The US government has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, alleging that his newly-published memoir ‘Permanent Record’ violates nondisclosure agreements he signed with the CIA and NSA.
The civil lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, claims that Snowden violated these agreements by not sending a draft of the book to the spy agencies for review – and presumably redaction – before publication. It also alleges that the whistleblower’s public speeches on “intelligence-related matters” violated the agreements.
Rather than pull the book from the shelves, the government wants to pocket all the earnings from its sale.
“Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit,” said Zachary Terwilliger, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This lawsuit will ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him.”
However, with Snowden now living in asylum in Moscow, it is unlikely that he will face a jury unless he returns to the US voluntarily, as Russia does not assist the US with extradition. Unable to physically serve him with the suit, prosecutors have proposed serving him via his lawyer, his publisher, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, where he sits on the board.
The CIA and NSA subcontractor shot to prominence in 2013, when he leaked classified documents revealing massive domestic and global spying programs by the NSA and its ‘Five Eyes’ allies.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he has been repeatedly granted short term asylum, on the condition that he avoid carrying out any activities against US interests.
The US charged him under the antiquated Espionage Act, and if convicted, Snowden could face 30 years in prison. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the whistleblower-in-exile said that he would return to the US, but only if he believed he would receive a fair trial.
“I’m not asking for a parade. I’m not asking for a pardon,” he told CBS News. “What I’m asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom line that any American should require.”
Snowden insists that he never took an oath of secrecy, but an oath to defend the Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Precluding a return to the US, Snowden has applied for asylum in France. The request found favor with the country’s Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, who said over the weekend that France should stick “to our strong principles on immigration,” meaning that “we must accept asylum seekers.” French President Emmanuel Macron’s office later disavowed her remarks, however.