Edward Snowden, former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency and contractor of the National Security Agency was found to have broken his lifetime contractual obligation to keep secrets secret and avail the United States government the opportunity to review any content for pre-publication review in accordance with the nondisclosure agreements. On September 29, the Eastern District of Virginia federal court enjoined Snowden from enjoying any of the profits from his book, Permanent Record. The court instructed his multiple publishers to forward his earnings to the United States government.
Violation of Nondisclosure Agreements
The lawsuit alleged, and the court agreed, that Snowden had violated multiple nondisclosure agreements with the United States government when he published his book without submitting it for publication review by the CIA or the NSA. Furthermore, the court agreed that Snowden’s speeches (56 of them for which he was a paid as much as $30,000) which used slides and materials not submitted for publication review were also found to violate the nondisclosure agreements.
The publication of the book was not hindered in any way, rather the proceeds earned by Snowden were being sought. The judgment for the government was in the amount exceeding $5.2 million.
Those Who Take Advantage of Sensitive Documents Will Be Pursued
This judgement and the previous highlight additional areas of national security rules and obligations which Snowden violated when he misused his position of trust as an insider – specifically the publication review requirement as contained in the multiple secrecy agreements he signed.
Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division at the Department of Justice, Jeffrey Bossert, summed up the government’s position nicely, “We will pursue those who take advantage of sensitive positions in government to profit from the classified information learned during their government service.”
Thus, the civil actions against Snowden based on his book are complete. One may speculate whether or not Russia will make good for the revenue lost by Snowden, given the depth of public relations benefit their hosting Snowden has provided the Russian Federation. It is unknown at this time.
Snowden: the Criminal
The government’s interest in criminally prosecuting Snowden remains high. Readers will remember that when the dust had settled following Snowden’s absconding to Russia and the NSA conducted the damage assessment to determine if he acted alone or if he had coconspirators, we learned how Snowden had basically snowed his colleagues into giving him their log-in credentials. Snowden’s role at that time was that of the SharePoint administrator, and thus he was able to spin a yarn that convinced his colleagues to violate the basic information security rules of never sharing one’s credentials.
Using those credentials, he copied classified information to which he had no need to know for the express purpose of sharing it with a foreign power. While Snowden claims to not have shared any of the classified information he purloined with the Chinese or Russian governments, few if any in the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities believe this to be true. For that reason, the United States has canceled his passport.
Snowden has been invited to visit the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and request a temporary replacement passport for single purpose use: return to the United States. Upon return, he will no doubt be greeted with a sealed indictment which addresses the criminal aspect of Snowden’s escapades – the theft of U.S. classified information and providing the information to a foreign power.
For now, Snowden is going to miss a large payday. Eventually, he may face the federal court for his act of espionage and have a different type of day in court.