Permanent Record by Edward Snowden in San Francisco, California. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/AFP/JUSTIN SULLIVAN
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden in San Francisco, California. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/AFP/JUSTIN SULLIVAN

Washington — A federal judge in Virginia has ordered whistle-blower Edward Snowden to relinquish $4.2m in profits from his tell-all memoir about his work in US 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 authorisation, and sacrifice potential future profits from the distribution or adaptation of his 2019 memoir, Permanent Record, said US district judge Liam O’Grady in an order on Tuesday.

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 (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

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 pre-publication 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 US 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”.

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

O’Grady ruled in December 2019, a few months after the publication of Permanent Record, that Snowden violated his secrecy contracts, setting in motion US 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 US was able to obtain some evidence by issuing subpoenas to the American Programme Bureau [a global speaker, celebrity and entertainment agency], which assisted Snowden in arranging at least 67 paid speaking engagements.


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