Edward Snowden and Macmillan hit with US lawsuit over memoir

Edward Snowden and Macmillan hit with US lawsuit over memoir

The United States has filed a lawsuit against Edward Snowden and Macmillan over the publication of his memoir, alleging the book violates non-disclosure agreements the whistleblower had signed with the CIA and NSA. 

Permanent Record was published globally on 17th September, with Macmillan handling the US release and Pan Macmillan publishing in the UK.

In 2013, Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent, leaked a cache of highly-classified documents revealing the scale of extensive internet and phone surveillance by US intelligence. 

Permanent Record tells Snowden's story and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit alleging that Snowden published his book without submitting it to the agencies for pre-publication review, in violation of his express obligations under the agreements he signed. The lawsuit also alleges that Snowden has given public speeches on intelligence-related matters, also in violation of his non-disclosure agreements.

Explaining the decision to name Snowden's US publisher Macmillan as nominal defendants, the DOJ said: "The United States is suing the publisher solely to ensure that no funds are transferred to Snowden, or at his direction, while the court resolves the United States’ claims."

Snowden is currently living in Russia and the DOJ says this civil lawsuit is separate from the criminal charges brought against him for his alleged disclosures of classified information. 

Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the DOJ's Civil Division said: “Edward Snowden has violated an obligation he undertook to the United States when he signed agreements as part of his employment by the CIA and as an NSA contractor. The United States’ ability to protect sensitive national security information depends on employees’ and contractors’ compliance with their non-disclosure agreements, including their pre-publication review obligations. This lawsuit demonstrates that the Department of Justice does not tolerate these breaches of the public’s trust.  We will not permit individuals to enrich themselves, at the expense of the United States, without complying with their pre-publication review obligations.”

Macmillan has stood by publishing Snowden's memoir. In a statement Macmillan said: “We are proud to publish Snowden’s memoir and make his uncensored story in his own words, available worldwide. We are very disappointed that the government has chosen to sue Edward Snowden for telling the deeply personal story about his decision to speak out about our government’s unprecedented system of mass surveillance.”

Snowden's attorney Ben Wizner said the book "contains no government secrets that have not been previously published by respected news organisations." 

Wizner, who is also director of the American Civil Liberties Union, added: "Had Mr Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review. But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified. Mr Snowden wrote this book to continue a global conversation about mass surveillance and free societies that his actions helped inspire. He hopes that today’s lawsuit by the United States government will bring the book to the attention of more readers throughout the world."