Former Defense Secretary Esper Drops Suit Against DOD Over Book Redactions
Then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper attends a joint press conference with South Korea's then-defense minister, Jeong Kyeong-doo, on Nov. 15, 2019, in Seoul. (Jung Yeon-Je/pool/AFP via Getty Images)
By Charles Kim | Friday, 04 February 2022 08:02 PM
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper dropped his lawsuit against the agency Friday regarding several pages of redactions it was trying to impose on his new memoir, due out in May.
The book, ''A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times,'' is scheduled for a May 10 release, and documents Esper's tenure as head of the department from June 2019 until he was fired in November 2020, during the administration of former President Donald Trump, according to a listing on Amazon.
Esper brought a lawsuit after the department tried to get several pages of unclassified material redacted, according to a Nov. 28, 2021, story in The Hill.
''The withheld text is crucial to telling important stories discussed in the Manuscript,'' the lawsuit read.
Trump fired Esper after losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, thanking him for his service in a post on Twitter at the time and announcing Christopher Miller as his replacement, according to the The New York Times.
In a statement on Friday to The Hill, Esper's attorney, Mark Zaid, said that ''success'' of the lawsuit will allow the book to be published on time with ''minimal'' redactions that should not hinder reading the memoir.
''The state of the law is clear: the U.S. Government has absolutely no authority to prevent anyone from publishing unclassified information. That is an incontrovertible constitutional right and established by binding precedent,'' Zaid said in an emailed statement to The Hill. ''Frankly, Secretary Esper has no interest in publishing properly classified information, which he has sworn to and has protected for decades.''
The Pentagon, which Zaid said wanted to redact ''significant swaths'' of the manuscript on more than 50 pages, did not comment on The Hill's story Friday.
According to The Hill's reporting, Esper's suit said that the former secretary emailed the current secretary, Lloyd Austin, to try to figure out why the department wanted so many redactions which did not include classified material, but Austin never responded.
''As a former Cabinet officer, it was not an easy decision for Secretary Esper to sue the Department he led, not to mention having to incur attorney's fees and legal costs out of his own pocket to defend the very constitutional rights he served in uniform to protect,'' Zaid told The Hill in his statement.