Nov. 29 (UPI) — Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense on Sunday over redactions he was told to make in his forthcoming memoir about working within the Trump administration.
The lawsuit, which was first reported on by The New York Times, was filed in the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., stating “significant” parts of the manuscript titled “A Sacred Oath,” which is set to publish in May, were being “improperly withheld” by the Pentagon “under the guise of classification.”
“The withheld text is crucial to telling important stories discussed in the manuscript,” the lawsuit states.
Esper was fired by Trump in the wake of losing re-election to Joe Biden. He was let go after his relationship with the former president soured as he opposed using active duty troops to quell domestic civil unrest a summer earlier.
Mark S. Zaid, who is representing the former defense secretary in the case, said his client was the highest-ranking official ever to sue the Pentagon.
The book, he said, covers international and domestic issues, such as the department’s handling of COVID-19 as well as the White House’s reaction to the civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd.
“It goes behind scenes of Esper’s increasingly contentious relationship” with Trump’s White House, he tweeted.
In a statement, Esper explained he submitted his manuscript to the Pentagon for review and had waited six months for it to be returned to him “arbitrarily redacted” without explanation, stating he is disappointed with the Biden administration for infringing upon his First Amendment rights.
“The American people deserve a full and unvarnished accounting of our nation’s history, especially the more difficult periods,” he said. “It is with regret that legal recourse is the only path now available for me to tell my full story to the American people.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement reported on by CNN that they are aware of Esper’s issues with the pre-publication of his manuscript.
“As with all such reviews, the department takes seriously its obligation to balance national security with an author’s narrative desire,” he said. “Given that this matter is now under litigation, we will refrain from commenting further.”