Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
May 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Inconvenient Truthers

film filmControversial personalities explored in WikiLeaks doc 'We Steal Secrets'

I'm a combative person—I like crushing bastards." So says Julian Assange, founder of the international whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks, in Alex Gibney's investigative documentary, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks. Not exactly the definitive film on the WikiLeaks phenomenon, Gibney's doc functions as a character study of some of the complex personalities involved in the complicated issue of national security vs. the public's right to know.


From a young Australian geek hacker and anti-nuke activist, Assange parlayed his notion that "Information should be free" into a website devoted to exposing private political maneuvering to public scrutiny. Soliciting items from anonymous tipsters through its secure software, WikiLeaks prides itself on not knowing who its sources are. Denounced as a "traitor" giving aid to "the enemy," and praised as a hero working for the greater good, the enigmatic Assange wryly describes his work as, "Lights on—rats out."
What put WikiLeaks on the map was the release in 2010 of an anonymously obtained video of a 2007 air strike by U.S. helicopters against forces on the ground—many unarmed civilians—in Baghdad, Iraq. Titled "Collateral Murder" by Assange, it made him a "rock star" overnight in antiwar circles. Portrayed as equal parts idealism and hubris, Assange is so eager to get out a wealth of subsequent documents called the Afghan War Log, he doesn't have time to delete all the names of sensitive allies on the ground. (Although the Iraqi War Log that followed was fully redacted for publication.)

Meanwhile, Pfc Bradley Manning, a young, much-bullied Army intelligence analyst with gender-identity issues, finds himself in Iraq "with a bunch of hyper-masculine, trigger-happy rednecks." Deeply disturbed by the U.S. mission in Iraq, he admits to sending thousands of documents to WikiLeaks to an Internet hacker he meets online, Adrian Lamo—who ultimately turns him in to the FBI.

Assange's star quickly tumbles with an accusation of sexual assault in Sweden that his outraged supporters are certain is a set-up by his enemies. Gibney tries to investigate from all angles, including an interview with one of the two women involved, and while nothing in his film is absolutely conclusive (except for the brutal way these women have been reviled online), Gibney follows Assange's logical attempts to divorce his personal life from the impact and reputation of WikiLeaks.

It should be noted that Gibney was unable to interview either Assange or Manning. Their appearances in this film are archival (Manning's words are reconstructed from his emails), while their stories are supplied by former WikiLeaks honchos and employees, colleagues, politicians, military strategists and journalists.

Everyone seems to agree that the national security calamity predicted should this information come to light hasn't happened. It's kind of discouraging how little the U.S. government, and, by extension, the military (or vice versa), has apparently changed its method of doing business since these exposés have become public. That sanctioned "collateral murder," torture, and detention without trial, among other abuses, are not only illegal and immoral, but continue to be standard operation procedure, indicate how little reforming effect these revelations have had domestically.

On the other hand, Wiki partisans in the film argue that the release of the War Logs led directly to the U.S. (finally) pulling out of Iraq. And the publication of diplomatic cables suggesting corruption in high places prompted the ongoing "Arab Spring" in Egypt, Tunisia, and some Middle Eastern nations where protestors against the old regimes are surging toward political democracy. In this respect, Assange's "crushing bastards" philosophy appears to be bearing fruit.

Gibney pays attention to the way the U.S. government has positioned Assange to be the fall guy, using his apparent personal fall from grace to discredit WikiLeaks and divert scrutiny away from the secrets his group exposed. Ditto the way the military has isolated whistleblower Manning as an unstable rogue rather than address the issues raised over how it operates. (Gibney points out there has been no counter move to investigate Army policy that allowed someone so "unstable" to have access to so much sensitive information.)

This complicated story is not over yet, but Gibney's film serves as a useful scorecard for keeping the players straight as the WikiLeaks saga plays out. 
film westealsecrets

WE STEAL SECRETS:
THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS



Watch film trailer >>>


★★★ (out of four)


A film by Alex Gibney. A Focus Features release. Rated R. 130 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival