In September 2019, we already talked about how the American authorities did not disregard the release of Edward Snowden's memoirs, called the Permanent Record. Interestingly, the authorities did not try to prevent the book from being distributed; instead, the US Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against Snowden for violating the non-disclosure agreements that he had once signed with the NSA and the CIA.
In accordance with these documents, Snowden had to submit the book for consideration and approval by the US government before publication. This item is standard in government contracts and is designed specifically to prevent the disclosure of classified information by former agents in their memoirs and works of art.
The Ministry of Justice did not try to block the distribution of the book itself, but asked the court to transfer to the authorities all the proceeds from its sales.
Virginia Federal Court This Week made a decision: the judge agreed with the opinion of the American authorities and considered that Edward Snowden had really violated non-disclosure agreements with the NSA and the CIA, which means that he does not have the right to earn an autobiography.
According to court documents, Snowden signed three non-disclosure agreements with the CIA (in November 2005, August 2006 and April 2009). He also signed three non-disclosure agreements with the NSA (in July 2005, May 2009 and March 2013). According to the judge, all of these documents explicitly required Snowden to attend to a preliminary review of the book before publication.
In addition, the US government claimed that Snowden violated his agreements by publicly speaking via video link at TED conferences and at various universities. The judge ruled that the government is also entitled to any income from these public statements by Snowden, although it is unclear how this can be realized.
“During each of these events, Snowden had to demonstrate and discuss, among other things, at least one slide that was marked as highly classified, and other CIA and NSA activities related to intelligence,” the judge writes. “He never handed over materials and slides for preliminary consideration to the CIA or the NSA, never received written permission for his public statements and publication of slides.”
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Snowden lawyers have already commented on the court decision for journalists Gizmodo:
“It is strange to suppose that the authorities would conscientiously consider Mr. Snowden’s book or other materials presented to him. For this reason, Mr. Snowden chose to risk his future fees, but not expose his work to inappropriate government censorship.
"We do not agree with the court’s decision and will consider options (further actions), but it’s more clear than ever that an unfair and opaque system of preliminary review of publications affecting millions of former government officials needs serious reforms.”