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NSA whistleblower Snowden could forfeit $5mn earnings to US govt.

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo shows former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking via video link from Russia as he takes part in a round table meeting on the subject of "Improving the protection of whistleblowers" on March 15, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who is considered a hero by many people around the world, will forfeit more than $5 million earned from book proceeds and speeches if he loses the case filed by the US government against him.

A US federal judge ruled in December that Snowden was liable for the confidentiality breaches in the contracts he had signed with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) and must turn over all proceeds from his book to the US government.

The Justice Department claimed Snowden had published his book without submitting it to the spying agencies for review, adding that speeches given by Snowden also violated his non-disclosure agreements. It said the US government demanded all the proceeds earned by Snowden for the book.

Snowden's lawyer said that despite agreeing to forfeit the money that had been requested by the Justice Department, his client was considering appealing the court ruling, maintaining material in his book had not breached his confidentially contract with the US spying agencies he worked for, namely NSA and CIA.

"This is not like he's going to fork over the money. This gives them a judgment they were going to get anyways,' said Lawrence Lustberg, Snowden's attorney, was quoted as saying by CNN on Tuesday.

Snowden's other attorney, Ben Wizner, said in a statement that his client's book contained no government secrets that have not been previously published by respected news organizations, and that the government's prepublication review system was under court challenge.

In June 2013, Snowden began leaking tens of thousands of classified top secret US documents revealing the extent of NSA’s spying activities, including the massive collections of phone records of Americans and foreign nationals, as well as political leaders around the world.

The publication of the damning documents shook the US intelligence community and dealt a heavy blow to the US government, causing it an international scandal.

After releasing the documents, the patriotic 37-year-old American fled to Russia where he was later granted asylum by Russian President Vladimir Putin. US authorities, in the meantime, charged Snowden with espionage and theft of state secrets and documents.

Since then, Snowden has earned $4.2 million from sales of his book, titled Permanent Record, as well as royalties and related rights. He has also given 56 paid speeches for an average fee of $18,000 a session- making nearly $1.03 million more.

US officials admit that Snowden's revelations, book and speeches have done irreparable damage to Washington's credibility.

Intelligence officials believe the damaging impact of Snowden's revelations will remain for some time as the secret documents will continue trickling out into the public domain for years to come.

Others, some patriotic Americans included, see Snowden as a hero who unveiled the scope of espionage conducted by US agencies.  

In 2016, Germans awarded Snowden the Glass of Reason for his "courage and conscience" in revealing Washington's double-standards.

Last week, US President Donald Trump retracted calling Snowden "a spy who should be executed".

He said he was considering pardoning him as the presidential election gets near.

Trump's clemency power has often benefited his allies and also well-connected political figures who were pardoned.

Trump, last month, commuted the sentence of his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, who was spared his jail time after he was convicted of lying under oath to lawmakers investigating the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

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