How An Ex-Navy Seal Lost $6.6 Million in Book Royalties

No Easy Day is a firsthand account of Operation Neptune Spear, the mission that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden, as well as the training and missions that led up to it. Written by former Navy Seal Matt Bissonette under the pen name Mark Owen, the book was the topic of controversy well before it’s release.

Potentially classified information on military operations, including the mission to save the crew of the Maersk Alabama from a hijacking that would go on to be the subject of the movie Captain Phillips. Members of Al-Qaeda also made Matt’s personal information public and called for militants to execute revenge for the death of Bin Laden. Having benefitted from all of this advanced publicity, the book’s sales were astronomical upon publication, moving ahead of Fifty Shades of Grey and making it to the New York Times Bestseller list.


The Department of Defense (DoD) announced that there had yet to be an investigation into the book’s contents before it’s release, stating that if any classified material were to be included, criminal charges could be brought against the author and the publisher for failing to have the text vetted. Publishers assured the public that no such information would be included, claiming to have been working in conjunction with a former special operations attorney in order to make sure the book was releasable.

Given the sensitivity of the topic, however, the investigation by the DoD was not necessarily optional, and the decision to release the book before the conclusion of the investigation would prove to be very costly. $6.6 million costly, to be exact.

The decision to forego vetting was reportedly made in response to a book by Mark Bowden about the same mission. The publishers wanted to expedite the process to get the book on shelves before Bowden’s account, under a suspiciously similar name (Mark Owen).  Bissonnette faced a plethora of personal ramifications, having been relinquished of his security clearing and banned from consulting work, as well as losing movie rights and being heavily fined. The latest of the blows was the court’s decision to have Bissonette forfeit all of his royalties to the Government, a whopping $6.6 million.


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