Evidence Copy Of 'CitizenFour' Needs To Be 'Locked Up' Claims Plaintiff Suing Snowden, Filmmakers For Billions

from the is-there-someone-less-crazy-I-could-speak-to? dept

The billion-dollar lawsuit against the producers of the Edward Snowden documentary CitizenFour rolls on, gradually unraveling as it does. Since we last covered the story (where the United States of America was added as an involuntary plaintiff — a plaintiff since forcibly removed by the court), a lot has happened. For one, CitizenFour won an Oscar for Best Documentary, something that can’t be sitting too well with Horace Edwards and his legal representation, which sought to have the film removed from consideration during the early days of this lawsuit.

The film has also been put into limited release and is streaming on HBO GO — something that makes the following developments even crazier than they would be without these key details. Over at Vice, Jason Koebler has compiled a timeline of Edwards’ (and his lawyer, Jean Lamfers’) descent into paranoiac craziness.

Around January 23rd, Lamfers requests that a copy of the film not be allowed to be entered as evidence, what with it being full of highly-sensitive documents, espionage and whatever. She asserts that the movie contains so much classified info that it should only be reviewed in camera.

Then, no hell at all breaks loose, although in Lamfers’ and Edwards’ eyes, the espionapocalypse is nigh.

Poitras and her attorney deliver a copy of the film to the Lamfers. She does not take it well.

“I said I did not want to take possession of it. This was because of my understanding the film contains classified information based on my having seen the film. I received no response to [my] request from defendants’ counsel [to bar the film from being entered as evidence in court],” Lamfers wrote in an email sent to the judge presiding over the suit. “To the contrary defendant’s counsel delivered a copy of the DVD to my office (which remains unopened and under lock and key).”

That time when the normal process of discovery became a cheap knockoff of a le Carré novel.

From this point on, it’s a long but fast slide downhill into amateur cloak-and-dagger awkwardness.

Two DVDs and a transcript of the film are entered as evidence because this is how that process works. Lamfers immediately files a motion asking for these to be sealed. The requested injunction would have no effect on the public release of the film, as the judge notes.

“Given the inherently public nature of this film, the Court can discern absolutely no interest that could justify sealing this exhibit. Moreover, even if this DVD contained some sort of confidential information for which Plaintiff had an interest in preventing public disclosure, it has already been publicly filed…”

[Side note: For reasons only comprehensible to Cryptome, a copy of the movie is being made available at the site, apparently under the mistaken belief that publicly-filed evidence automatically enters into the public domain. This perhaps-willful misunderstanding of both the court system and copyright law may be at least partially due to Cryptome’s ongoing animosity towards anyone involved with the Snowden leaks for their refusal to make every single document Snowden gave them available in one massive dump — and without redactions.]

Undeterred by the judge’s logic, Lamfers proceeds to pester the court with “emergency” phone calls in hopes of sealing the Very Dangerous DVD. The judge reminds Lamfers that there are certain ways these things are handled during court proceedings and making “emergency” phone calls isn’t one of them. Lamfers reads this rebuking email and decides the judge is suggesting she pester the court with “emergency” emails.

Lamfers emails the judge, at 12:46 AM local time (according to the court record), chastising the court for endangering national security and not immediately responding to her call.

“This situation has placed the plaintiff in an untenable position regarding avoiding irreparable harm and obtaining appropriate relief sought on a serious issue in a timely manner,” she wrote. “The denial of a sealing motion has furthered the irreparable harm and relief necessary to address such harm, among other things, by the continuing injury through repetition of classified, stolen information that reaches a broader constituency of extremists with each showing.”

Lamfers follows this up with a filed motion stating that the DVDs and transcript should be locked up under the legal precedent of “better safe than sorry.” (No, I am not making this up. If I was, it would be more credible.)


Apparently further phone calls from Lamfers ensued, because the court is forced to formally — via a court order — tell her to knock it off.

Plaintiffs counsel has been instructed that the Court prefers informal communications with the Court be made by e-mail, with copy to the opposing counsel. In the Court’s experience, such informal communications are rarely necessary and are typically limited to coordinating hearing dates after the court has determined a hearing is necessary, or to address routine, procedural questions. The does not and will not entertain requests for relief in this manner and the Plaintiff shall refrain from this practice going forward.

Well, we’ll see if that works. Nothing else has so far. The docket shows things have remained eerily quiet over the past several days, but there’s no telling how many phone calls and emails have made their way to Judge Julie Robinson’s court in the meantime.

Of course, the lawsuit doesn’t hinge on the misguided actions of the plaintiff and his counsel but on the actual merits of the case. However, even if Edwards’ suit has its legal merits, he and his counsel appear to be the worst people to argue them.

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Comments on “Evidence Copy Of 'CitizenFour' Needs To Be 'Locked Up' Claims Plaintiff Suing Snowden, Filmmakers For Billions”

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29 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

"I reject your reality..."

I feel pity for the author of this lawsuit. He seems to have created in his mind a reality in which he’s a knight riding a white horse who is going to single-handedly save the world by battling dangerous subversives who are releasing this film as a way to destroy America.

His actions as described in this article make sense from within this reality. The judge, however, is acting from the point of view of our consensual reality, where these actions are baseless and disruptive. The collision of these incompatible realities will not end well for the lawsuit’s author.

Anonymous Coward says:

Head in the sand

It betrays a lot about these people the way they stick their head in the sand. The documentary is in wide release and has received critical acclaim, but they can’t see those copies, so apparently they aren’t important. In contrast, the DVD and transcripts entered into evidence are right in front of them, therefore they are glaringly dangerous and likely to attract the attention of the whole world.

Apply that mentality to the politics of the situation. The people on the TV that the plaintiffs like expressed their narrative, and they bought it wholly and without question. The concerns of the rest of the population are objectively irrelevant and may not even exist (in their view).

What do you bet that these people think vaccines cause autism and that Obama was born in Africa?

Bill says:

The movie shows nothing that has not already been disclosed. Pretty much everybody in the world has heard of all this stuff. Moreover, the movie is not that good. It’s kind of boring, with endless shots of Ed Snowden staring into the air, contemplating, or closeups of his fingers on the keyboard of his laptop. Lots of staged chat exchanges and screenshots of encrypted messages.

Cryptome (user link) says:

Law Suits

Nothing weird about this case given media and legal Snowden vainglorious hyperbolizing. Edwards team is as good if not better than Snowden’s PR stunting and ridicule, joined by that of the judge in thrall to crowd entertainment prospects — even in this piece and that referenced succumbs to juvie twittering for laughs, ducking research into the issues involved: Natsec Industry Sanctimony vs Civil Liberties Industry Sanctimony.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree with Cryptome

Every document should be immediately released, without exception and without redactions. Let the chips fall where they may.

“But people might die!” People die all day, every day — and as we’re finding out, a lot of them die for lies. If some die as a result of such release, AND THERE IS ZERO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THAT CONJECTURE, then so be it. At least they will have died for the truth.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I agree with Cryptome

Actually what I’d say is the largest reason not to do a massive data-dump is because it would be less effective, and would in fact play right in to the government’s hands.

A huge amount of info would be far too much for people to keep track of, whereas releasing it piecemeal allows people to properly grasp what’s been released.

Additionally, releasing everything all at once removes the possibility/ability to catch the government out on their lies, where they will deny something, often based upon a previous leak, only to have their counter-claims shown to be a lie by a latter leak/post.

Finally, by releasing the information piecemeal, you maintain interest in it. If everything is released all at once, the reaction may be greater in the short term, but the government just has to weather it for a bit before people move on to something else. Releasing bits and pieces over time keeps the pressure on, and maintains interest, as there’s constantly something new to read about and examine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I agree with Cryptome

I agree. There are different, individual pieces of information that are too important to lose as trees within the forest of the info dump. The general public needs to know about all the wrongdoing, but they learn from news media which can’t possibly present all the important points of all the leaks.

You’d basically have to create a Snowden Leaks news channel to go into the necessary detail and the general public would have their eyes glaze over. I don’t have a problem with it all being available, but it needs to be curated and presented with context or else the people who need to know about it won’t care enough to continue listening.

Jon says:

Not which way is up

My trouble with all of this is that the average US citizen is going to depend on the media to disseminate of this information, and I, for one, trust them no more than I trust our illustrious elected and appointed officials. Somehow, I can’t see the mainstream news outlets really treating this unbiasedly unless they’re dead sure that it won’t harm the messiah.

GEMont (profile) says:

The Silent Explanation

I think the simplest way to see the real message that the USG and its various agencies are silently putting forward in defense of their actions is this:

We must become the next Evil Empire, in order to defeat the Next Evil Empire.

Its a fight fire, with a bigger fire mentality.

If the bad guys are bad, then the good guys will have to be badder.

I think the good guys have done such a good job at this that they are now way badder than the bad guys and in fact, may have hired most of the bad guys to aid them in the endeavor.

Since the majority of Non-Good-Guy Bad-Guys are now working for or with the Good-Guy Bad-Guys, there are no Bad Guy Bad Guys left to fight anymore and because the Good Guys and the Bad Guys are now the Good but Badder Guys, who are paid by the citizens to protect the citizens, its only natural that they use the machinery they built in that original endeavor to exploit and rob the citizens they were supposed to protect, and double their income.

It is the nature of the beast after all.

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