Former United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, whom ex-President Donald Trump fired after his reelection loss in 2020, has filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department for interfering with the publication of his upcoming book, A Sacred Oath, which is scheduled for publication next May.

Esper is suing the Pentagon as well as a cluster of its employees for improperly withholding documents relevant to the book under the false guise of classification.

“Significant text is being improperly withheld from publication in Secretary Esper’s manuscript under the guise of classification. The withheld text is crucial to telling important stories discussed in the manuscript,” the lawsuit states. “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. A Sacred Oath is Secretary Esper’s unvarnished and candid memoir of those remarkable and dangerous times.”

After receiving the redacted version of his text last month, Esper wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that “multiple words, sentences and paragraphs from approximately 60 pages of the manuscript were redacted. No written explanation was offered to justify the deletions.”


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According to The New York Times, Esper was unable to confirm that the “redacted items contain classified information or compromise national security.”

The Pentagon “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,” Esper explained. “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. Many items were already in the public domain; some were even published by D.O.D.”

This has proven to be problematic for Esper’s retelling of his tenure inside Trump’s administration.

He added that he is “more than disappointed the current administration is infringing on my First Amendment constitutional rights. 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 also said that “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,” noting that classification reviews are “about protecting classified information and not harming national security — two important standards to which I am fully committed” and that his “constitutional rights should not be abridged because my story or choice of words may prompt uncomfortable discussions in foreign policy circles.”

Even more frustrating was that snippets of the redacted material began popping up on various news outlets, according to Esper.

“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 states.

The Pentagon “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,” the complaint alleges.

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