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US govt wins right to snaffle Edward Snowden's $5m+ book royalties, speech fees – and all future related earnings

Big blow to big whistleblower

The US government's Department of Justice has won its multi-million-dollar claim to Edward Snowden's Permanent Record book royalties as well as any future related earnings.

A federal district court in eastern Virginia this week ruled that Uncle Sam was entitled to the proceeds of Snowden's bestseller, an estimated $5.2m, and "any further monies, royalties, or other financial advantages derived by Snowden from Permanent Record." It can also grab Snowden's appearance fees from 56 speeches, thought to exceed $1m.

The court came to this conclusion after deciding Snowden broke his non-disclosure agreements with the NSA and CIA. It noted the super-leaker did not offer up his book for a review by official censors nor did he clear speeches on intelligence matters with the US government as required by his employment contract from the time he worked for Uncle Sam.

"The United States’ lawsuit did not seek to stop or restrict the publication or distribution of Permanent Record," the Dept of Justice's spokespeople said on Thursday of the decision.

Edward Snowden and Julian Morrow at Think. Image Darren Pauli / The Register

Ed Snowden has raked in $1m+ from speeches – and Uncle Sam wants its cut, specifically, absolutely all of it


"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."

That the US government would crack down on Snowden is hardly unexpected. Officials filed suit in September 2019 to claim a cut of Snowden's public persona on the grounds he broke his agreement with the No Such Agency by going public.

"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 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."

A spokesperson for Snowden could not be reached for comment on the judgment. ®

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