The United States filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who in 2013 leaked secret documents about US telephone and Internet surveillance, saying his new book violates non-disclosure agreements.
The Justice Department is seeking to “recover all proceeds” from Snowden’s book, which was released Tuesday.
Snowden published his book, Permanent Record, without submitting it for a pre-publication review, in violation of non-disclosure agreements he signed with both the NSA and the CIA, the Justice Department alleges.
In his memoir, Snowden tells his life story in detail for the first time and explains why he chose to risk his freedom to become perhaps the most famous whistle-blower of all time. It offers an expansive account of how he came to reveal secret details about the government’s mass collection of emails, phone calls and Internet activity in the name of national security.
Snowden on Tuesday tweeted a link to his book on Twitter, saying, “the government of the United States has just announced a lawsuit over my memoir, which was just released worldwide. This is the book the government does not want you to read.”
Ben Wizner, Snowden’s attorney and director of the American Civil Liberties’ Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said the memoir “contains no government secrets that have not been previously published by respected news organisations”.
He added, “Had Mr Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review. But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified.”
Snowden was charged under the US Espionage Act. He now lives in Russia in order to avoid arrest.
“The United States’ ability to protect sensitive national security information depends on employees’ and contractors’ compliance with their non-disclosure agreements, including their pre-publication review obligations,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said in a statement. “We will not permit individuals to enrich themselves, at the expense of the United States, without complying with their pre-publication review obligations.”
The Justice Department is not attempting to limit the book’s distribution, but is asking a federal judge to allow the government to collect all the proceeds from the book. The book’s publisher was also named in the lawsuit. The government is suing the publisher to ensure that no funds are transferred to Snowden while the case plays out, the Justice Department said.
The ACLU and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University are currently challenging the pre-publication review system in the courts.