoted by CNN as saying in the letter.
Johnson, the military's top lawyer, warned the author on Thursday that he had violated secrecy agreements and broke the law with "No Easy Day." Johnson said the military was considering pursuing "all remedies legally available" against the former SEAL and his publisher, Penguin Putnam.
"In the judgement of the Department of Defence, you are in material breach and violation of the nondisclosure agreements you signed. Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements," Johnson had written in a letter to "Mark Owen."
The author feels his obligations to the military and former colleagues are "as important to him as any mission he undertook while on active duty," and sought legal advice before publishing the book "to ensure that it did not disclose any material that would breach his agreements or put his former comrades at risk," Luskin's letter said.
The Pentagon's classified information, nondisclosure agreement "invites" but doesn't require Bissonnette to submit his book for pre-publication review, the lawyer's letter said.
The Pentagon's "sensitive compartmented information nondisclosure statement" does require pre-publication security review in cases involving specific "special access programmes," but Bissonnette's book does not violate that statement either, Luskin said.
"Accordingly, it is difficult to understand how the matter that is the subject of Mr Owen's book could conceivably be encompassed by the non-disclosure agreement that you have identified," the lawyer wrote.