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World & Nation

Judge rules in favor of U.S. effort to take Edward Snowden’s book money

Edward Snowden in Berlin
Edward Snowden is projected on a screen during a video conference in Berlin to present his book, “Permanent Record,” on Sept. 17.
(DPA /AFP via Getty Images)

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden violated secrecy agreements with the U.S. government that allow it to claim proceeds from a memoir he published earlier this year, a judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria, Va., ruled that Snowden is liable for breach of contract with the government because he published “Permanent Record” without submitting it for a pre-publication review, in violation agreements he signed with both the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency. In the book, Snowden explains how he viewed himself as a whistleblower by revealing details about the government’s mass collection of emails, phone calls and internet activity in the name of national security.

Snowden was charged under the U.S. Espionage Act. He now lives in Russia in order to avoid arrest.

O’Grady wrote that under the agreements, Snowden was required to allow the government to review anything he planned to publish “containing any mention of intelligence data or activities, or any other information or material which is ... known to be classified.”

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“The terms of the CIA Secrecy Agreements further provide that Snowden forfeits any proceeds from disclosures that breach the Agreements. These terms continue to apply to Snowden,” the judge wrote.

The Washington Post first reported on the judge’s ruling.

Snowden’s lawyers had argued that the government had already broken the secrecy agreements by indicating that it wouldn’t give his book a fair pre-publication review. His lawyers have also said the book contains no material that hadn’t previously been made public.

Brett Max Kaufman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Center for Democracy and lawyer for Snowden, said the legal team disagrees with the ruling and is reviewing its options.

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“It’s far-fetched to believe that the government would have reviewed Mr. Snowden’s book or anything else he submitted in good faith,” Kaufman said in a statement. “For that reason, Mr. Snowden preferred to risk his future royalties than to subject his experiences to improper government censorship.”

The federal government’s lawsuit didn’t attempt to limit the book’s distribution, but asked the judge to allow the government to collect all the proceeds from the book.


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