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Former Defense Dept. Leader Claims Right to Book Publication

January 28, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
<strong>Former Defense Dept. Leader Claims Right to Book Publication</strong>
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper (Photo by David Vergun, courtesy Defense.gov)

WASHINGTON — Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper told a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Thursday that he is close to reaching an agreement with the Biden administration on redacting parts of his upcoming memoir.

Defense Department officials are concerned it could jeopardize national security.

Esper’s book, “A Sacred Oath,” is scheduled to be published in May. It is expected to reveal behind-the-scenes episodes of his time with former President Donald Trump, who fired him after the 2020 election.

Defense Department officials have been trying to block the publication unless parts of the book are redacted. They referred to Esper’s duties under his security clearance when they demanded a right to a national security review of the manuscript.


Esper sued in November to prevent Pentagon interference with the book’s publication. He says their redaction requests are too extensive.

“By unreasonably delaying completion of its classification review and properly justifying its redactions, defendant DoD has impermissibly infringed upon Secretary Esper’s right to publish the information contained within his manuscript,” the lawsuit says.

He accuses the Defense Department of violating the Administrative Procedure Act and internal regulations on prepublication review. He says First Amendment free speech rights should entitle him to an expedited court judgment to allow publication.


Esper clashed with Trump several times during the year-and-half he oversaw the Defense Department.

In one incident, Esper opposed Trump’s idea of invoking the 19th century Insurrection Act to call in active-duty troops against protesters after police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

Trump also tried to prevent Esper from renaming military installations in southern states that were named after Confederate generals.

A Defense Department spokesman responded to the lawsuit with a statement that said, “The department takes seriously its obligation to balance national security with an author’s narrative desire.”

The court hearing Thursday was intended to help U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan determine whether Esper and the Defense Department were making progress in their negotiations over redactions.

Attorneys for both sides agreed any remaining disagreements were few and likely to be resolved soon. The judge set Feb. 4 as the deadline for a written report on their negotiations.


The case is Esper v. Department of Defense, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Tom can be reached at [email protected]

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