Edward Snowden

The Feds Get Permission To Seize Edward Snowden's Book Profits

A judge rules whistleblower’s failure to subject Permanent Record to pre-publication review violates non-disclosure agreement.


A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the U.S. government has the authority to seize the proceeds of Edward Snowden's book because he failed to submit his book to the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) for pre-publication review to analyze any classified information printed within.

The ruling, by Liam O'Grady, U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of Virginia, is a perfect encapsulation of the letter of the law and also the bizarreness of its application. Snowden's book, Permanent Record, documents his decision to blow the whistle on the NSA's secret surveillance and mass unwarranted collection of Americans' communication data. He is currently a fugitive from the Department of Justice (DOJ), living in Russia, charged with espionage, though many Americans see him as a hero.

Snowden's former work agreements with the CIA and NSA are clear that he (and any other employee) must submit the contents of books or speeches for review. There is no exception to account for him blowing the whistle on what many Americans see as misconduct. He's still supposed to submit his book for review to the very agencies whose misbehavior he was revealing. So in response to the book's publication, the DOJ sued Snowden and his publishers, demanding the money from both the book and from Snowden's public presentations.

It seems very unlikely that Permanent Record would get a fair review from the CIA and NSA but the rules don't care. O'Grady even canceled a planned hearing for verbal arguments because he said they weren't necessary. O'Grady notes in the ruling that "there is no genuine dispute of material fact publicly disclosed the type of information and materials described above in Permanent Record and his speeches…" So, he loses and the feds will get to take the money he would have made from the book, a New York Times bestseller.

Brett Max Kaufman, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who helps represent Snowden, put out a statement saying, "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." He also calls for reforms to an "unfair and opaque pre-publication review system affecting millions of former government employees."

Snowden's team is considering their options.

Read the ruling here. Read an excerpt from Permanent Record here.

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  1. Just for grins and giggles, I wonder what would have happened if the book’s official author had been his girlfriend/wife, and all his words had been framed as quotes.

    1. Knowing the CIA and the Fed in general, they would have been Not Amused, and would have made said wife/gf suffer in some way, most likely by tying them up for years in court.

  2. Yeah, the US Government is not entitled to shit.

    The US Gov is in breach of Contract for conducting an unconstitutional domestic spying program. It would be pretty shocking for a contract to be upheld if one of the parties is engaged in illegal activity.

  3. They will be going after James Clappers CNN appearance fees next, right?

  4. A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the U.S. government has the authority to seize the proceeds of Edward Snowden’s book because he failed to submit his book to the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) for pre-publication review to analyze any classified information printed within.

    Did that federal judge in Virginia submit xir ruling to the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) for pre-publication review to analyze any classified information printed within?

  5. Snowden should have submitted the book for review, and then gone ahead and published it anyway, regardless of what the review said.

  6. So did Snowden have the money deposited in banks the US can reach?

    1. Did he have the money at all? I would imagine they would just take it from the publisher.

  7. Huh, what do you know. Money and speech are two different things after all.

  8. Snowden’s team is considering their options.

    Bitcoin and portraits of Edward Snowden. Buy a portrait of Edward Snowden and it gets packed securely in a box of worthless scrap paper that has writing all over it.

  9. We Are Living In Scary Times !

  10. This is standard procedure for anyone who has held a high level clearance. You generally don’t get to profit from your experiences in government. In the last few years they’ve been a little more generous. Of course if you are a political appointee the rules generally don’t apply.

    DoD is even more strict. A friend wrote a somewhat successful romance novel. DoD took all the profits as the book was written when she was on active duty. To this day the only thing she received as compensation was the odd free flight to a conference/fan convention.

    1. And please recognise sir that this standard procedure is unconstitutional. These publication reviews were put in place to suppress reports about the Vietnam War and are a terrible legacy carried forward to suppress whistleblowers today.

  11. Rotten, Dirty, Stinking Federal U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady, of the Eastern District of Virginia ????????????????

  12. I wonder why Snowden didn’t assign the book to a non-U.S. publisher, one outside federal reach? Internet sales would also eliminate federal access to non-U.S. distributors.

  13. I totally support Ed Snowden and think it is shitty the Feds are trying to seize the book proceeds (although it shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially not someone as smart as Snowden).

    However, I find it *extremely* hypocritical and ironic that a Libertarian/Objectivist website is coming to the defense of someone who is clearly violating a non-disclosure contract they “voluntarily” signed as a condition of employment. If Snowden’s book was directed against a private corporation, you can be assured that the capitalist zealots at Reason would have no problem with that corporation attempting to enforce the non-disclosure agreement Snowden had signed with that corporation. Apparently they have a double-standard when it comes to capitalists who are allowed to engage in all sorts of tyrannical behavior merely because employees have “voluntarily” agreed to submit to capitalist authority (unless of course they want to starve).

    Ahhhh the stark contradictions of capitalist ideology, in clear relief right here.

    Let me know when Reason magazine is ready to start writing articles about why employer-employee relations are inherintly unequal and coercive. Until that time, we can see very clearly through what this article is — an insincere attempt to pay lip service to civil liberties, which flatly contradicts established libertarian principles of the sacredness of contract.

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