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Supreme Court of the United States
February 19, 1980, Decided 1
[*507] [***707] [**764] [****2] In No. 78-1871, Frank W. Snepp III seeks review of a judgment enforcing an agreement that he signed when he accepted employment with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He also contends that punitive damages are an inappropriate remedy for the breach of his promise to submit all writings about the Agency for prepublication review. In No. 79-265, the United States conditionally cross petitions from a judgment refusing to find that profits attributable to Snepp's breach are impressed with a constructive trust. We grant the petitions for certiorari in order to correct the judgment from which both parties seek relief.
Based on his experiences as a CIA agent, Snepp published a book about certain CIA activities in South Vietnam. Snepp published the account without submitting it to the Agency for prepublication review. As an express condition of his employment with the CIA in 1968, however, Snepp had [*508] executed an agreement promising that he would "not . . . publish . . . any information or material relating to the Agency, its activities or intelligence activities generally, either during or [****3] after the term of [his] employment . . . without specific prior approval by the Agency." App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 78-1871, p. 59a. The promise was an integral part of Snepp's concurrent undertaking "not to disclose any classified information relating to the Agency without proper authorization." Id., at 58a. 2 [****4] Thus, Snepp had pledged not [**765] to divulge classified information and not to publish any information without prepublication clearance. The Government brought this suit to enforce Snepp's agreement. It sought a declaration that Snepp had breached the contract, an injunction requiring Snepp to submit future writings for prepublication review, and an order imposing a constructive trust for the Government's benefit on all profits that Snepp might earn from publishing the book in violation of his fiduciary obligations to the Agency. 3
The District Court found that Snepp had "willfully, deliberately and surreptitiously breached his position of trust with the CIA and the  secrecy agreement" by publishing his book without submitting it for prepublication review. 456 F.Supp. 176, 179 (ED Va. 1978). The [***708] court also found that Snepp deliberately misled CIA officials into believing that he would submit the book for prepublication clearance. Finally, the court determined as a fact that publication of the book had "caused the United States irreparable harm and loss." [*509] Id., at 180. The District Court therefore enjoined future breaches of Snepp's agreement and imposed a constructive trust on Snepp's profits.
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444 U.S. 507 *; 100 S. Ct. 763 **; 62 L. Ed. 2d 704 ***; 1980 U.S. LEXIS 75 ****; 5 Media L. Rep. 2409
SNEPP v. UNITED STATES
Subsequent History: [****1] Certiorari granted; Petition for Rehearing Denied April 14, 1980.
Prior History: ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 595 F.2d 926, reversed in part and remanded.
prepublication, classified, confidential, intelligence, punitive, covenant, fiduciary, unclassified, clearance, detrimental, vital
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