Judge grants government proceeds from Edward Snowden’s book

The government is entitled to any money former National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden makes from his memoir and paid speeches because he disclosed classified information without approval, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Snowden has been charged with espionage since 2013, when he exposed top-secret surveillance documents in what may have been the biggest security breach in U.S. history.

The former contractor sees himself as a whistleblower compelled to reveal sweeping surveillance programs hidden from the American people. But through two administrations, the government has viewed him as a traitor who escaped justice by fleeing to Russia.

Unable to put him on trial, the Justice Department this year moved to cut off his profits from the book he published, “Permanent Record,” as well as from paid speeches.

In a brief opinion in federal court in Alexandria, Judge Liam O’Grady ruled in the government’s favor. “The contractual language of the Secrecy Agreements is unambiguous,” he wrote. “Snowden accepted employment and benefits conditioned upon prepublication review obligations.”

Snowden’s attorneys said they disagree with the court’s decision and will review their options.

“It’s farfetched to believe that the government would have reviewed Mr. Snowden’s book or anything else he submitted in good faith. For that reason, Mr. Snowden preferred to risk his future royalties than to subject his experiences to improper government censorship,” Brett Max Kaufman, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Center for Democracy and member of Snowden’s legal team, said in a statement Tuesday.

Nothing in the book was sent for approval to the CIA or National Security Agency as required under the secrecy agreements Snowden signed as a contractor. Snowden acknowledged breaking the rules in a “Daily Show” interview, saying he didn’t want to “let the CIA edit [my] life story.”

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