The US Department of Justice may never be able to prosecute Edward Snowden for his procurement and distribution of highly classified information from the network of the National Security Agency. But DOJ lawyers have found a way to reach out and touch his income—and that of Macmillan Publishers—by filing a civil suit today against them for publication of his book, .
The lawsuit, filed in the US Court for the District of Eastern Virginia, does not seek to stop publication or distribution of . Instead, as a DOJ spokesperson said in a press release, “under well-established Supreme Court precedent [in the case] , the government seeks to recover all proceeds earned by Snowden because of his failure to submit his publication for pre-publication review in violation of his alleged contractual and fiduciary obligations.”
The suit—which also names Macmillan, its Henry Holt and Company imprint, and its parent company Holtzbrinck Publishers—claims Snowden was in violation of both CIA and NSA secrecy agreements he signed as terms of his employment. In the CIA Secrecy Agreements Snowden signed, he acknowledged that “Snowden was required to submit his material for prepublication review ‘prior to discussing [the work] with or showing it to anyone who is not authorized to have access to’ classified information,” DOJ attorneys wrote in their filing. “Snowden was also required not to ‘take any steps towards public disclosure until [he] received written permission to do so from the Central Intelligence Agency.'”
As part of the non-disclosure agreement, “Snowden specifically agreed that, ‘[i]n addition to any other remedy to which the United States Government may become entitled, I hereby assign to the United States Government all rights, title, and interest in any and all royalties, remunerations, and emoluments that have resulted or will result or may result from any divulgence, publication, or revelation of information or material by me that is carried out in breach of [the prepublication obligation].'”
DOJ cites NDA with CIA and NSA
Similar language appeared in a secrecy agreement signed by Snowden when he went to work for the NSA as a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor. In both the CIA and NSA agreements, he acknowledged these conditions would remain in effect until he received a written release from the agencies.
Macmillan is only named in the suit as a “relief party,” in that the government seeks to force Macmillan to turn over whatever proceeds were supposed to be delivered to Snowden. To prevent distribution of the proceeds of sales in the United States to parties outside the country, the government is asking for a temporary restraining order “freezing all assets in Macmillan’s possession relating to that belong to Snowden or his agents, assignees, or others acting on his behalf.” And the lawsuit asks the court to “impose a constructive trust for the benefit of the United States” to collect whatever income Snowden and those he designated as his assignees for royalties and income would be due—including from movie rights and serialization.
The lawsuit also seeks to prevent Snowden from profiting from any future speaking engagements and written works “without first undertaking the prepublication process.”