WikiLeaks beat Hollywood to it.
You’ve probably already heard and “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks“, the not-so-great anti-WikiLeaks doc on the whistleblower website’s founder, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and online activism.
Hollywood had planned to release the $2 million documentary, directed by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney, on Friday, May 24. Wikileaks leaked the transcript of the documentary to the internet a day earlier.
Where’s the story here? Let’s hear from WikiLeaks and Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola, who has extensively covered Assange, the Manning trial and WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks explains why it leaked the transcript:
The annotated transcript reveals errors and sleight of hand by the director Alex Gibney. The premiere of “We Steal Secrets” is opportunistically timed. Bradley Manning’s 12-week trial commences on Monday 3rd of June. Manning may face life in prison and could potentially face the death penalty. Charges include espionage and aiding the enemy.
The film portrays Manning’s alleged acts as failure of character rather than a triumph of conscience. The portrayal of Manning’s alleged relationship to WikiLeaks and to Assange is grossly irresponsible and suggests – erroneously and when evidence is to the contrary – that Assange may be guilty of conspiring with Bradley Manning to commit espionage or similar offences. The film buys into the current US government position that journalists and publishers can be prosecuted as co-conspirators alongside their alleged sources. This is a dangerous proposition for all journalists and media organizations — not just WikiLeaks. In the context of the US government’s attempts to prosecute journalists who communicate with confidential sources, Gibney’s film could have been an important and timely project. The film barely touches on the US investigation against WikiLeaks, never mentions the words “grand jury”, and trivialises the larger issues, perhaps because the film-maker could not secure an interview with Julian Assange.
Neither Julian Assange nor anyone associated with WikiLeaks over the past two-and-a-half years agreed to participate in the film. Stock footage of Assange has been used instead and has been heavily edited, in places seriously distorting what was said. WikiLeaks has however co-operated with other feature documentaries, including a film by respected Academy Award-nominated, US film-maker Laura Poitras, which will be out later this year and another film, co-produced with Ken Loach’s 16 Films, which will be released shortly.
Gosztola suggests that the doc is “the product of a director who has an axe to grind.” That’s because it focuses on the personalities of Assange and Manning while trivializing the significance of WikiLeaks.
“There are multiple aspects of the film that happen to be misleading, disingenuous or seem to be the product of a director who has an axe to grind,” he wrote. “First, the title reinforces widespread perceptions created by the United States government that the WikiLeaks organization is out to “steal” secrets. Gibney has claimed that the title is “ironic.” Actually, the US government steals secrets. Former NSA director Michael Hayden says this in the film, but this aspect of US government operations takes up only a few seconds of the film. He does not explore how US government agencies are actually the ones engaged in stealing so the “irony” does not come through at all.”
“We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks” - The annotated transcript.