The US government has argued that Bolton did not follow the nondisclosure agreement he signed that gave him access to classified information, and thus forfeits the money he has made from book sales. However, Bolton claims former National Security Council records management senior director Ellen Knight gave him the go-ahead to publish the material.
Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia rejected Bolton’s bid on Thursday, saying that “while the government may not prevent Bolton from publishing unclassified materials, it may require him to undergo a reasonable prepublication review process. The ... agreements are thus consistent with the First Amendment,” according to the Washington Post.
However, the Trump administration previously tried unsuccessfully to have publication of Bolton’s book “The Room Where It Happened” blocked in June, arguing it contained classified information. Word of the book’s potentially sensitive contents first broke in January in the days prior to Trump’s impeachment trial, at which time the National Security Council demanded Bolton remove the classified information from the book.
Bolton was part of the Trump administration from April 2018 to September 2019, serving as Trump’s national security adviser until their considerable disagreements on foreign policy toward Venezuela, the Koreas and several other countries came to a head and Trump fired Bolton. The depths of their differences in demeanor and philosophy only became fully known with the publication of Bolton’s book, which characterized the US president as capricious, petty and small-minded.
Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer who specializes in national security and whistleblower cases, told the Post the ruling sets “a horrible new precedent.”
“Before this case the ... Government had never pursued anyone for simply sharing a draft manuscript with lawyers, literary agents or publishers, even though by law it was improper to do so,” Zaid said. “As long as the manuscript was approved before actual publication, the US Government was satisfied. But now the rules have changed, and any dissemination can create liability.”
Indeed, the Trump administration has pursued a parallel case against Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and National Security Agency contractor who leaked a deluge of information about the government’s domestic surveillance programs in 2013.
On September 29, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered a final judgment and permanent injunction against Snowden, ruling his 2019 book “Permanent Record” had violated nondisclosure agreements he had signed with both agencies by his not submitting the manuscript for prepublication review by them.
The ruling also covered 56 speeches by Snowden and created a “constructive trust for the benefit of the United States over those sums and any further monies, royalties, or other financial advantages” he might get from the works.
Snowden has lived in Moscow since fleeing the United States with the damning material.