Edward Snowden

DOJ Gives Edward Snowden's New Book Free Publicity With Lawsuit Demanding Its Proceeds

Snowden didn’t subject his autobiography Permanent Record to pre-publication review by the federal government that’s also trying to throw him in prison.


My copy of Edward Snowden's new autobiography, Permanent Record, arrived in the mail yesterday just hours after the Department of Justice announced that they want to seize the money I (and many others) paid for it and transfer that money to the federal government.

The Justice Department has filed a civil suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia accusing Snowden of breaching his non-disclosure agreement as a former CIA employee and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor by not submitting his book for pre-publication review so that government officials can make sure it didn't reveal any classified information.

Snowden is living in exile somewhere near Moscow, charged by this same Justice Department with espionage in 2013 for leaking troves of classified documents showing how the NSA had been secretly collecting massive amounts of private phone and internet communications data from millions of Americans, using a section of the post-9/11 Patriot Act as justification.

Rather remarkably, the Justice Department, despite its concerns that the CIA and NSA did not pre-review his book, is not seeking to stop the book's distribution. Instead, they want to force MacMillan Publishers, MacMillan Publishing Group, and Holtzbrinck Publishers to hand over to the government any money they earn from the book's sales and not pass along any of the proceeds to Snowden.

They're invoking a Supreme Court precedent from 1980, Snepp v. United States, that allows the government to seize royalties from former CIA and NSA employees if they publish books about agency activities without submitting their manuscripts for pre-publication review.

Mind you, there's nothing in this Justice Department lawsuit and its press release that explains what would have happened had Snowden, a fugitive, actually submitted his manuscript for review or how that would even work.

It doesn't stop there. Snowden has been giving speeches and remote interviews since 2014 about his work and his whistleblowing, and the Justice Department is going after him about that as well. The lawsuit notes that he makes money from his speeches, which he also does not submit to the CIA or FBI for pre-review (as his agreements with the agencies require).

The lawsuit seems rather comical given that Snowden is famous for leaking classified information, and Snowden's lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, has said in a statement that the book contains no classified information that hasn't already been published by the media.

But the lawsuit isn't supposed to make logical sense. The purpose of the lawsuit is to punish Snowden, even though they cannot get him back to the United States to put on trial. It's a bit similar to civil asset forfeiture: They aren't able to convict Snowden, so they're just going to try to take his stuff. Look at the way Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt describes the actions of a man who became famous for informing the public that its own government was secretly collecting their private data:

"This lawsuit demonstrates that the Department of Justice does not tolerate these breaches of the public's trust. We will not permit individuals to enrich themselves, at the expense of the United States, without complying with their pre-publication review obligations."

(Emphasis mine.)

Polls show that more Americans see Snowden as a whistleblower, not as a traitor. The public's trust was breached by the NSA's secret surveillance, not Snowden, who has maintained that the reason he won't return to the United States for a trial is because he won't be allowed to make the case to a jury that his actions were justified whistleblowing for the purpose of benefiting the American public—not an attempt to aid foreign opponents of the United States, as detractors claim.

Snowden, is of course, basking in the extra attention he's getting from the lawsuit, as well he should:

In the meantime, the authority for the type of domestic surveillance Snowden exposed expires this year unless Congress acts. Even though the NSA has actually abandoned this type of mass metadata collection and recommended that Congress let authorization lapse, the White House is not only asking for these authorities to be renewed, but to be made permanent.

We would not know nearly as much about the extent of unwarranted federal government snooping and the mass collection of Americans' data were it not for Snowden's whistleblowing. It's absurd and insulting—but not surprising—that the Department of Justice continues to paint him as an enemy of the American people and use that as justification to try to seize any money he makes, even from American citizens like myself who are voluntarily purchasing his book.

Below, defy the Justice Department to watch this interview of Snowden by Reason's Nick Gillespie in 2016:

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  1. the NSA has actually abandoned this type of mass metadata collection


    1. “this type”

      They’ve moved on to a much more advanced type of mass data collection.

      1. They outsourced it to googtwitbook.

        1. These little ironical comments are highly misguided. Given the reputational interests at stake, clearly the authorities have every right to demand that so-called “whistleblowers” secure permission before publishing any personal “accounts” of their crimes, just as they have the right to jail the authors of inappropriate “parody” that threatens the good names of respectable figures teaching here at NYU and elsewhere around the country. Those who do not comply should be subject to confiscation and whatever other suitable punishments law enforcement officials can get away with imposing. See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case at:


    2. Yeah. Right. And who says the NSA has stopped? The NSA.

      1. You can believe them. After all, they told the truth about not spying on us in the first place, right? RIGHT?

  2. Interesting how he hasn’t mysteriously disappeared yet.

    1. Evidence contrary to the Dems and OBL claim that Putin and Trump are each others’ puppets.

      1. Interesting point. On another hand, it’s a money grab that doesn’t put the Donald in anyone’s debt.

    2. [puts on tinfoil hat]
      How do we know he hasn’t? Have you seen him in person recently? How do we know he actually wrote this book?

      1. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Chipper Morning Wood in person either. Maybe CMW is Snowden!

        1. Chipper MW is retarded. Edward Snowden is not retarded.

  3. I cannot wait to get the details of the Plaintiff US Government serving that civil Complaint on the Defendant Edward Snowden in Russia.

    1. I hope he likes it there; they say Russian women are, on average, very attractive.

      1. He married his long time girlfriend, model/dancer/acrobat Lindsay Mills a couple years ago.

      2. Sampling bias, my brother. On average, Russian women are, well, Russian.

      3. Until a certain age, yes. After that, you have to remember that our version of fairy tale witches are based on Eastern European old women.

        1. Its Baba Yaga!

      4. He could always resort to porn:

        “One particular program the NSA called XKEYSCORE allowed the government to scour the recent internet history of average Americans. Snowden says he learned through that program that nearly everyone who’s been online has at least two things in common: They’ve all watched pornography at one time or another, and they’ve all stored videos and pictures of their family.”


  4. Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

  5. Whiny little traitor bitch should get life without parole. End of story.

    1. I think he’s more a whistle blower.

    2. The Founding Fathers also exposed the unconscionable actions of the British and were labeled traitors. They also knew that they would hanged if caught and never receive a “fair trial”.

      Edward Snowden should just come back to the USA and get a trial. It won’t be fair as the government will never make it a public trial. It would allow him a platform to condemn the unconstitutional actions of the US Government and his American right to expose those violations of the US Constitution.

      I would acquit him though. Maybe at least one juror would too.

      1. The judge would be in control of what kind of case Snowden would be allowed to present. They’re not going to “allow him a platform”.

  6. I ordered my copy yesterday after I heard about the lawsuit. A physical copy (important in case distribution is pulled) is supposed to be in tomorrow.

  7. Must be another one of those legal precedents that allow the government to seize anything they want, anytime, for any reason. There are so many I don’t even keep track.

    1. Trump will fix that!!!

    2. It was a signed contract.
      The correct Libertarian response is to agree that the contract was broken, and the penalties known at the time of contract should be enforced.

      1. That doesn’t mean we have to hope the enforcement is successful.

      2. Maybe he could argue that the NSA breached first?

      3. Technically, the US Government breached the contract first by engaging in unconstitutional actions and hired Snowden to engage in such unconstitutional actions.

        Holding Edward Snowden to a contract like that while he is under indictment for exposing said unconstitutional actions by our government is a farce.

        1. Right. A contract to commit unlawful acts is void.

  8. In my fantasy, the judge remarks to counsel for the plaintiff, “I imagine there was some intense debate in your office over whether to include the phrase ‘breaches of the public’s trust’. You did know it would attract mockery, didn’t you?”

  9. Th LINOs are out in force in this thread.

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