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The Crazy 'Citizenfour' Lawsuit Ends After One Final Bizarre Manifesto

"We shall overcome," Kansas man says after dropping a multibillion dollar suit against Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras.
​Screengrab: Citizenfour

As we've discussed before, the civil lawsuit brought against Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, and the entire Citizenfour team by an elderly Kansas man has been completely nuts from the get-go. Now, it's come to a fittingly entertaining end.

The case, which originally sought "billions of dollars" to be paid to the entire populous of the United States, was finally dismissed earlier this month, with Poitras and Snowden out nothing except legal fees and months of time spent dealing with a frivolous lawsuit.


The entire details of the case make for wonderful reading, but here's what happened. Citizenfour came out, and Horace Edwards, a former naval officer, happened to hear about it. Because Citizenfour contains classified information, he decided to sue Snowden on behalf of all of the citizens of the United States.

To defend himself, Snowden's lawyers entered a copy of Citizenfour into evidence (and delivered copies of it to Jean Lamfers, Edwards's attorney), which started an entirely new branch of wackiness in the case.

Lamfers locked her copy of Citizenfour in her office, where it wouldn't be viewed by anyone. (Citizenfour was in wide release at this time.) This delivery of evidence, she argued, was in and of itself, illegal. Before completely dropping the case, Lamfers and Edwards filed one final document in which they noted that the Snowden team acted recklessly and illegally, but in which they also recognize the case isn't actually going anywhere.

Lamfers argues that, by entering a copy of the movie into evidence, the Snowden team put Edwards in jeopardy of being prosecuted as a traitor to the United States:

"Plaintiff Edwards' caution [in handling a copy of Citizenfour] is warranted regarding his exposure to classified information having had a Q clearance and having a lifelong obligation to the government to properly handle such information. Despite Defendants' assertions to the contrary, Mr. Edwards does have a legally cognizable injury if he inappropriately comes in contact with classified information he is unauthorized to have … Plaintiff has been scrupulous about carrying out his lifelong promise made to the United States Government not to mishandle classified materials. The exposure to potential criminal penalties under federal law's prohibitions against mishandling of classified government information is ironically triggered and encouraged by the Defendants' repeated mischaracterizations of the legal standards applicable to the handling of classified information."


This memo was written in early April, after Citizenfour had won an Oscar. The film had been in wide release for months prior to Edwards ever getting his hands on it.

Much of the 13-page memo (embedded below) is like this—it generally chastises Snowden and Poitras, their lawyers, and the court itself, while making few legal arguments. The memo ends with an admission that the case is over, in something of a manifesto that invokes Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Regardless of whether Plaintiff determines to seek further relief elsewhere, given the conduct described herein, and regardless of the Defendants' attempted efforts to distract from the real issue in this case that national security classified information (Tier 3) has been compromised, thus increasing our risk of harm by those who would wish to do us harm, this serious issue has also successfully been brought to the attention of our Citizenry through this action. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., now inscribed on his memorial in Washington, D.C.: 'We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.'"

Edwards officially dropped his case April 3, the same day this document was filed. Lamfers did not respond to my request for comment.

Citizen Four Lawsuit