Sunday, June 02, 2013

"We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks"

Universal and “Focus World” (of Focus Features) and director Alex Gibney, give us an extensive documentary of the history of Wikileaks, “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks”. It’s long (130 minutes), and despite major corporate sponsorship, it’s opening only on one theater in the DC area, the AFI in Silver Spring, which usually emphasizes festival films. Should this film have appeared in “AFI  Silverdocs”?
   
The film moves back and forth between Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, telling complete stories of both, with many live shots of both, making them both into movie stars.
  
But it is Manning;s that seems tragic.  He is always likeable on camera, and it’s not that apparent that, while in the Army, gender identity became such an issue for him (to the point that he wanted hormone replacement).  It’s a little hard to sort out at what point he decided to release all the information he had gathered after being placed in military intelligence, almost out of the Army’s “convenience”.  Manning’s detailed history is available on Wikipedia here
     
Manning’s behavior, as presented by the film, is disturbing enough that it would seem that it could have been used by opponents of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” and the military gay ban. However, people deployed in Iraq, including an out lesbian soldier who supervised him, really didn’t care. 

The story of his betrayal by another hacker Adrian Lamo, whom the film describes as somewhat eccentric himself and having Aspergers, and living in his own world,   is intriguing.

The behavior by the US Army disclosed in the leaks is indeed shocking.  This film shows enhanced clips form the original "Collateral Murder" ("cf"  blog, April 7, 2010; the US government hasn't complained to me about my embedding the 40-minute film on my own blog). The excerpts include dialogue where helicopter soldiers say, when children are shot, that it's their parents' fault for bringing them into a combat zone. 
  
Supporters od Bradley Manning  (there is a “Bradley Manning Support Network) held a protest at Fort Meade, MD on June 1, WJLA story here. The Obama administration seems to be "tougher" on the leaks issue with Manning than Bush would have been (although Bush kept a civilian in a Navy brig for months as a "combatant").  
    
Assange’s early history is amplified by interviews with Daniel Domshceit-Berg.   One of the earliest activities involved disclosing the financial chicanery by banks in Iceland.  Later, the film details the history of the attempts by governments to set him up.  Were the sexual assault charges in Sweden a set-up?  If he was innocent, why did he resist going back to Sweden?  Was he sure that he would be railroaded? One interesting observation is that Assange (in contrast to Manning) had apparently fathered several children with different women.  He comes across physically as an attractive, charismatic person.
        
In the end, Wikileaks had to contradict its own values, demanding secrecy agreements itself. 
  
The official Facebook is here.  
  

See related PBS Frontline “WikiSecrets”, June 15, 2011.  See also films here April 11, 2013;  September 29 and June 25, 2012.   


Update: June 3

CNN is reporting the first day of Bradley Manning's trial at Fort Meade. MD;  he was portrayed as craving "notoriety" and of having, through Wikileaks, given Al Qaeda information that showed up in Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, according to Navy Seals, CNN story with video here.

I spent one weekend at Fort Meade myself in 1969, while in the Army, for the Armed Forces Chess Championship (scored 3.5 out of 6).  The National Security Agency adjoins it.
  Julian Assange has his own interpretation of the Manning trial in the Huffington Post here.

The New York Times has an account June 4 of the testimony of Adrian Lamo, story by Charlie Savage, here

No comments: