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Snepp v. United States

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  1. First Amendment

In 1979, the Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in a case involving the government’s contractually required pre-publication review of a book authored by a former CIA employee. The government contended that Frank Snepp, upon resigning from the CIA, signed a secrecy agreement preventing him from disclosing any classified information or unpublished information concerning intelligence without the agency’s consent. Snepp eventually published a book with Random House Inc. called “Decent Interval,” about his observations and experience in Vietnam. He did not submit the manuscript to the CIA for review prior to publication.

The government sued Snepp in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, claiming that he breached his contractual and fiduciary duties by failing to submit the manuscript for review. The government thus sought to retain the rights in and the profits from the book. On appeal of the district court’s decision in favor of the government, Reporters Committee attorneys argued in briefs filed with the Fourth Circuit and Supreme Court that requiring employees to agree to pre-publication review as part of their employment contracts violated the First Amendment.

Read the full brief here.