We Steal Secrets is a misnomer. The truth is that WikiLeaks, the subject of the documentary, doesn’t steal any secrets. The web site serves as an electronic drop box that users use to publish documents anonymously. The information posted on the site cannot be removed online.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said that the organization’s goal is to reform and foster transparency. It was former director of the National Security Agency Michael Hayden who used the phrase stealing secrets. It can pertain to the activities of the United States, Assange’s use of whistleblowers, and with regards to Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused of helping the enemy by providing classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Alex Gibney takes the helm of We Steal Secrets. He shows all sides of the story. He utilizes archival footage, graphics, interviews and voice-overs to relay the facts. He features them in an easy-to-follow narration.
We Steal Secrets starts with Worms Against Nuclear Killers or WANK. These hackers are based in Melbourne who got into the NASA via a worm in 1989 as a protest for the launch of the Galileo spacecraft, which was powered by plutonium. The filmmaker speculates that the teenage Assange was part of the group.
The documentary then jumps two decades and focuses on Assange and WikiLeaks. It is the time when public rage is high due to the meltdown of Iceland’s three large banks and the resulting financial crisis. It also shows how WikiLeaks releases videos of Reuters workers along with civilians killed in Baghdad by a US Apache helicopter. To add to the flame, the pilots are caught joking about it. Reuter questions whether the rules of engagement were followed . The media outfit also noted how soldiers exchanged such footage casually with each other.
We Steal Secrets spends a lot of time speculating the motives of both Assange and Manning. While it adds more layers to the story, the documentary sensationalizes Asange’s rape charges as well as Manning’s anger issues.