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Government ends war against Navy SEAL who wrote book on bin Laden raid

When a retired Navy SEAL wrote an insider’s account of the 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and then went on “60 Minutes” to talk about it, he found himself in an unusual position – under fire from his own government.

Four years later, that fight has come to an end. The author of “”No Easy Day” has apologized and given up his share of the book’s profits, estimated at more than $6 million.

Matt Bissonnette was a member of SEAL Team Six and one of those who shot bin Laden. He was wounded in the shoulder during the raid and received a Purple Heart, along with a unit Silver Star citation.

Navy SEAL describes bin Laden raid
The appearance of author Matt Bessonnette was altered for a “60 Minutes” interview about the book he wrote about the Osama bin Laden raid. CBS

He told “60 Minutes” in 2012 he wrote the book because: “This operation was one of the most significant operations in U.S. history. And it’s something that I believe deserves to be told right and deserves to go in a book and stand for itself.”

He used the pseudonym Mark Owen in part out of concern for his own security. But also, he said, to take the focus off himself and put it on the team of people who planned and carried out the raid.

 “I’m not trying to be special or a hero or anything. I’m just trying to tell the bigger story,” he told Scott Pelley in 2012.

During that interview he appeared in disguise and his voice was altered. But even before the book came out, his real name was revealed to several news organizations.

The Pentagon mounted a counter-attack, claiming he failed to honor written agreements that would have required pre-publication review by the Department of Defense. Pentagon officials even hinted he had revealed classified material.

Bissonnette also found himself under attack from leaders of the SEAL and Special Operations community, who said he violated the ethos of the teams by going public.

His defense then and now is that he was given bad advice by his first lawyer, who he says told him the book did not need review. He is currently suing that attorney for millions in damages.

The four-year legal battle was costly for Bissonnette, who spent about $1.4 million in attorneys’ fees as he found himself the subject of repeated investigations.

The settlement filed Friday in the Eastern District Court of Virginia makes no mention of classified material appearing in the book.

In a statement of apology, Bissonnette said: “I acted on the advice of my former attorney, but I now fully recognize that his advice was wrong. I apologize for my lapse. It was a serious error that I urge others not to repeat. Although I never intended to endanger my former colleagues, I now recognize that failing to seek prepublication review could place them and their families at greater risk, for which I especially apologize.”

Bissonnette originally intended to donate most of the profits to charities for the SEAL community. Instead, his share of the profits, more than $6 million -- and any future profits -- will go to the U.S. government.Neither the publisher of “No Easy Day,” Dutton Penguin, nor his agent, forfeit their share of profits.

Several months ago, he signed a separate, non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department agreeing to pay the government about $180,000 for consulting work that was done while he was still a SEAL.“No Hero,” the second book written under the name Mark Owen by Bissonnette was submitted for prepublication review and was published in 2014.

When asked by “60 Minutes,” if he had any further comment, he said, “Always get a second opinion on legal advice.”

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