DOJ Decides To Help Publicize Snowden's Memoir By Suing Him For Failing To Run His Book By The CIA And NSA First

from the thanks-for-the-publicity dept

As you’ve probably heard, Ed Snowden just came out with his memoir, entitled Permanent Record. I haven’t yet had a chance to read it, but it looks fascinating. Snowden obviously can’t do the usual book tour for this kind of thing, but he has been doing a fresh round of very interesting interviews about his current situation — including saying that he’d be willing to come home to the US and stand trial if only the US actually allowed a public interest defense for Espionage Act claims. As we’ve pointed out for years, one of the (many) problems with the Espionage Act is that it literally does not allow a defendant to explain why they leaked certain information, and assumes that it is equally nefarious to sell secrets to foreign enemies as it is to blow the whistle by informing the press of unconstitutional surveillance.

Still, the DOJ decided to help boost sales of Snowden’s book by suing him for all of the proceeds, over violation of the contract he held with both the CIA and the NSA. The lawsuit is fairly straightforward. Anyone who works in the intelligence community signs a lifetime contract that forbids publishing any manuscript or speech related to their work, without first getting “pre-publication” review.

The government takes this very seriously (in fact, too seriously). Indeed, just recently there was another controversy about pre-publication review regarding a memoir and TV show by former CIA officer Amaryllis Fox. And, for reasons like these, it seems that — purely on a legal basis — Snowden and his publisher have a high likelihood of losing the lawsuit (in part because the law is against him here, and in part because he’s unlikely to be in a position to contest it from Russia — a point we’ll discuss more below).

That said, pre-publication review is a hugely sketchy process. Earlier this year, a bunch of former intelligence officials actually sued the government, arguing that the requirement is unconstitutional. That case is still making its way through the courts, with the government pushing for it to be dismissed. However, there are other recent stories about what a bullshit process pre-publication review tends to be. It involves multiple different contracts with unclear definitions and unclear requirements. Recent revelations have also shown that the feds often use the process to purposefully delay books that will reflect poorly on the government, while speeding through ones that support the government’s position, or are coming from high-profile former officials.

The ACLU, which is defending Snowden (and also involved in the other pre-publication lawsuit mentioned above) quickly put out a statement claiming that the book doesn’t reveal any new secrets and didn’t need to go through review:

“This book contains no government secrets that have not been previously published by respected news organizations. Had Mr. Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review. But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified.

?Mr. Snowden wrote this book to continue a global conversation about mass surveillance and free societies that his actions helped inspire. He hopes that today?s lawsuit by the United States government will bring the book to the attention of more readers throughout the world.?

Snowden, for his part, seems to have had a bit of fun about the whole situation on Twitter, pointing out how it’s helping to attract more attention to the book:

Oh, and also this:

Though, the framing of this as being about the government “not wanting” people to read the book is not entirely fair. They are not suing to stop the publication, which would be a much tougher task. They’re suing for the money — and as much as I disagree with the government on this, given the current state of the law, it’s totally understandable why it feels the need to. Without this lawsuit, lots of others who are going through, or intend to go through, pre-publication review will point to the Snowden situation and say “but what about that guy?”

Anyway, as noted, the government likely does have a strong case, even as bullshit as the pre-publication rules are. And, so, perhaps this means that the Treasury will get a bit of money that should end up with Snowden or his publisher. But, if the goal (as Snowden has insisted) was merely to continue the conversation and get his story out there, well, the DOJ just ended up promoting the book quite a bit. Similar situations in history have, not surprisingly, driven up demand for books:

But, if the DOJ is collecting the revenue on the other end, perhaps it doesn’t care?

There is one other element here that seems worth mentioning. Up at the top, we pointed out that Snowden says he’d come back to face trial if he was allowed to present a public interest defense for his whistleblowing. The fact that the government still refuses to allow this also makes it nearly impossible for Snowden to even fight this lawsuit, because the government will quickly argue that he’s a “fugitive” and thus not able to be represented in court (as it did with Kim Dotcom). That seems to highlight the wider fallout of the over-aggressive nature of the Espionage Act, and the inability to use a public interest defense. It makes it that much more difficult for someone like Snowden to defend his own 1st Amendment rights. And that seems unfortunate.

Either way, while I can understand why the DOJ is doing this, and recognize that it’s likely to win, that doesn’t mean that it’s the right move or a good thing overall.

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Comments on “DOJ Decides To Help Publicize Snowden's Memoir By Suing Him For Failing To Run His Book By The CIA And NSA First”

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U. B. Snowed says:

Snowden Hates Trump

Edward Snowden has drawn an unflattering psychological sketch of Donald Trump, saying the US president is seeking verification from other people. "I think he’s actually quite simple to understand," Snowden said in a lengthy live interview from Moscow with MSNBC’s Brian Williams. "Donald Trump strikes me like nothing so much as a man who has never really known a love that he hasn’t had to pay for." "And so everything that he does is informed by a kind of transactionalism, I think," he added, "and what he’s actually looking for is simply for people to like him. Unfortunately, that produces a lot of negative effects."

AH. That’s not his topic, just total hate. Snowden has at last outed himself as leftist / Deep State. Particularly since says wishes to get a fair trial in the USA: not only might Trump be maneuvered to bring that about, but Snowden has just severely biased about half the jury pool against him. And since his observation implies that he has insight into human nature, acting contrary to reason shows strong motive whelmed him.

Edward Snowden Says Could Return to US, Calls for Fair and Open Trial

Snowden also warned about ongoing data collection by the authorities via various devices. "Where this data that your refrigerator was collecting, that your phone was collecting, that the government was collecting – where all of this data was going was intentionally hidden from us," he said. "We are no longer partner to our technology, in large part, just as we are increasingly, unfortunately, no longer partner to our government, so much as subject to them. And this is a dangerous trend."

Snowden is no longer mentioning the corporations that he stated were full partners giving NSA "direct access".

All been a limited hangout! He’s not content in Russia, would rather return to risk rest of his life in a Supermax prison. BALONEY.

[In the Guardian piece, he says content in Russia! BUT ZeroHedge implies he’s seeking "asylum" in France.]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Snowden Hates Trump

"leftist / Deep State"
Use of nebulous terminology hinders your point(s). Just come out and say what you are getting at and forget the silly dog whistles.

I doubt he will return due to the lack of a fair trial.

I thought that if you saw something you were supposed to say something. Oh well, guess that was bullshit too. It seems this is not what they really want from us little people, what they want is silent obedience and cheerful acceptance of whatever they toss your way. The double think requirements will cause mental illness and maybe it is intentional.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Snowden Hates Trump

"In the Guardian piece, he says content in Russia! BUT ZeroHedge implies he’s seeking "asylum" in France."

So, he’s content in Russia, then. You should stop treating blog run by known liars as if they have the same weight as actual journalism venues, this is why you get so confused about what reality looks like.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Snowden Hates Trump

I’d imagine he would get the same protections as in Russia. However, his presence in Russia is often used as a weapon against him, and I am sure he expects his asylum in Russia is based mostly in his value as a tool for the Russian Government. I don’t expect he could travel outside france, he might have an easier time communicating with people, connecting with them, when they can come to him and meet him in person, as opposed to a video call. Right now he is limited in his movements, and travel to russia isn’t easy. Americans can easily travel to France, as could other europeans, without applying for a travel visa. This would allow for more personable communication.

Alphonse Tomato says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Snowden Hates Trump

Snowden is far less likely to be abducted by US agents as long as he is in Russia. There is a history of people being abducted from Europe (post-9/11) by the US, to be held and tortured in secret facilities. Putin isn’t going to let that happen from Russia, unless it was his idea. Wherever Snowden is, he’s only one change in government away from trouble. And that’s the downside of staying in Russia, there’s a history (with the USSR) of people who were once useful but are no longer, disappearing or having unfortunate accidents.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Snowden Hates Trump

Your use of Deep State to describe Snowden is particularly confusing. The ‘Deep State’, in so far as I understand the claim, are appointed, unelected lifelong government officials who are steering the government and undermining real true democracy from the inside.

Snowden was never a government appointee. His efforts to expose the surveillance state undermined and exposed the work of unelected lifetime government employees collecting blackmail material to use against the populace, aka the DEEP STATE.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Snowden Hates Trump

"Your use of Deep State to describe Snowden is particularly confusing."

You make the mistake of thinking he understand the terms he uses. Like "socialism", "communism", "progressive", "leftist", etc. – these people are so deep in the echo chamber they don’t know or care what the terms actually mean. They’ve just been told they mean "bad" and use them interchangeably to attack things they don’t like.

Since he’s been conditioned to dislike Snowdon by the blogs he reads, he uses that term to describe him without thought to its real definition. It’s nonsense to people who understand the actual definitions, but he doesn’t care enough for fact to understand.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Proof is in the pudding

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That the US Government is exercising their absolute power, likely because they are scared of (or embarrassed by) what might be revealed shows how vulnerable they feel. That the ‘classified’ items they worry about have already been revealed, but they are not allowed to recognized such, as they are forbidden to read the articles that reveal them, expresses their head in the sand posture.

The best outcome will be that the courts allow the ‘in the public interest’ argument creating an exception to the so called Espionage Act. One can only hope.

U. B. Snowed says:

Snowden signed away rights -- as nearly all gov't / military do.

if he was allowed to present a public interest defense for his whistleblowing.

You and he can whine, won’t help.

There IS good cause for ruling out common law / public good defence, as "Gary" and Masnick say, can’t have the rabble deciding what’s in "the public interest", must be left to gov’t and courts.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Snowden signed away rights -- as nearly all gov't / military

There IS good cause for ruling out common law / public good defence, […] can’t have the rabble deciding what’s in "the public interest", must be left to gov’t and courts.

Here’s the problem with that line of logic: by not allowing “public interest” as a defense, even a qualified defense to be adjudicated by the courts, the courts are unable to decide what’s in “the public interest” or not when it comes to violations of the Espionage Act. It’s solely the discretion of the Executive branch (or future modifications to the Espionage Act by the Legislative branch) that could allow for the public interest to be considered. And based on the way the law was written and how the law has been enforced, they aren’t really considering the public interest at all. Since it’s not a defense or even an element of the offense, the courts are not allowed to even consider the public interest at all, so they don’t play any role in deciding whether a violation of the Espionage Act is in the public interest.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Trolled away rights

There IS good cause for ruling out common law

See, there ya go again Blue Balls. You can’t fault any of us for dismissing your rants when you can’t define your terms.

If you mean "Common Decency" then maybe you should say it, instead of trying to hijack a term that is already in use?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Snowden signed away rights -- as nearly all gov't / military

"…can’t have the rabble deciding what’s in "the public interest", must be left to gov’t and courts."

The entire concept of "Free Speech" is based on the fact that your argument is false.

Governments and courts have both been proven to be corrupt every now and then. And given that those institutions hold ultimate authority your argument, if upheld, would mean that ultimately the United States itself should be considered an illegal and unlawful construct created by the rabble-rousing traitors who flouted the just rule of King George.

Other people known to have flouted the law include notables like Jesus christ, Martin Luther king Jr, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, etc.

I’m curious. Do you even realize that what you just said gave the Third reich’s actions full ethical and legal legitimacy?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Considering that out_of_the_blue’s jimmies get rustled whenever Nazis are called Nazis, that last statement of yours is probably rhetorical…"

There’s a reason I’ve called him Baghdad Bob ever since he was spamming Torrentfreak under the handle of "Bobmail". He has this thing about trying to die defending the hills once held by long fallen and discredited inhumane governments.

I wouldn’t be surprised, by now, to see him coming up with a confident argument stating that the EU is toast because Bismarck will be putting an end to the french empire any day now.

Some of Baghdad bob’s/Bobmail’s/OOTB’s arguments might be construed as outright nazi rhetoric but truthfully he appears so confused i doubt even Ernst Roehm would have wanted him in the SA…

Anonymous Coward says:

It all comes out in 2040

The dirty secrets of all governments will be free for all to see after 2040 so I hope the evil people still alive at that time are brought to account for their actions. I honestly expect every government down to the local town level to be disbanded once the attacks and outright abuses are exposed. It will be a strange new world to be able to trust your officials to act on your behalf, but that will be because they can be verified. Trust but verify and if they won’t let you know they are up to no good.

Anonymous Coward says:

nice going! exactly how do they expect this to turn out, then? if the book is published in Russia, for example, do they think they will be able to somehow confiscate every copy, rebrand it, then sell it on so they get the monies and Snowden gets nothing? do they really think he gives a shit about who gets what? his aim, i am sure, first and foremost, is to make as many people as possible aware of what the lying cunts in USA security forces, the United Police States of America, are still doing, even though they were exposed 6-7 years ago! when there isn’t room, no amount of trying will let anything, let alone common sense get it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The deep state is not after the book; there are dozen ways of discrediting it.

The objective is to destroy Snowden; as long as he is in Russia out of their direct reach that can best be done by deprive him of an income.

Chase him. Starve him. Keep him in a state of fear. And, above all shut him up.

If there is a US civil judgement against him he can receive no western income. The legality of the judgement is irrelevant. That is only a means of seizing any income he has from the West.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, it’s kind of interesting. Amazon lists Metropolitan Books as the publisher, and Metropolitan Books is a subsidiary of Henry Holt and Company which has gone through a series of being bought and sold and re-partnered. Which includes an association with "…Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group based in Stuttgart…"

With such a far flung company already, it doesn’t seem impossible to collect the revenue someplace, rename or purpose it, and move it eventually to the correct arm. Yes I know this is called money laundering, and that fiscal transactions are often traceable. But where there is a will, there is a way, and various bad people get away with it all the time. Why not some who aren’t so bad, that is so long as they pay the appropriate taxes.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Just not seeing it

Come now, what was the problem? I mean we’re talking about the CIA and NSA here, agencies that multiple people, from those working there to the politicians defending them, have assured the public are nothing less than total professionals who would never do something like tie the book up in red tape for months/years out of sheer spite, or demand retractions left and right because they insist that things that everyone already knows are still somehow secret.

No, clearly Snowden just wanted to skip what I’m sure would have been a quick, polite, and completely professional discussion with the CIA/NSA and rush to get the book out there for the money, and well, look where that eagerness got him…

urza9814 (profile) says:

About the money...

So…the US government gets all of his profits for any sales where they have jurisdiction. Do they get the publisher’s profits too, or just the author’s cut? And knowing that this is likely, why wouldn’t he just make the US edition a self-published $0 e-book? Pull an reverse of the typical "International Edition"

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re: About the money...

"Nice idea, but I’m not sure Amazon would be willing to ‘sell’ a $0 standalone book like that."

Go to Amazon, navigate to the Kindle books, and sort by lowest price. I got to the 400th page of "$0.00" results before Amazon decided it wouldn’t show me any more. They have many thousands of free books already; why wouldn’t they allow this one?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: About the money...

A quick check and it looks like a good number of the books priced at 0.00 are first books in a series, meant to draw in new readers for future books which will cost more, and while there looked to be a few stand-alones at that price range they seemed to be a definite minority and likely serve the same purpose by getting people interested in an author they might have passed on.

With Snowden’s book on the other hand Amazon would have to deal with a good number of ‘sales’, and with no other books at the moment taking the hit there wouldn’t likely lead to any resulting purchases, making it a resource drain with minimal if any gain for them. They could still host it, and it would be good of them to do so, but given the gain/cost seems rather tiled towards a loss on their end I imagine they’d give it a pass.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"It’s been a few years, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details; Edward Snowden turned whistleblower because the CIA/NSA were committing illegal surveillance, right?"

That’s like saying Stalin was bad because there was some police brutality in his reign…

What Snowden revealed was that US intelligence agencies were aggressively deploying mass surveillance on global scale – trying to gain access to the communication of every citizen in the US and of a number of allied nations.
In practice a program of intrusion of personal privacy not ever seen even in the old Soviet Union or East Germany.

The amount of state, federal and constitutional outright law violations generated by programs such as PRISM and xKeyscore runs in the thousands.

Here’s an example. Roughly 10-20% of teens SMS their boyfriend/girlfriend nude pics at some point in time. So in the US intelligence agencies there is now a growing repository of pure child porn accessible by any analyst with a relatively low security clearance.

Let’s not even talk about lawyer/doctor confidentiality. Out the window.

And bear in mind the surveillance is ubiquitous. The feds are spying on your phone communication no matter whether you are innocent or guilty of anything. And that communication will be analyzed by people who much like Snowden are civilian contractors but may not have his high ethical standard.

…and all of that is just the tip of the internal US midden. In practice this sort of behavior is a bona fide casus belli when it is practiced against other sovereign states. And that is a real shit way of treating those you call "friends".

"Therefore, wouldn’t his contract with the CIA/NSA be void? Because you can’t form a (legal) contract if it would involve illegal activities?"

It might, in theory, but that’s OK because the way it’s run that just means he loses pension and health plan benefits. The NDA he’s signed, however, remains valid since it can be invoked by someone uttering the words "national interests". I suspect there’s a patriot act provision somewhere which states something to the effect that any ordinary rights will be suspended as long as government wants to claim otherwise.

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