Snowden ordered by judge to surrender book profits

David Yaffe-Bellany

A federal judge in Virginia ordered the whistle-blower Edward Snowden to relinquish $4.2 million in profits from his tell-all memoir about his work in U.S. intelligence because he did not submit the manuscript for government review before publishing.

Snowden also must give up profits stemming from paid speeches that he gave without authorization, and sacrifice potential future profits from the distribution or adaptation of his 2019 memoir, “Permanent Record,” said U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in an order on Tuesday.

In this Oct. 11, 2013 file image made from video and released by WikiLeaks, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks in Moscow.

The government argued that Snowden was required to submit the manuscript for his book for review under secrecy agreements he signed with the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In his order, O’Grady agreed with that assessment, writing that Snowden “breached his contractual and fiduciary obligations to the CIA and the NSA by publishing Permanent Record and giving prepared remarks within the scope of his prepublication review obligations.”

A lawyer for Snowden did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in court filings, Snowden’s legal team has argued that the government’s interpretation of the secrecy agreements is overly broad and would “require former public servants to submit for review anything intelligence-related that they ever expected to discuss, for the rest of their lives.”

Hacking Revelations

Snowden became a household name and a hero to many on the left in 2013 when he leaked highly classified information about NSA surveillance programs. He worked with journalists to reveal the government’s hacking of private internet systems and its widespread spying on allies and adversaries of the U.S.

O’Grady ruled in December 2019, a few months after the publication of “Permanent Record, that Snowden violated his secrecy contracts, setting in motion U.S. demands for evidence about how much money he had made from paid speeches.

Snowden, who is now living in or near Moscow, ignored the government’s requests for information, but the U.S. was able to obtain some evidence by issuing subpoenas to the American Program Bureau, which assisted Snowden in arranging at least 67 paid speaking engagements.