Newly released Permanent Record by Edward Snowden on September 17 2019 in San Francisco, California. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/AFP/JUSTIN SULLIVAN
Newly released Permanent Record by Edward Snowden on September 17 2019 in San Francisco, California. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/AFP/JUSTIN SULLIVAN

Washington — The US justice department filed a lawsuit against Edward Snowden on Tuesday, seeking to prevent the former CIA employee and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor from profiting from his new book.

The civil lawsuit against Snowden, who is living in Russia after leaking information about the US government’s mass surveillance programme, accuses him of violating non-disclosure agreements he signed with the CIA and NSA.

Snowden retorted on Twitter that Permanent Record, which went on sale on Tuesday, is “the book the government doesn’t want you to read”.

The suit alleges that Snowden published the book without first submitting it to the two government agencies for pre-publication review. In a statement, the justice department said it is not trying to block publication but is seeking to recover any book proceeds earned by Snowden, who is facing espionage charges that could send him to prison for decades.

The publisher of the book, Macmillan Publishers, is also named in the lawsuit “to ensure that no funds are transferred to Snowden”, the justice department said.

“Edward Snowden has violated an obligation he undertook to the US when he signed agreements as part of his employment by the CIA and as an NSA contractor,” assistant attorney-general Jody Hunt said. “The US’s ability to protect sensitive national security information depends on employees’ and contractors’ compliance with their non-disclosure agreements.” 

“We will not permit individuals to enrich themselves, at the expense of the US, without complying with their pre-publication review obligations.”

G Zachary Terwilliger, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the lawsuit is filed, said the suit is intended to “ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him ... Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit”. 

Snowden countered: “It is hard to think of a greater stamp of authenticity than the US government filing a lawsuit claiming your book is so truthful that it was literally against the law to write.”

The former NSA contractor has been living in Russia since leaking thousands of classified documents to the press in 2013, which revealed the scope of US government surveillance after 9/11.

Praised as a whistle-blower and a privacy advocate by his defenders, the US accuses Snowden of endangering national security and filed charges against him under the Espionage Act.

In an interview with CBS This Morning broadcast on Monday, he said he would like to return home — if he can get a fair trial.

AFP