There are a lot of things that Edward Snowden did wrong. According to the Department of Justice, the whistleblower signed a nondisclosure agreement when he worked with the government – and his new memoir violated this agreement. A lawsuit is now being filed to take the profits from his latest book, “Permanent Record.”
The DOJ feels that the profits should go back to the government. The main argument is that when Snowden exposed the surveillance apparatus in the US, he violated the NDAs that he signed when working at both the CIA and the National Security Agency.
Snowden would have to first submit the book to intelligence agencies for it to be reviewed. This is customary of any current or former government employee who has written a book to ensure that certain information isn’t being shown to the general public. With Snowden failing to do this, the DOJ believes that he is in violation.
The DOJ isn’t looking to take the memoir off of shelves. However, all proceeds from the book should go to the government, not directly to Snowden.
“Permanent Record” is being promoted as Edward Snowden’s personal account of his life as well as how he built the mass surveillance system and his motivation behind bringing it down.
According to the DOJ’s account, they allege that Snowden was in violation of secrecy agreements. They also allege that he breached fiduciary duties to the two intelligence agencies that he was working at.
With the DOJ establishing a civil suit, this is completely different from the criminal charges that Snowden is facing as it pertains to stealing government property as well as violating the Espionage Act. The criminal charges are as a result of what he did in 2013— exposing spy programs and sparking dialogue about what is and isn’t okay in terms of government snooping. It is considered one of the largest intelligence leaks in US history. It has also led to legislation that reduces the number of spying tools that the government can use on the American people.
Edward Snowden is living in Russia, where he has been in exile for six years. Quite a few media appearances have been done for the book. “Permanent Record” was released worldwide on Tuesday, which coincides with Constitution Day.
The civil suit created by the Department of Justice also names Macmillan and its parent company, which are the books publishers. They are only being sued nominally so that funds are not transferred to Snowden or add to his direction during the litigation of the case.
The civil suit also cites various paid speeches that Snowden has given while being in Russia. He has been living there since 2013 under an asylum agreement. According to G Zachary Terwilliger, a US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia handling the lawsuit identifies that intelligence information should be used to protect the nation instead of providing personal profit.
The goal of the lawsuit is to ensure that Snowden doesn’t receive any monetary benefit as a result of breaching the trust that was placed in him – and that trust was broken as soon as he violated the nondisclosure agreements that he signed.
The Department of Justice is not working in new territory when they are looking to seize book profits from Snowden. They have asserted that they are working under the precedent that was set in a 1980 Supreme Court decision of Snepp versus the United States. A former CIA contractor was sued when he did not submit a book manuscript to be reviewed before publication, citing that it was a breach of contract.
Snowden took to Twitter, telling people that it is the book the US government doesn’t want people to read.
What’s interesting is that the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the constitutionality of the review process prior to publishing, which means that they’re in Snowden’s corner.
According to Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner, the book doesn’t contain any government secrets that haven’t been already published. Snowden did not submit the book for review because he believed that the government wouldn’t review it in good faith.
A number of contractors and employees within the government publish books every year. There is a full review process that happens prepublication. It is something that everyone is aware of – and Snowden was aware of the review process as well.
By choosing to skip out on it and write about things that he had personal knowledge of while working as an employee and contractor means that he violated his NDA. However, the question remains of whether that means he shouldn’t see any profits from the book.