Ex-Pentagon chief sues for publication in memoirs

Ex-Pentagon chief sues for publication in memoirs

Washington Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper has claimed in a lawsuit against the Department of Defense that the material was improperly prevented as he seeks to publish “candid and frank memoirs” about his time in President Donald Trump’s administration.

The lawsuit, filed Sunday in US District Court in Washington, describes the memos, a “holy oath,” as an account of Esper’s tenure as Secretary of Defense from 2017 to 2019 and 18 months as Secretary of Defense, which ended with Trump’s impeachment. In a tweet just days after the president lost his re-election bid.

The lawsuit says that Esper’s tenure as Pentagon chief was “a period of unprecedented civil unrest, public health crises, growing threats abroad, and the transformation of the Pentagon, with the White House seemingly intent on circumventing the Constitution.”

Esper and Trump were sharply divided over the use of the military during civil unrest in June 2020 after the killing of George Floyd. Other issues led the president to believe that Esper was not loyal enough while Esper believed he was trying to keep the oath apolitical. The dismissal of the defense secretary after losing the election was unprecedented, but the opening allowed Trump to appoint loyalists to senior positions in the Pentagon while continuing to contest his election loss.

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The lawsuit maintains that “significant text” in the memos, due to be published by William Morrow in May, is improperly held under the guise of designation and that Esper maintains that it does not contain classified information. The lawsuit states that Esper is restricted by his confidentiality agreements from authorizing publication without Pentagon consent, or faces potential civil and criminal liability.

The lawsuit cited a letter Esper sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin criticizing the review process. He wrote that he was asked not to quote Trump and others in meetings, not to describe conversations he had with Trump, and not to use certain verbs or nouns when describing historical events.

The letter describes other problematic topics and says that about 60 pages of the manuscript contained revisions at one point. Esper wrote that agreeing to all of these revisions would lead to “a grave injustice at important moments in history that the American people need to know and understand.”

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The same lawsuit says that some of the stories Esber talks about in the manuscript at issue appear to have been leaked to some mainstream media “perhaps to undermine the impact” that would have been made in his book.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the department was aware of Esper’s concerns. As with all of these reviews, the administration takes seriously its commitment to balancing national security with the author’s narrative desire. “Given that this matter is now under litigation, we will refrain from further comment,” he said in a statement.

Esper, 57, a West Point graduate and Gulf War veteran, said in a statement that he waited six months for the review process to finish but found “my unclassified manuscript arbitrarily computed without telling you why.”

“I am deeply disappointed that the current administration is violating my constitutional rights to the First Amendment. Unfortunately, legal recourse is the only avenue now available to me to tell my full story to the American people.”

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