We Steal Secrets
The Story of Wikileaks

We Steal Secrets - The Story of Wikileaks
Made in: USA
Language: English
Director: Alex Gibney
Year: 2013

Synopsis: The documentary tells about the rise of the (in)famous website Wikileaks, along with its most prominent founding member Julian Assange. Through a series of interviews and archival footage, director Alex Gibney tells about Wikileaks' early major accomplishments in exposing the Icelandic financial collapse, corruption in the Kenyan government, and of course, the bombshell intelligence leak made by Private Bradley Manning.

Manning's communications with hacker Adrian Lamo exposed a mountain of secret war documents from Afghanistan and Iraq to the public, setting off a firestorm debate about government secrecy and transparency that rages to this day. Do the American people have a right to know what's being done in their name? Or is Manning a traitor endangering the lives of American troops?

The documentary also goes on to highlight the allegations of sexual assault against Assange, and his subsequent flight from Swedish authorities. Is making the controversy about Julian Assange himself just a tactic by law enforcement agencies targeting him, or is the man truly the villain that some in the media claim he is?

Remarks: We Steal Secrets attempts to take on an objective tone, highlighting interviews from Assange's closest allies and detractors. Julian Assange himself did not participate in the documentary, and is even said to have denounced it. Interestingly, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden does sit down to speak with Alex Gibney, and gives some pretty candid opinions about the state of intelligence gathering.

The sections focusing on Private Manning are more in-depth and compelling than most news reports I've seen, and are probably the film's strongest moments.

Although much slower paced than the trailer would have you think, the film deserves credit for not taking an activist angle and blindly jumping in to support just one side of the debate. Although some have questioned Gibney's representation of the facts, it's clear that We Steal Secrets is leaving the final judgment of Wikileaks and its controversies to the viewer.

It's simply too early to tell what the long term legal/social implications of the Manning case will mean for the US. And now with the current controversy regarding the NSA and whistleblower Edward Snowden, the debate about civil liberties, government secrets, and increasing state control is only going to intensify.

Who would like this film: This documentary is for you if you've been following the Wikileaks controversy, and if you have an interest in the ethical issues surrounding state secrets vs transparency. Although it's not the most visually or emotionally compelling documentary out there, We Steal Secrets definitely makes you think. It's an in-depth presentation that'll serve as a good launching point for discussion about a timely topic. 

(2 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

Thanks for reading the review of We Steal Secrets. Click here to return to Misc Film Stuff

Return to Home Page