Former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon over claims bosses ‘unfairly’ redacted parts of his upcoming memoir about his tenure under Trump after he was fired following the former President’s loss.
Esper, 57, had filed the suit on Sunday with the Federal District Court in Washington DC which claimed ‘significant text is being properly withheld from publication’ in his book A Sacred Oath.
The book, which was supposed to be published in May, had been brought back to Esper with multiple edits and redactions without an explanation. He claims he has even been pressured to change ‘nouns and verbs’ within the text.
Esper’s lawsuit insists that the memoir did not contain any classified information nor did it pose any kind of national security risk. He says that anecdotes in the memoir appear to have been leaked to the press, and that other contentious parts center on information that is already in the public domain.
‘Significant text is being improperly withheld from publication in Secretary Esper’s manuscript under the guise of classification,’ the lawsuit read, according to The New York Times.
‘The withheld text is crucial to telling important stories discussed in the manuscript.’
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, 57, sued the Pentagon on Sunday after significant information was redacted from his upcoming memoir A Sacred Oath
The memoir was said to contain information about serving under Trump following Esper’s tenure after he was fired last November due to the former President’s loss in the 2020 election. Trump is pictured seated next to Esper in October 2019
In terms of the redactions, Esper said they had ‘asked me to not quote former President Trump and others in meetings, to not describe conversations between the former president and me, and to not use certain verbs or nouns when describing historical events.
‘I was also asked to delete my views on the actions of other countries, on conversations I held with foreign officials, and regarding international events that have been widely reported,’ he added.
‘Many items were already in the public domain; some were even published by D.O.D.’
Esper, who served as Defense Secretary between July 2019 and November 2020, had submitted a draft of the manuscript to the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review in May, according to the lawsuit.
‘As defense secretary for nearly 18 months, he led D.O.D. through an unprecedented time of civil unrest, public health crises, growing threats abroad, Pentagon transformation and a White House seemingly bent on circumventing the Constitution,’ the suit read the lawsuit said.
‘A Sacred Oath is Secretary Esper’s unvarnished and candid memoir of those remarkable and dangerous times.’
He had noted, however, that the pre-publication process of the memoir was taking a significant amount of time as Esper watched over the procedure for about six months.
The Pentagon has refrained from commenting further on the suit
Esper said his upcoming memoir, which was set to be released in May, was meant to provide readers ‘a full and unvarnished accounting of our nation’s history, especially the more difficult periods’
Esper emailed his successor Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III in November, about six months after he submitted the manuscript for review, about his concerns over the process.
He also told Austin in an email that he attempted to speed up the process and talked with Kelly Magsamen, the chief of staff to the United States Secretary of Defense and Michael B. Donley, the Director of Administration and Management, who said he should speak with the unit ‘to try to find compromise language.’
‘While I appreciate their efforts, I should not be required to change my views, opinions or descriptions of events simply because they may be too candid at times for normal diplomatic protocol,’ Esper added in the email.
He also said that the review process was ‘about protecting classified information and not harming national security — two important standards to which I am fully committed.’
Esper added that his ‘constitutional rights should not be abridged because my story or choice of words may prompt uncomfortable discussions in foreign policy circles.’
An email was sent to Esper’s successor Lloyd Austin about his concerns over the review process of his manuscript
Austin however had allegedly never responded back to Esper after the email was sent.
The manuscript was handed back to Esper not long after with the various redactions even after claiming that the memoir did not contain classified information.
According to Esper, ‘Multiple words, sentences and paragraphs from approximately 60 pages of the manuscript were redacted.
‘No written explanation was offered to justify the deletions,’ he wrote.
Esper also in a statement that his book was meant to provide the readers ‘a full and unvarnished accounting of our nation’s history, especially the more difficult periods.’
‘I am more than disappointed the current administration is infringing on my First Amendment constitutional rights,’ he added.
‘And it is with regret that legal recourse is the only path now available for me to tell my full story to the American people.’
Esper added that some stories from his upcoming manuscript had also been printed in news articles.
‘At least one story, which was more than a year old and known to only a small handful of senior D.O.D. officials, had not previously been publicly discussed, and the timing of the appearance appears suspicious,’ the suit read.
‘(The department) has failed to demonstrate the existence of substantial government interests that would enable it to prohibit the publication of unclassified information within Secretary Esper’s manuscript.’
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton had a lawsuit pegged against him by President Trump after allegedly printing private information that was meant to be withheld in his memoir The Room Where It Happened
John Kirby, the Press Secretary for the United States Department of Defense, said that they had been informed of Esper’s concerns.
‘As with all such reviews, the department takes seriously its obligation to balance national security with an author’s narrative desire,’ Kirby said.
‘Given that this matter is now under litigation, we will refrain from commenting further.’
This is also not the first time a political official had attempted to be silenced for working under the Trump administration.
The memoir The Room Where It Happened was written by former National Security Adviser John Bolton about his time working under Trump.
Officials had allegedly attempted to silence Bolton as it had contained information that Trump wanted to keep private from the public.
It had been published anyway with Trump suing Bolton for the profits and a criminal investigation was opened over the incident.
The suit and investigation were later dropped US Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June.