About Frank Snepp


Peabody-Award winning investigative journalist and broadcaster; best-selling author; former interrogator, counter-intelligence operative and chief strategy analyst for the CIA in Vietnam; ex-CIA whistleblower; named defendant in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on free speech and national security; expert commentator on the Vietnam war, national security, and the First Amendment.

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Makers of Snowden Documentary Face Legal Showdown over Leaks

CIA Author Points to U.S. Supreme Court Precedent

By Frank Snepp, January 8, 2015

A recent “exclusive” from The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Edward Snowden’s producer, who helped turn his secrets-bust into an Oscar-contending documentary, could be facing a financial bust for her trouble.

Laura Poitras, Film director

Laura Poitras, Film director

A newly filed lawsuit alleges that Laura Poitras and her production associates are guilty of helping the former NSA contractor breach his fiduciary obligations to the government.

If they lose, they could be obliged to forfeit all profits from “Citizenfour,” the documentary they filmed about Snowden and his decision to expose some of the NSA’s most sensitive classified information.

Kansas attorney Jean Lamfers filed the suit on behalf of a former government worker who argues that Snowden and his collaborators should not be allowed to profit from his leaks. The plaintiff, Horace Edwards, who insists he is acting for the public, seeks to have a “constructive trust” imposed on the profits that would cause them to be turned over to the government.

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Profiteering from Compromised Security: the Snowden Dividend

By Frank Snepp – Posted April 13, 2014

Luke Harding’s new book, “The Snowden Files,” shamelessly recycles many of the Top Secret NSA revelations first reported in his own newspaper, the Guardian, by Glenn Greenwald, his former colleague and Ed Snowden’s favorite press contact.

Harding rushed his twice-told tale into print last February in an apparent effort to gain a march on Greenwald who is preparing to publish his own Snowden tell-all a few weeks from now.

Besides stealing part of Greenwald’s own stolen thunder, the Harding tome serves to remind us there is no honor among thieves, especially when they’re vying to cash in on the biggest secrets heist in the history of U.S. intelligence.

Not that Greenwald suffered pre-emption easily. On February 10, he tried to nudge “Files” out of the headlines by planting a new Snowden bombshell on an “investigative” website he’d just launched with the Nation’s Jeremy Scahill and freelancer Laura Poitras.

That web exclusive – co-authored by Scahill – dealt with NSA’s alleged involvement in U.S. assassination plots. Never mind that the essence of the story had been surfaced months before by The Washington Post, in two reports based on Snowden documents in its possession. Greenwald apparently has no reservations about beating a dead horse if it will help him preserve his monopoly of the lucrative Snowden franchise.

He and Poitras staked a claim to this money machine last June when Snowden met with them and another Guardian reporter in Hong Kong and handed them most if not all of the secrets he’d lifted from his former employer, the NSA. Greenwald then worked with Harding and others at the newspaper to make the most of this bonanza. The Guardian owned a good chunk of the Snowden story until Greenwald quit in October, taking the leaker’s remaining stash with him for use on the new website, as if it were now his property.

Harding’s book may well be the Guardian’s way of sticking it to the guy who heisted the heist.

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Edward Snowden’s Weasel Ways


latimes.com Op-Ed

“Edward Snowden’s Weasel Ways”

By Frank Snepp, January 31, 2014

Granting Edward Snowden clemency, as many have urged, would send a terrible message to other potential whistle-blowers. Yes, he may have sparked an important national privacy debate, but he did so through reprehensible actions that harmed national security.

If that’s a harsh verdict, I have earned the right to it. In terms of sheer media hype, I was the Snowden of my day, a disaffected ex-spy who, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, rocked the security community by publishing a memoir about intelligence failures I’d witnessed as a CIA officer during the last years of the Vietnam War. I did so only after the agency backhanded my repeated requests for an in-house review of our mistakes and refused to help me or anyone else rescue Vietnamese allies abandoned during the evacuation of Saigon.

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Snowden and a Muzzled Free Press

“Snowden and a Muzzled Free Press”

By Frank Snepp, Posted CNN.com, July 3, 2013

The conservative Republican Rep. Peter King of New York recently uncorked the genie that journalists fear most, by calling for a crackdown on anyone who gives air time to Edward Snowden and like-minded leakers. To most of my journalist colleagues, this seems to violate the most basic tenets of press freedom. But as I discovered from my own bout with the U.S. Supreme Court, the First Amendment can be a fickle friend for anyone who dares defy the guardians of “official secrecy.”

The continued hemorrhaging of some of our most closely held intelligence could make the administration an ally of King’s, particularly if Snowden keeps lobbing headline-grabbers from some hideaway abroad. Attorney General Eric Holder has already shown his colors by prosecuting more leak cases under the espionage statutes than any of his predecessors, and by making reporters’ phone and e-mail records fair game in related investigations.

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Ex-CIA Spy Dishes on Witch Hunts and Whistleblowers

“Ex-CIA Spy Dishes On Witch Hunts and  Whistleblowers”

(Originally Posted: Jeff Stein’s SpyTalk – Snowden and Press June 12, 2013

Former CIA operations analyst Frank Snepp touched off a firestorm of controversy in 1977 with the publication of Decent Interval, his unauthorized, embarrassing account of how the spy agency deserted its files and friends in a hasty exit from Vietnam.

Even though Snepp concealed the true names of CIA undercover operatives and their Vietnamese assets, and most experts agreed the book had no real classified information, Democratic President Jimmy Carter’s Justice Department, abetted by a furious CIA, pursued Snepp with a vengeance worthy of a covert action operation.

In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the administration’s argument that Snepp’s violation of his employment agreement (not to publish anything without the CIA’s approval) trumped his First Amendment rights.

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