Justice Department Sues Edward Snowden, Seeking Profits From His Book

The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Edward Snowden alleging that his newly released memoir, Permanent Record, violates nondisclosure agreements he signed with the federal government. Justice Department lawyers say the U.S. is entitled to all of Snowden’s book profits.

The civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in Virginia names the former National Security Agency contractor and his New York-based publisher, MacMillan. The suit argues that Snowden’s failure to receive pre-publication approval from the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency constitutes a breach of contract.

Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Trent McCotter wrote that the alleged violation of nondisclosure agreements Snowden signed with the two agencies undermines public trust in the federal government and endangers national security.

“Additionally, Snowden has been, and will continue in the future to be, unjustly enriched in the amount of profits, advances, royalties, and other advantages resulting from the unauthorized publication of his book,” McCotter wrote.

For the past six years, Snowden has lived in Russia, where he was granted asylum as he faces separate federal criminal charges in the U.S. over allegations of espionage and the theft of government property following the 2013 leak of classified material about U.S. surveillance programs.

The civil suit asks the court to freeze all of MacMillan’s assets related to Snowden’s memoir and for all of Snowden’s profits and royalties from the book to be placed in a special fund on behalf of the U.S. government. It’s not clear what the money would be used for.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it 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.”

Neither Snowden nor any of his representatives has responded publicly to the civil lawsuit.

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