Justice Department Sues Edward Snowden Over His New Memoir

Lawsuit says U.S. government is entitled to all proceeds because Snowden violated nondisclosure agreements he signed with the CIA and NSA

Edward Snowden book
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In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the Department of Justice said the U.S. Government is entitled to all proceeds from Edward Snowden’s upcoming memoir because Snowden did not submit the manuscript for review by the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency prior to publication.

“Permanent Record,” which was released Tuesday, details Snowden’s life from his childhood to his theft of documents detailing NSA surveillance practices that he subsequently leaked to The Washington Post and The Guardian. The suit, filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, does not seek to quash publication of the book; instead, it argues that Snowden should not be allowed to profit from it because, in failing to seek approval from CIA and NSA, he violated nondisclosure agreements he signed when working for those agencies.

Both agencies require current and former employees to submit any material they intend to release publicly for agency review and to not disclose any confidential information they have gleaned from their work at the agencies.

“As a direct and proximate result of Snowden’s breach of his contractual and fiduciary duties, the United States has been damaged and irreparably harmed by … the undermining of confidence and trust in the CIA, NSA, and their prepublication review processes, thereby hampering the ability of those agencies to perform their respective duties, including the protection of sensitive national security information,” the suit said.

The suit demands Snowden and his publisher, Macmillan, not only “relinquish” all revenue from book sales, but also from republication, future movie rights, and speaking fees. The suit also asks the court to permanently prohibit Snowden from making any future speeches about the memoir, or writing any other books.

Ben Wizner, Snowden’s attorney and the director of the ACLU’s speech, privacy, and technology project, said in a statement that the NDAs don’t apply because the book contains no “government secrets that have not been previously published by respected news organizations.”

“Had Mr. Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review,” Wizner added. “But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified.”

On Twitter, Snowden said: “It is hard to think of a greater stamp of authenticity than the US government filing a lawsuit claiming your book is so truthful that it was literally against the law to write.”