Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is suing the Pentagon, claiming that agency officials were allegedly blocking, “under the guise of classification,” important parts of his upcoming memoir that details that alleged chaos that took place during the Trump administration.

In the lawsuit, it was argued that the Pentagon “unlawfully imposed a prior restraint upon Mr. Esper by delaying, obstructing and infringing on his constitutional right to publish his unclassified manuscript entitled ‘A Sacred Oath’ (“Manuscript”),” adding that the “withheld text is crucial to telling important stories discussed in the Manuscript.”

The lawsuit stated that Esper submitted the manuscript of his memoir to the Department of Defense for review on May 24 and on Oct. 7. It stated that Esper was informed via email by the Defense Department’s Office of Pre-publication Security Review (DoDOPSR) that he will receive a copy of pages of his manuscript that needed “amendment.”


Esper said in the lawsuit that he reached out to the Pentagon between Oct. 7 and Nov. 8 to determine why there was a need to amend portions of his manuscripts, but that his questions were not answered.

According to the lawsuit, Esper sent a letter to current Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to inform the latter about his concerns on the review process of his manuscript.

In the letter quoted by the lawsuit, Esper told Austin that when the manuscript was returned to him by the DoDOPSR in October, “multiple words, sentences, and paragraphs from approximately sixty pages of the manuscript were redacted.”

Esper further told Austin in the letter that “no written explanation was offered to justify the deletions.” Finally, Esper informed Austin that he was asked “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.”

In a statement to The Hill, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the agency was aware of the former defense secretary’s concerns. Kirby said the “Department takes seriously its obligation to balance national security with an author’s narrative desire,” adding that department will not comment further on the issue as it is now under litigation.

Esper, who was fired by Trump after the latter's re-election loss last year, has also released a statement on the matter, noting that his memoir “offers important details and new insights into many of the most controversial events that occurred during the tumultuous second half of the Trump administration.”

He added that he is “more than disappointed the current Administration is infringing” on his First Amendment rights under the Constitution.


This isn’t the first time government officials have been accused of using pre-publication review to seemingly silence former officials. Former national security adviser John R. Bolton tried to publish a book that entailed his time working with the former president. At that time, officials were accused of attempting to silence Bolton through the pre-publication process, The New York Times reported.

Esper’s “A Sacred Oath” is scheduled for publication by Harper Collins in May 2022. The memoir can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

President Donald Trump announced he had fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Twitter President Donald Trump announced he had fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Twitter Photo: AFP / THOMAS KIENZLE