Washington — The Trump administration on Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit to seize the proceeds from, alleging the prominent whistleblower violated non-disclosure agreements he signed during his time working for U.S. intelligence agencies.
In its lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia, the Justice Department said Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who gained notoriety after leaking classified files to the press in 2013, failed to ask the agencies to review and approve the contents of his memoir, "Permanent Record," before its publication this week. The government also accused Snowden of violating non-disclosure agreements during public speeches.
"The United States' ability to protect sensitive national security information depends on employees' and contractors' compliance with their non-disclosure agreements, including their pre-publication review obligations," Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt wrote in a statement. "This lawsuit demonstrates that the Department of Justice does not tolerate these breaches of the public's trust."
The government included Snowden's publisher in the lawsuit "to ensure that no funds are transferred to Snowden, or at his direction, while the court resolves the United States' claims."
The lawsuit on Tuesday represents the latest chapter of a bitter legal and public relations fight between Snowden, who has been living in Russia since he sought refuge there in 2013, and Republican and Democratic administrations, which have accused him of jeopardizing national security through his leaks to reporters. In 2013, the Justice Department charged Snowden with violating the Espionage Act, alleging he disclosed classified information.
Snowden was quick to react to the lawsuit, sharing a link to buy the book on Twitter.
In anwith "CBS This Morning" on Monday, the former NSA contractor said he would be willing to the return to the U.S. if he is promised a fair trial.
He also pushed back on the accusation that he violated an "oath of secrecy" through his leaks, saying the term does not exists. Even if he violated a secrecy agreement, Snowden suggested it was necessary to expose wrongdoing by the government.
"What happens when you have a secrecy agreement, but you have also witnessed your own government, your own agency, your workplace, violating the rights of Americans, and people around the world on a massive scale?" Snowden asked.
Ben Wizner, Snowden's attorney and a director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the 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," Wizner said. "But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified."