Barely within a day of the release of Edward Snowden’s much awaited memoir, Permanent Record, a lawsuit was filed by the United States government against him on September 17, demanding as damages, all the proceeds earned from the sale of the book. The US Department of Justice’s case is based on non-disclosure agreements signed by him as the terms of his employment at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and as a sub-contractee for the National Security Agency. Snowden has argued that while he signed the secrecy clauses, he also took an oath to protect the constitution and intends to abide by it.
According to the lawsuit, Snowden is expected to submit any material that he intends to publish to the relevant intelligence agencies for review, as he is still bound by the non-disclosure agreements despite the termination of his contract. The lawsuit also includes as “nominal defendants”, the publishing company Macmillan and the distribution agencies. The government, in a statement, has also added that Snowden’s past comments and addresses to the media, along with his previous book published in 2013, Everything You Know About The Constitution Is Wrong, are also in violation of the agreements he signed.
Meanwhile, the US civil rights organization, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has argued that the lawsuit is without basis, as Snowden has not divulged any official secrets. He has only spoken on matters that have already been widely reported.
Snowden’s attorney Ben Wizner, who is also the director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a public statement that “Edward Snowden wrote this (book) to continue a worldwide conversation about mass surveillance and free societies. This lawsuit will only bring more attention to the book.”
In a series of tweets, Snowden has claimed that the government’s decision to sue him vindicates what he has been saying all along. “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,” he said.
Snowden even went on suggest that his publishers should include the objections raised by the government against its publication in future editions.
The government of the United States has just announced a lawsuit over my memoir, which was just released today worldwide. This is the book the government does not want you to read: (link corrected) https://t.co/JS1AJ6QlXg
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 17, 2019
In a televised interview from Moscow, where he has been granted asylum by the Russian government, Snowden said that the book talks about his motivations behind disclosing the massive global surveillance system created by the NSA.
The case against Snowden comes at a time when the US government has escalated its efforts to crack down on other whistle-blowers like Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, who have brought out several leaked secret documents detailing US war crimes.