We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks
A fascinating insight into Wikileaks and the two men behind the world's largest ever whistleblowing scandal.
July 01, 2013
We Steal Secrets is the story of Wikileaks, and from the outset it fast becomes apparent how little you know of an organisation dedicated to transparency and the sharing of information. Directed by Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), the documentary mirrors the real-world by focusing on two key individuals: Wikileaks' Australian founder Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, the US soldier whose disclosure of classified documents thrust Assange onto the world stage.
The stories of the two men are told with surprising sensitivity, particularly in the case of Manning, who — on account of his ongoing incarceration — is represented exclusively by typed words on a screen. Sent over the course of his deployment in Iraq, the catalogue of Manning's brief online exchanges with various hackers reveals an extraordinarily lonely soul unable to reconcile serious questions about both his own identity and what he perceived to be the ongoing cover-up of atrocities by the US Government. "I want people to see the truth," he wrote, just before leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Assange. "It affects everyone on earth."
The altruistic tone of Manning's narrative seems entirely genuine, particularly when set against the supposedly similar motivations driving Assange. The now infamous 'hacktivist' refused to be interviewed for the film unless he was paid $1 million; however, his willingness to jump in front of cameras over the preceding years provided Gibney with more than enough material with which to paint a fascinating portrait of the Wikileaks founder. Coupled with interviews from the organisation's supporters, employees, detractors and pursuers, Assange emerges as a largely paranoid narcissist, championing free speech whilst doing everything he can to ensure no one speaks freely about him.
And yet, as is pointed out during the film, Assange's paranoia isn't necessarily always unjustified. The rhetoric (and hypocrisy) of the US Government's condemnation of him is at best fascinating and at worst quite concerning. Both the New York Times and the Guardian collaborated on the publication of the leaked documents, yet neither of those organisations' editors have been indicted or even publicly criticised.
In all, We Steal Secrets achieves a fine balance in its depiction of two men whose lives became inextricably linked and, thereafter, changed almost certainly for the worse. Assange sits seeking political asylum within a small room inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and Manning's trial has only now just begun in the United States. In attempting to justify his impending leak, Manning ultimately wrote: "I...care?" This documentary will compel you to do the same, though where you'll fall in your opinion will depend on who you choose to believe.