January 27, 2022

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United States Obtains Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction Against Edward Snowden

18 min read

On Sept. 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered a final judgment and permanent injunction against Edward Snowden, a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA).

In September 2019, the United States filed a lawsuit against Snowden, who published a book entitled Permanent Record in violation of the non-disclosure agreements he signed with both CIA and NSA. The lawsuit alleged 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. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Snowden has given public speeches on intelligence-related matters, also in violation of his non-disclosure agreements.

The United States’ lawsuit did not seek to stop or restrict the publication or distribution of Permanent Record. Rather, under well-established Supreme Court precedent, Snepp v. United States, the government sought 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.

In December 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, found in favor of the United States in the suit against Snowden on the issue of liability and held that Snowden breached his contractual and fiduciary obligations to the CIA and NSA by publishing Permanent Record and giving prepared remarks within the scope of his pre-publication review obligations, but reserved judgment on the scope of these violations or the remedies due to the government.  On Tuesday, the court entered judgment in the government’s favor in an amount exceeding $5.2 million and imposed a constructive trust for the benefit of the United States over those sums and any further monies, royalties, or other financial advantages derived by Snowden from Permanent Record and 56 specific speeches. 

“Edward Snowden violated his legal obligations to the United States, and therefore, his unlawful financial gains must be relinquished to the government,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.  “As this case demonstrates, the Department of Justice will not overlook the wrongful actions of those who seek to betray the trust reposed in them and to personally profit from their access to classified national security information.”

“Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This judgment will ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him.”

“We will pursue those who take advantage of sensitive positions in government to profit from the classified information learned during their government service,” said Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division.

This lawsuit is separate from the criminal charges brought against Snowden for his alleged disclosures of classified information. This lawsuit is a civil action, and based solely on Snowden’s failure to comply with the clear pre-publication review obligations included in his signed non-disclosure agreements.

This matter is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.

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