Movie Review: We Steal Secrets

Movie Review: We Steal Secrets

The story of Wikileaks revealed

By Mark HadleyWednesday 12 Jun 2013MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

We Steal Secrets is an ironic title for a documentary that’s actually about our struggle to know what is really true. It delves into the history of WikiLeaks, a website designed to help whistle blowers. But it turns out that telling truth from fiction is a harder thing than anyone imagined.

'We Steal Secrets' deals with issues of truth in the midst the Wikileaks scandal 
WikiLeaks was the brainchild of Julian Assange, an Australian-born computer hacker turned activist. After a shady past during which he allegedly broke through the firewalls of US Defense Force computers, in 2006 Assange established WikiLeaks as an instrument of free speech. Its goal was to expose secretive and unjust systems of government and to, “radically shift regime behaviour.” Whistleblowers could upload secrets from anywhere in the world without complete anonymity. 

In the years to come WikiLeaks exposed extrajudicial killings in Kenya, Church of Scientology manuals and the operating procedures of large banks. Assange gave the impression he was backed by a formidable, professional organization but the truth, according to Gavin MacFadyen, the director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, was quite different. Rather than being an ‘Apple’ or an ‘IBM’ it was “… a corner station with some very bright attendants!” Everything was orchestrated by and depended upon Assange.

In 2010 the perfect information storm developed. Private Bradley Manning, an information specialist operating with the US Army outside of Baghdad, contacted WikiLeaks. He provided it with history’s biggest leak of classified information – a treasure trove of Pentagon papers including records about assassination squads, hushed up civilian casualties and, in particular, a video showing a helicopter gunship shooting Reuters journalists. What follows is a truly bizarre account of the steps the US government took to try and shut down WikiLeaks, the sudden prosecution of Assange on rape charges in Sweden and his eventual flight to an Ecaudorian Embassy where he resides to this day. The question is, how much of this is the persecution of a free speech advocate, and how much the result of one man, way in over his head?

We Steal Secrets is an enthralling examination of the path that took WikiLeaks from a bastion of justice and led it to become what a former spokesperson describes as, “… what it actually tried to rid the world of.” The documentary offers no final judgment on Assange because its makers, like us, cannot be sure. However they look over our universe and conclude with the words of atheist Carl Sagan, 

“In all this vastness there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us. It’s up to us.”

But surely WikiLeaks proves that’s no solution. The dawn of the computer age may have changed the way information is handled across this planet so that injustice can be exposed more easily than ever before. The title of the film is taken from the words of General Michael Hayden, the director of America’s National Security Agency, who reflects on how difficult his job has become:

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“Let me be very candid. We steal secrets. We steal other nation’s secrets. One cannot do that aboveboard and be very successful for a very long period of time.”

However there is another side to this uninhibited flow of information. Everything is now so accessible that it is literally becoming impossible to make sense of the facts at our disposal. The hundreds of thousands of papers Specialist Manning dumped on WikiLeaks illustrate just that. There is no doubt that WikiLeaks and its creator Julian Assange have done great things, but his story is so mixed up in the scandal that surrounds these secrets that it’s also equally hard to know what the truth is anymore. We may have the information, but we simply don’t have the ability to weigh its relevance and judge good from evil. God, on the other hand, promises to deliver justice by weighing the people behind the mere facts:

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”  

No general or hacker can evade that gaze – nor us, for that matter. But equally, if God has purified our heart we don’t have to fear anything the Internet might reveal.

Rating: M
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: June 12, 2013