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‘Filled with errors and speculation’: WikiLeaks slams ‘We Steal Secrets' doc film

Published time: May 24, 2013 14:22
Edited time: May 25, 2013 21:18
Julian Assange speaks during a teleconference between London and Washington on April 8, 2013 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mladen Antonov)

Julian Assange speaks during a teleconference between London and Washington on April 8, 2013 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mladen Antonov)

WikiLeaks has lashed out at a forthcoming US-made documentary on founder Julian Assange. The whistleblowing group decried the film for its alleged inaccuracies, chiefly implications that Assange conspired with Bradley Manning to commit espionage.

The anti-secrecy organization released an annotated copy of the film’s transcript that took no prisoners. Even the documentary’s name – ‘We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks’ – was condemned by the group as misleading.

“It directly 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 group wrote.

The film premiered in the US on Friday, and has been styled by director Alex Gibney as a David-and-Goliath story, with Assange as David. However, Gibney did not collaborate with Assange or WikiLeaks in the making of the documentary.

"Neither Julian Assange nor anyone associated with WikiLeaks over the past two-and-a-half years agreed to participate in the film,” WikiLeaks wrote.

The annotated copy of the script focuses on what WikiLeaks views as an erroneous portrayal of whistleblower Bradley Manning, who is currently facing trial and potential court martial for released classified documents to the group in 2010. WikiLeaks alleged that Gibney portrays Manning in the film to make it appear his “acts represent a failure of character, rather than a triumph of conscience.”

Alex Gibney (Reuters / Rick Wilking)

Gibney also used “selective editing” to make Manning seem personally conflicted by gender-identity issues, leaving a “lasting impression” on the audience, WikiLeaks suggested.

However, Gibney appears to sympathize with Manning, publicly referring to him as a

“scapegoat” and calling the death sentence against him

“outrageous.” "There's no doubt that (Manning) has been improperly scapegoated...he's pled guilty to leaking. But these larger charges, these more serious charges that the government is trying to hang him with, aiding the enemy, carries a possible death sentence. To me, that's outrageous," Gibney said as quoted by Reuters.

The director decided to go ahead with the film even after Assange refused to participate. Gibney referred to the founder of WikiLeaks as a “puppet master” unwilling to answer his questions. "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 the Associated Press.

The film is being released at a crucial time for WikiLeaks, as Bradley Manning prepares to go for his final trial on June 3, which could end in his court martial. Furthermore, Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost a year.

If he sets foot outside the building, UK authorities have threatened to extradite the whistleblower to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual assault. Assange has publically warned that his extradition will likely lead to Swedish authorities handing him over to the US. He has mentioned on a number of occasions that the US is preparing a secret case against him.