Horace B. Edwards, Navy veteran and former Secretary of Transportation for the state of Kansas, is suing Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras and a handful of “Hollywood Defendants” for profiteering from the distribution of “stolen documents.” This is supposedly being done on “behalf of the American people” (“John and Jane Does 1-10” listed in the “Plaintiffs” field). [pdf link]

What Edwards is seeking is a court-ordered “constructive trust,” financed by the proceeds of Laura Poitras’ Snowden documentary “CitizenFour,” to offset the financial damage caused by the leaked documents.

This is an action on behalf of the American people to seek prompt imposition of the Supreme Court’s essential financial remedy–a constructive trust–to redress unjust enrichment by ensuring that ill-gotten gains are disgorged… This relief does not infringe upon First Amendment rights but maintains a reasonable balance between national security and the fundamental Constitutional protections of Freedom of the Press. No censorship occurs and no public access is restrained…

Upon information and belief, through this charade in the film, “Citizenfour,” a fugitive senior intelligence official, e.g. CIA/NSA/DIA, together with the “Hollywood Defendants,” intentionally violate obligations owed to the American people, misuse purloined information disclosed to foreign enemies, and covet financial gain for their misconduct.

If you’re still having any trouble discerning Edwards’ stance on the Snowden leaks, allow this paragraph to do the heavy lifting.

Upon information and belief together, 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 commercialize, capitalize and commoditize for their conscienceless benefit, the stolen classified CIA/NSA and other secret documents referred to and revealed in the film.

From there, we head to the heart of the matter: the billions of dollars in damages Poitras, Snowden, et al should be forced to pay in compensation to the US government.

Upon information and belief, the sums subject to a constructive trust 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’ argument is that Snowden’s breach of his secrecy agreements makes him personally obligated to reimburse the US (the government and its people, according to the filing) for expenses incurred. That the “Hollywood Defendants” and Poitras herself have financially benefited from the documentary makes them at least partially liable, and that all proceeds from “CitizenFour” rightfully belong to the government. To that end, Edwards seeks relief in the following form.

Impose a constructive trust over, and permit the United States Government to obtain an accounting of, all monies, gains, profits, royalties, and other advantages that all Defendants have derived, or will derive in the future, from the publication, distribution, sale, serialization, or republication in any form, including any other rights, of the work entitled “Citizenfour,” whether or not such gains remain in Defendant Snowden’s possession or in the possession, custody or control, whether direct or indirect, of any other Defendant herein.

Considering Edwards is trying to help the US balance its Snowden-related books, you’d think he wouldn’t be attempting to harm the US government’s constructive trust cash cow — Poitras’ Snowden documentary. But included with the filing are two letters [one, two] from the law firm representing Edwards (Lamfers & Assocs. L.C.) to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, both of which contain reasons why “CitizenFour” shouldn’t be allowed to compete for a Best Documentary award. Seeing as an Oscar win usually results in a sales bump — and with Edwards asserting that Snowden, et al need to pay Uncle Sam back for the trouble they’ve caused — it would seem to be in everyone’s financial interest that “CitizenFour” receive a nomination and, hopefully, a win.

But this isn’t about logic, it’s about Edwards’ vindictive and likely futile lawsuit. Edwards wants to punish those who have made the film (as it stands now, Snowden is still out of reach) by dragging them through the federal court system and pushing their film out of Oscar running.

As for his assurances that the creation of a constructive trust wouldn’t have any impact on the First Amendment rights of those named in the lawsuit, he’s only technically correct. Edwards isn’t seeking an injunction barring the showing or sale of the film, but if successful, his lawsuit would have a chilling effect on future reporting pertaining to whistleblowers and/or leaked documents. If he somehow manages to prove that Snowden’s breach of contract makes him and his “benefactors” responsible for money spent by the US government’s damage control, this will deter both future reporting and future whistleblowers from making any information public.

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