Best Thing of the Day: WikiLeaks Leaks Transcript of Hollywood's Doc on the Online Activists


Beating the entertainment industry in the message control race, Wikileaks leaked the transcript of the new documentary, “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” one night ahead of its worldwide release. The leaked transcript includes annotations that allege factual errors, misrepresentations and misguided framing in the film, directed by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney.

An unnamed annotator disputes several over-arching conclusions drawn in Gibney’s film, starting with its title, which implies that Wikileaks “steals secrets.” “In fact, the statement is made by former CIA/NSA director Michael Hayden in relation to the activities of US government spies, not in relation to WikiLeaks,” the annotator writes.

The annotator also addresses Gibney’s characterizations of Bradley Manning, the private accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. By focusing on Manning’s alleged sexuality, rather than political motivations, the writer says, “Gibney's portrayal of Manning is as a disempowered individual, rather than as someone courageous and principled.” As a press release from Wikileaks notes, these details are especially relevant now, as Manning’s 12-week-trial continues on Monday. “The premiere of "We Steal Secrets" is opportunistically timed,” the release states. “Manning may face life in prison and could potentially face the death penalty. Charges include espionage and aiding the enemy.”

The annotator also takes issue with suggestions in the film that Manning was in contact with Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange and claims misinformation about the sexual allegations against Assange. Wikileaks not only hit Gibney for the what’s in his documentary, but also its omissions. “Gibney's film could have been an important and timely project,” the release states, “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.”

According to Reuters, Gibney sought to include Assange in the film, but chose to proceed without him due to difficulties in securing an interview. Media accounts suggest a dispute between Gibney and Assange over framing in the filmmaker’s final product. "He likens himself as the puppet master, the one who's pulling the strings on the media. I think he took some offense at the idea that I was independent," Gibney told Reuters, adding that Assange allegedly asked for money to be interviewed. 

Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola, who has extensively covered WikiLeaks and Manning’s trial, wrote a detailed analysis of the film and this annotated transcript. “As someone who has extensively covered the story of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, 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,” Gosztola writes.

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