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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Uphill Fight Against Snowden Documentary

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) - A retired Navy officer outraged by a documentary about NSA defector Edward Snowden has added The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a defendant in a lawsuit and wants the documentary deemed ineligible for an Academy Award.

The Oscar-nominated documentary, "Citizenfour," is based on director Laura Poitras's interviews in Hong Kong with Edward Snowden, a computer systems analyst who leaked classified documents to journalists in 2013 about the National Security Agency's a secret global surveillance program.

In December, Horace B. Edwards, a Topeka man who is a former secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation, sued Snowden, Poitras, Praxis Films, Participant Media, Diane Weyermann, Jeffrey Skoll and The Weinstein Company aka Radius TWC in Federal Court.

Edwards alleged breach of fiduciary duty and sought a declaration that the defendants are "unlawful benefactors" of wrongfully disclosed documents.

"These Hollywood defendants have concertedly acted without regard for the health, safety and welfare of all U.S. citizens, have aided and abetted the illegal and morally wrongful acts of defendant Snowden and have callously chosen to communicate, capitalize and commoditize for their conscienceless benefit, the stolen classified CIA/NSA and other secret documents referred to and revealed in the film," Edwards said in the lawsuit.

He claims that the defendants collaborated to "cloak Snowden's illegal acts in the guise of righteousness and virtue" and portray Snowden as a "well-meaning whistleblower."

Edwards seeks a constructive trust over all profits and proceeds from the "publication, distribution, sale, serialization, or republication in any form of the work entitled 'Citizenfour'" to ensure that "ill-gotten gains are disgorged" and relinquished to the United States, whose "national security has been seriously damaged."

Edwards claims that the money at issue "may well exceed hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, to achieve restitution for all expenditures of the U.S. government to protect human assets placed at risk, restore/revamp computer infrastructure, rebuild relationships with foreign governments, and respond to various enemies' resurgence efforts, due to the blowback associated with the film and the release of classified information to foreign enemies of this nation."

Edwards in December asked the Academy to disqualify "Citizenfour" from Oscar consideration, claiming that some footage appeared online in 2013, which violated Academy rules.

The Academy decided that the movie remains eligible.

Last week, attorneys representing the defendants told a federal judge in Kansas that the lawsuit should be dismissed for First Amendment protections and failure to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate standing.

Attorneys argued in the motion to dismiss that imposing a constructive trust would be "unconstitutional and unprecedented to apply this circumscribed legal remedy to journalists, for it would punish the protected publication of truthful information on a matter of public interest and impermissibly chill the press from reporting on unconstitutional abuses by the United States Government."

On Feb. 14, Edwards' attorneys moved to file a second amended complaint, adding The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Home Box Office as defendants.

The amended complaint seeks a declaration that "Citizenfour" be ineligible for any Academy Award in 2015 due to insurance fraud and the need to remove stolen, classified information from the film. It suit also seeks to bar HBO from airing "Citizenfour" on its cable channel on Mon., February 23.

Edwards claims insurance fraud occurred because an insurer issued errors and omissions insurance for the film "despite the film's inclusion of purloined, classified information."

He also wants the defendants ordered to "re-edit and redact all classified information contained in 'Citizenfour'" and the film be prohibited from being exhibited "in any version containing classified information in any media."

He claims that the defendants violated the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 because they "varnished and revarnished the Snowden 'hero-mystique'" through 'Citizenfour,' which depicts Poitras "harboring and concealing Snowden as he commits acts of terrorism."

"They not only knew, but also acted intentionally to violate the ATA and other federal laws by their direct participation in his crimes and knowing disclosure of unlawfully acquired secrets, unlawful receipt of those secrets and unlawful disclosure of those secrets, not as purported journalists, but as zealous agents lacking any First Amendment rights, public interest or privilege," Edwards claims in the lawsuit.

"Freedom of the press does not immunize purported journalists who commit crimes and courts recognize that such restrictions are not impermissible prior restraints or interference with protected First Amendment content," Edwards says.

He seeks recovery of the loss of up to $100 billion in mandatory terrorism insurance on behalf of all Americans.

He is represented by Jean Lamfers, of Shawnee, Kan.

The defendants are represented by Bernard Rhodes, with Lathrop & Gage, of Kansas City, Mo.

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