Judge Rules Government Entitled To Snowden Book, Speech Proceeds

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the US government is entitled to the proceeds from Edward Snowden's memoir, as well as any money he earns from paid speeches, because the former National Security Agency employee disclosed classified information without approval, according to the Washington Post.

Snowden has been charged with espionage since 2013, when he exposed top-secret surveillance documents in what may have been the biggest security breach in U.S. history.

The former contractor  sees himself as a whistleblower compelled to reveal sweeping surveillance programs hidden from the American people. But through two administrations, the government has viewed him as a traitor who escaped justice by fleeing to Russia.

Unable to put him on trial, the Justice Department this year moved to cut off his profits from the book he published, “Permanent Record,” as well as from paid speeches. -Washington Post

Judge Liam O'Grade of the Alexandria, VA federal circuit wrote in his brief that "The contractual language of the Secrecy Agreements is unambiguous," adding "Snowden accepted employment and benefits conditioned upon prepublication review obligations.'

Snowden's attorneys and the ACLU have cried foul.

"It’s farfetched to believe that the government would have reviewed Mr. Snowden’s book or anything else he submitted in good faith. For that reason, Mr. Snowden preferred to risk his future royalties than to subject his experiences to improper government censorship," said ACLU staff attorney Max Kaufman in a Tuesday statement.

Snowden, meanwhile, acknowledged in a "Daily Show" interview that he breached his NSA and CIA contract by failing to allow them to review the book prior to publication - arguing that he didn't want to "let the CIA edit [my] life story."

But he argued through attorneys that nothing in his public talks revealed new information, and that it would have been “futile” to submit his manuscript for approval because the government would never have reviewed it “in a good faith and timely fashion.”

His attorneys also argued that Snowden was singled out among the many former intelligence operatives who have written or spoken about their experiences. -Washington Post

Snowden famously exposed the US government's mass data collections, and is now living in Russia where he is avoiding extradition to the United States to stand trial. He says he would return, but only if allowed to defend himself at trial by asserting that his leaks were done in the public interest - a defense not allowed under US law.