Edward Snowden, who exposed a massive government surveillance program of American citizens at the NSA, will not enrich himself through profits realized from sales of any books or paid speeches, a federal judge ruled.
Snowden fled the United States in 2013 and ended up in Russia. The U.S. government has been trying to put him on trial for espionage for years.
Since Snowden did not get preapproval for his book, Permanent Record, as required by law, the judge agreed with the government that all monies he receives from sales should be confiscated.
“The plain meaning of [Snowden’s] contracts … require prepublication review of a signatory’s public disclosures which refer to, mention, or are based upon, classified information or intelligence activities or materials,” District Judge Liam O’Grady wrote in a 14-page decision. “Snowden’s public comments and displays, which occurred without prepublication review, breached [his] CIA and NSA Secrecy Agreements.”
Snowden also violated the law by giving his public speeches via video link.
O’Grady also expressed dismay that Snowden participated in a number of events through video link. “During each of these events, Snowden caused to be displayed and discussed, among other things, at least one slide which was marked classified at the Top Secret level, and other intelligence-related activities of the CIA and NSA. He never submitted any materials or slides to the CIA or NSA for prepublication review, and never received written authority to make his public remarks or publish his slides.”
Snowden’s legal team made an argument that didn’t even get through the front door with the judge.
Snowden’s legal team argued the information Snowden shared in his book was already widely known to the public, and requested discovery to demonstrate that secrecy agreements were applied selectively. The judge provided a cursory dismissal of the claims, writing that he could not “accept the submission of extrinsic evidence.”
He added that the government could pursue a claim against Snowden for sharing information even if that information was already known to the public. “A disclosure can occur after another disclosure has occurred.”
Snowden claims he would come back the U.S. of he could get a “fair trial.” In short, he wants to be able to dictate the terms of his own prosecution — an outrageous demand considering that a congressional report said his disclosures “caused tremendous damage to national security.”
Besides, it still hasn’t been established with any degree of certainty that Snowden was not a spy for Russia. It would be a travesty if he was able to profit from his treason.
Snowden’s revelations were no doubt extremely damaging. But exposing such a massive surveillance program — for whatever his reasons — was a good thing. It alerted the people to a program that was easily abused by the government and encouraged Congress to set limits on what our intelligence agencies can do.