Friday, May 24, 2013

"We Steal Secrets: The Annotated Annotated Transcript" (Part 1)

On the website "Justice for Assange", Wikileaks recently released an "annotated transcript" of the documentary "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks". Assange and his allies made accusations such as the film "abused" him before any of them had even seen it, using the title as justification. According to the director, Assange's opposition began when he refused to pay Assange a million dollars and spy on people critical of Assange. Either way, at long last, they got ahold of a transcript and annotated to "correct" the facts.

Of course, it does just the opposite. So here, for your viewing pleasure, we present part 1 of "We Steal Secrets: The Annotated Annotated Transcript". Given that this is Assange's writing style and how few people are involved in Wikileaks these days, I will assume for the sake of argument that Assange is the author.


TITLES The film starts with the launch of the rocket Gallileo and the WANK worm introduced into NASA's system by unknown hackers prior to the launch. Footage of launch of Gallileo.
Note: The title ("We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks") is false. 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. This an irresponsible libel. Not even critics in the film say that WikiLeaks steals secrets.
In pretty much every interview he's about the film, Gibney has pointed out that the quote in the title is from Hayden, and that it was chosen to present the irony of the US accusing Wikileaks of stealing secrets while openly admitting to do so itself. Now, if Mr. Assange somehow feels that this quote is libelous - quite a serious charge - then certainly a person who is so fond of lawsuits that he once threatened to sue a festival for merely showing a documentary that included footage of him dancing should have no qualms about raising a libel suit. The title of this documentary has been out for quite some time. Where's the lawsuit?
NASA scientist: It was a Monday morning a few days before launching Gallileo. My manager rang me as soon as I came in and they said that there was a worm that had been detected somewhere out on the network. A worm is a self-replicating program that actually breaks into a computer and jumps from system to system. At the time they were still very uncommon. We didn't know what it would do. We knew it was malicious. If a worm got into a machine it would change the announcement message and spelled out in little lines and little characters W.A.N.K - Wank, Worms Against Nuclear Killers - and below that "You talk of times of peace for all and then prepare for war". Oh my god, what the hell is this? Most people didn't know what the word 'wank' meant. The word meant 'F'. You would be logged into your machine and you'd get a message: Someone is watching you, vote anarchist. And suddenly they'd see "deleted file 1, deleted file 2, deleted file 3" and just keep going and going and going. And it would change the passwords, so you couldn't get in to stop it. Scared the hell out of a lot of people. They were afraid that Wank would cause the launch failure, where this nuclear battery was suddenly flying away from an exploding spacecraft… NASA scientist: How in the hell are we going to stop it? How far's it gone already?
Note: Selective editing. The interview is edited to cut out the NASA scientist's punch line--no files were, in fact, deleted. It is apparent that the "worm" was a practical joke. The whole episode is extensively documented in the book "Underground" by Julian Assange and Suelette Dreyfus.
Given that the very next line of the documentary is "The shuttle launched without incident", one would think that would be obvious.

Narration by Alex Gibney: The shuttle launched without incident. But the WANK worm continued to spread, affecting over 300,000 computer terminals around the world. Its purpose, as a warning, weapon or political prank was never discovered. Investigators traced the origin of the WANK worm to Australia. National police suspected a small group of hackers in the city of Melbourne, and then the trail went cold. But a key clue turned out to be in the message itself. There was a lyric from the Australian band, Midnight Oil, a favourite of the man who would become the country’s most infamous hacker.
Note: No person has ever claimed responsibility for the WANK worm. Gibney's "key clue" is merely that Assange, along with most of his generation, had also listened to the internationally famous Australian rock band Midnight Oil.
Cuts to voice of Julian Assange quoting this line from the Midnight Oil song over the song itself
Note: Selective editing. Assange is quoting the lyric in relation to his book, written with Suelette Dreyfus, which includes a chapter on the WANK worm.
Given that the connection between Assange and the WANK worm was implied by WikiRebels, a documentary produced in cooperation with Assange, it's strange for him to suddenly try to act now like it's slanderous for Gibney to do the same.

ollage of videos about WikiLeaks and various public comments about WikiLeaks, some positive, some scaremongering, over Midnight Oil song. Stock footage from a July 2010 interview with Julian Assange conducted by ABC Nightline's Jim Sciutto.

Journalist: What drives you?

Julian Assange: Well, I like being brave. I mean, I like being inventive, I've been designing systems and processes for a long time. I also like defending victims. And I am a combative person so I like crushing bastards. And so this profession combines all those three things, so it is deeply, personally, deeply satisfying to me.

Journalist: But is crushing bastards, in its own right, a just cause?

Julian Assange: Depends on the bastards.

Mark Davis: I see this story entirely as one man against the world. One man against the world.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg: Julian as this very radical visionary.

Gavin MacFadyen: Julian was onto something really extraordinary.

Nick Davies: He is extremely clever, brave, dedicated, hard-working guy with a brilliant idea that he managed to execute.
Narration by Alex Gibney: Julian Assange was obsessed with secrets, keeping his own and unlocking those of governments and corporations. The internet is not a good place for secrets. Cyberspace is like a galaxy of passage ways, constantly moving streams of data. With a simple computer anyone can enter and explore. That's what Julian Assange liked to do: explore. He liked to use trap doors to enter where he wasn't supposed to go. To find secrets and expose them. He built a machine for leaking secrets and called it WikiLeaks. The website boasted an electronic drop box and could receive secrets sent by people who didn't want to reveal who they were. Once WikiLeaks had the secrets it would publish them across servers, domain names and networks so numerous that the information could never be taken down.
WikiLeaks is a publisher. It does not "enter where it is not supposed to go".

WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth. We are a young organisation that has grown very quickly, relying on a network of dedicated volunteers around the globe. Since 2007, when the organisation was officially launched, WikiLeaks has worked to report on and publish important information. We also develop and adapt technologies to support these activities.
Reading comprehension alert: He said that "Assange" liked to explore and "enter where he wasn't supposed to go". Given that Assange was convicted in his youth for doing precisely that, and has even bragged about it, it is again odd to complain about this description.

Julian Assange: So this is what you’ll see if you go to the front page of the website. This is WikiLeaks, we help to get the truth out. We want to enable information to go out to the public that has the greatest chance of achieving positive political reform in the world. To get things to the public you need to protect sources who want to disclose and you also need to protect your ability to publish in the face of attack.

Robert Manne: His thinking is: how can we destroy corruption? It's the whistleblower. Julian Assange is neither a right-wing libertarian nor a standard leftist. I think he is a humanitarian anarchist. A kind of John Lennon-like revolutionary, dreaming of a better world.

Julian Assange: If we are to produce a more civilized, a more just society it has to be based upon the truth.

Heather Brooke: When I heard Julian speak I was struck by his vaulting idealism and forthrightness about what he believed in. Totally uncompromising about freedom of speech. I agreed almost entirely with everything he said and I had never experienced that before. So I thought he was amazing.

Julian Assange: Every week we achieve major victories in bringing the unjust to account and are helping the just.
Quick observation: note that Assange has no complaints about the large volume of almost worshipful praise for him that Gibney has included in the documentary to this point.
Narration by Alex Gibney: Before WikiLeaks was frontpage news, there were some smaller successes. The website published evidence of a tax-avoiding Swiss bank, government corruption and murder in Kenya and a secret company report on illegal toxic waste dumping. One early leak was from the National Security Agency: frantic text messages from desperate workers trying to save lives on 9/11. 9/11 turned out to be the watershed moment for the world of secrets – both for the leakers and the secret-keepers.
Gibney collapses four years of publishing history, touching on nearly every country in the world, into "some smaller successes" -- because his documentary does not cover them. In fact, WikiLeaks has been making front pages since 2007. Legal attacks on the organization started immediately. WikiLeaks won a significant battle against the largest private Swiss bank in US federal courts in 2008. That fight was the subject of extensive discussion, including New York Times editorials.

There were many significant WikiLeaks releases and conflicts prior to 2010.

For a comprehensive list, consult the archives at The archives can also be browsed by country or by year of release.
This one is simple enough to address: just look at Google Trends. Yes, Wikileaks had had some smaller successes before. They were nothing like 2010 and the fallout in early 2011. And the "significant battle" was not something Wikileaks brought against the bank; it was something the bank brought against Wikileaks (as should be obvious from the case name, Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. et al. v. Wikileaks et al.).

Michael Hayden: After 9/11 we were accused of not being willing to share information rapidly and fastly enough and we’ve pushed that very far forward.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Michael Hayden is an expert on secrets. He’s been the director of the National Security Agency and the CIA.

Michael Hayden: In terms of our focus the default option in a practical sense has been to share it, rather than caging in information and making it more difficult to flow.

Narration by Alex Gibney: In the years after 9/11, facing enemies it didn't understand, the US government started sharing more information between different agencies. At the same time, the US also started to keep more secrets from its citizens. In data centers that sprang up all over the country the US launched a massive expansion of its operations to gather secrets. The amount of classified documents per year increased from 8 million to 76 million. The number of people with access to classified information soared to more than 4 million and the government began to intercept phone calls and emails at a rate of 60,000 per second. Nobody knows how much money is involved – it’s a secret. Not even Congress knows the entire budget.

Bill Leonard: The classification system can be a very effective national security tool when it is used as intended; when it is used with precision.

Narration by Alex Gibney: During the Bush administration, Bill Leonard was the classification czar - the man charged with overseeing what information should be secret.

Bill Leonard: The whole information environment has radically changed – just like we produce more information than we ever produced in the history of mankind, we produce more secrets than we ever produced in the history of mankind and yet we never fundamentally re-assessed our ability to control secrets.

No comment from Assange.
Narration by Alex Gibney: In this environment of expanding secrecy, Assange went fishing for secrets to publish. To bait whistleblowers, he published a list of the most wanted leaks.
Gibney's choice of words, “Fishing,” “Bait”, implies solicitation.

Throughout the film, Gibney propagates the idea Assange had been “fishing” for the leaks or that Manning had been “persuaded” to leak. This is factually incorrect but also buys into the dangerous proposition that journalists and publishers can be conspirators by virtue of their interaction with confidential sources. The US government is attempting to argue that any news organization that deals with confidential sources can be put into prison for engaging in "conspiracy".

Gibney makes a careless error that shows poor fact-checking. WikiLeaks makes clear on its website that, like "other media outlets conducting investigative journalism, we accept (but do not solicit) anonymous sources of information".

Gibney falsely attributes the 2009 "Most Wanted Leaks" list to Julian Assange. It was compiled by human rights NGOs, activists, lawyers, journalists and historians nominating the censored documents they considered the most important to uncover.

WikiLeaks requests nominations for 2009's Most Wanted Leaks—the concealed documents or recordings most sought after by a country's journalists, activists, historians, lawyers, police, or human rights investigators.

You may securely and anonymously add your nomination by editing this page. WikiLeaks will then prioritize the list and seek to obtain the leading candidates directly, through the legal system, or indirectly through its network of journalists, intelligence sources, volunteers and readers.
Oh really? So are you saying that in 2007, Wikileaks wasn't explicitly calling for people to leak documents? Hmm, I wonder what the website said back in 2007... oh wait, I don't have to wonder, thanks to the internet archives. And what do we have here? Why, right on the front page,Calls for Truth Telling, a collection of articles from the net promoting leaking. What sort of entries do we have here? Time To Leak, The Time is Right For New Pentagon Papers, Leak Against This War, and Appeal For Truth Telling, to name a few. For example:
Needless to say, any unauthorized disclosure that exposes your superiors to embarrassment entails personal risk. Should you be identified as thesource, the price could be considerable, including loss of career and possibly even prosecution. Some of us know from experience how difficult it is to countenance such costs. But continued silence brings an even more terrible cost, as our leaders persist in a disastrous course and young Americans come home in coffins or with missing limbs.

This is precisely what happened at this comparable stage in the Vietnam War. Some of us live with profound regret that we did not at that point expose the administration’s dishonesty and perhaps prevent the needless slaughter of 50,000 more American troops and some 2 to 3 million Vietnamese over the next ten years. We know how misplaced loyalty to bosses, agencies, and careers can obscure the higher allegiance all government officials owe the Constitution, the sovereign public, and the young men and women put in harm’s way. We urge you to act on those higher loyalties.

A hundred forty thousand young Americans are risking their lives every day in Iraq for dubious purpose. Our country has urgent need of comparable moral courage from its public officials. Truth-telling is a patriotic and effective way to serve the nation. The time for speaking

No, Assange did not write those words. But he did choose to put them on the Wikileaks website, along with countless other similar calls to leak. For one purpose, one could ask, if not "fishing for secrets to publish"?

Michael Hayden: Those of us who've been in this business a long time knew that this day would come. Knew that because we'd removed all the watertight doors on the ship, once it's started taking on water it would really be in trouble.

Cut to footage of newscaster reading report of Icelandic bank crash.

Newsreader: In Iceland winter is never easy but this year much of the pain is manmade. Last October all three of Iceland's banks failed. Normally stoic and proper, Icelanders have started protesting.
Narration by Alex Gibney: In July 2009, WikiLeaks fuelled a growing popular rage when it published a confidential internal memo from Kaupthing – the largest failed bank in the country.

Heather Brooke: WikiLeaks had got hold of the Kaupthing loan book, which showed what was going on in a lot of those Icelandic banks. They had credit ratings which were completely at odds with their actual credit-worthiness.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg: It was all insiders, they took out billions of dollars out of this bank and bankrupted the thing, shortly before it went bankrupt anyways.
No comment from Assange.

Narration by Alex Gibney: A German IT technician, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, became the second full-time member of WikiLeaks.
It is false that Daniel Domscheit-Berg was the second full-time employee of WikiLeaks. He volunteered full-time for WikiLeaks during 2009. He was uninvolved in WikiLeaks for most of the significant events of 2010, until he was suspended in September of that year.

Gibney lacks access - WikiLeaks staff declined his interviews - and therefore tries to boost the CVs of those he was able to interview, no matter how peripheral their actual role.
Once more, Assange tries to play down the role of Domscheit-Berg, after their famous split, after which Berg started revealing details that reflected negatively upon Assange, including his paranoia, penchant to make stuff up, troubling attitudes toward women, and even repeated abuse of his cat when the two were roomates. One can easily see that Berg played a major role in Wikileaks early in its history (for example, being the only person besides Assange to review the vast majority of submissions up until 2009).
The reality that Wikileaks' very spokesman and former roomate of Assange turned against the organization is hard to play down as just a fluke. And as for the lack of current Wikileaks staff interviewed (Gibney interviews a number of former members), it's already established that had Gibney paid up or spied on former members, this wouldn't have been a problem.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg: We met online first and then we met personally in December 2007 at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin. He was not the stereotypical hacker you would expect. He looked completely differently, he was interested in completely different topics.

Narration by Alex Gibney: For Daniel and Julian, the Kaupthing leak was their biggest success to date.
Note: False. Here Gibney shapes the narrative to fit his access. For example, in 2007 WikiLeaks uncovered billions of dollars' worth of corruption in Kenya, a leak that made front pages around the world, and is widely viewed to have changed the results of the Kenyan 2007 Presidential Election. In 2008 WikiLeaks defeated the largest private Swiss bank in US courts after revealing its Cayman Islands trusts, costing the bank hundreds of millions as it cancelled its scheduled US IPO. However these leaks pre-date Domscheit-Berg's substantive involvement.

For a comprehensive list, consult the archives at The archives can also be browsed by country or by year of release.
As mentioned previously, the "defeat in court" was actually the bank suing Wikileaks, not the other way around. And outside of the occasional mention on Wikipedia by Wikileaks fans, Wikileaks "role" in the election went almost completely unmentioned in the press, and it's highly doubtful that it played any relevant role at all. I understand the natural urge for naval gazing, but coming from a person who criticized Obama of taking credit for things only tangentially related to his activities in order to distract from his personal problems, it rings a bit hollow.

Smari McCarthy: Loan book came out and took the country by storm. The national broadcaster was going to do a big segment on it and they got slapped with an injunction.

Footage from Icelandic television with subtitles.

Birgitta Jonsdottir: It was the first time in our history that a gag order was placed on the state TV not to produce the news just before they were supposed to produce it. So instead of doing nothing, they decided to put the website up.

Footage of Icelandic television announcement about WikiLeaks.

Smari McCarthy: Up pops with the Kaupthing loan book front and centre and everybody goes online and checks it out. And the guys at WikiLeaks definitely got massive props for that.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Later that year, a group of young cyber activists from Iceland invited representatives of the WikiLeaks organisation to come speak at a conference in Reykjavik.

Birgitta Jonsdottir: Iceland and WikiLeaks really fit. This is something we really need in our society. The media failed us so we decided to meet them.

Smari McCarthy: Up until the day before the conference we didn't know who was going to come. It could be a massive organisation or it could be a tiny organisation.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg:Doesn't it work? Ok.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg: In the beginning we had no funding at all. We were not set up with manpower nor organisationally so there was a lot to improvise.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg: WikiLeaks, we have to mention that what we are doing right now is still a proof of concept so in technical terms we are in the Beta stage, so it's just...

Julian Assange: [Jumps in] But, wait, we're not in a Beta stage. We're not in a Beta stage as far as... we're in a gmail Beta stage, but we're not in a Beta stage in terms of our ability to protect people. In terms of...

Daniel Domscheit-Berg: [Cuts in] If you could let me finish my sentence...

Daniel Domscheit-Berg: It was really an off-world experience in some way because we were just so famous over there.

Interviewer: You work for WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is now very famous in Iceland because of the big Kaupthing leak.

Julian Assange: You know, we got this letter from the Kaupthing lawyers telling us that under Icelandic banking secrecy law we deserved one year in prison, so we thought we would come to Iceland

Daniel Domscheit-Berg: And see for ourselves.

Julian Assange: And see for ourselves.

Julian Assange: The bankers should be put on public trial and given the justice they deserve. More power to you, Iceland.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Julian teamed up with Birgitta Jonsdottir, a poet turned politician, to hatch a plan to turn Iceland into a haven for freedom of information. But Julian was also preoccupied with a new source, one with access to classified US government materials and a willingness to leak them.

Footage of Collateral Murder.

Narration by Alex Gibney: It was an onboard video of an Apache helicopter gunship on patrol in Iraq.

More video footage from Collateral Murder.
Narration by Alex Gibney: A half-mile above the ground, it was invisible to the people below.

More video footage from Collateral Murder.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Two of the men killed worked for the Reuters news agency. What had looked like a weapon from the sky, turned out to be the long lens of a camera.
No comment by Assange on more commentary and footage making Assange and Wikileaks look good.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Inside the van were two children who were wounded in the hail of cannon fire.
Alex Gibney does not mention that the Collateral Murder video contains clear evidence of a war crime. In the aftermath of the first attack a passing van stops in order to render aid to the injured. The Apache helicopter crew is eager to fire on the van and its occupants, including two children. The ensuing attack kills a further four people. None of them were armed.

A US soldier who was present, Ethan McCord, states:

This is where I start to have a problem. This is not following the rules of engagement, they’re embellishing information and it’s wrong; this constitutes a war crime.
Great - you would have spent more time on this section and less on the fact that you're hiding in an embassy on the run from sex crimes. Perfectly understandable. But it's not your documentary. It's Gibney's documentary, and it's not a "let's spend the whole documentary saying as much good about Assange and Wikileaks as possible" movie. Sorry if you don't like that. Gibney spends a great amount of time on this video as is, 100% of it sympathetic to your point of view.

Narration by Alex Gibney: In March 2010, Assange and a team of Icelandic activists holed up in a rented house in Reykjavik to edit and prepare the video for publication.

Footage of Birgitta Jonsdottir visiting the house where it took place.

Birgitta Jonsdottir: We did most of our work here. This was the operation on the table.

Stock video footage of the WikiLeaks team working on Collateral Murder inside the house together.

Smari McCarthy: It was chaotic and hectic and also sort of very varyingly frayed nerves. Eventually, I went out and bought a bunch of post-its and kind of... [laughs] tried to figure out what it was we needed to do.

Birgitta Jonsdottir: My horrific task was to go through the entire movie and pull out the stills to put on the website, and at the same time I was learning who these people were that I could see their flesh being torn off their bodies.

Narration by Alex Gibney: The army claimed it was engaged in combat operations against a hostile force. But it also began a criminal investigation. It turned out that the driver of the van had been a father taking his children to school.

More video footage and sound from Collateral Murder.

Birgitta Jonsdottir: The curtains were drawn. But I never had any sense that we were being watched, not physically. But we joked a lot about it. We were like all becoming super-paranoid.

Smari McCarthy: It wasn't really cloak and dagger stuff, it was just, you know, yes, another cool project.

Birgitta Jonsdottir: Everybody thinks it was all huddled, you know, with the computers, and it was all very serious, but we actually had an incredible time. The second last night we all went out and we were all wearing the same silver snow suits [laughs]

Stock footage of Julian Assange with Jonsdottir and others at a volcano. Jokes about “lava leaks”.

Birgitta Jonsdottir: It was an incredibly intimate time because we were all working closely. We were working on something that we knew that could get us into serious trouble and we were all willing to take that consequence.

Stock footage of Washington DC press conference.

Julian Assange: So, my name is Julian Assange. I am the editor of WikiLeaks. [Someone asks Assange to spell his name] Julian with an A. Assange...

Robert Manne: What's clear about him is he became a public figure extraordinarily quickly. It was really April 2010 where he went from relative obscurity into an absolutely central world figure and he did it deliberately, I mean he knew what he was doing. He decides to take on the American state, in public.

Narration by Alex Gibney: The team posted the unedited video on the WikiLeaks website. They also posted a shorter version, edited for maximum impact. Julian titled it “Collateral Murder". Cuts to footage of reaction to Collateral Murder release.

Newsreader: No surprise it's getting reaction in Washington.

Robert Gibbs: Our military will take every precaution necessary to ensure the safety and security of civilians.

Julian Assange: The behaviour of the pilots is like they are playing a computer game. Their desire was simply to kill.

Montage of news reports on Collateral Murder inquiry.

Newsreader: The Pentagon says that it sees no reason to investigate this any further.

Newsreader: An internal inquiry found that the journalists' cameras were mistaken for weapons but the rules of engagement were followed.

Cut to footage of Julian Assange from 2010.

Julian Assange: If those killings were lawful under the rules of engagement, then the rules of engagement are wrong – deeply wrong.

Michael Hayden: You've got this scene, somebody evidently troubled by the scene - frankly, I'm not - but I can understand someone who's troubled by that, and someone who wants the American people to know that, because the American people need to know what it is their government is doing for them. I actually share that view - when I was director of CIA there was some stuff we were doing I wanted all 300 million Americans to know. But I never figured out a way about informing a whole bunch of other people that didn't have a right to that information who may actually use that image, or that fact or that data or that message, to harm my country.

Bill Leonard: From a national security point of view, there was absolutely no justification for withholding that videotape, not one. Gunship video is like trading cards among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's freely exchanged back and forth.

Bill Leonard: What's even more disturbing is that it was one in a series of efforts to withhold images of facts that were known.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Reuters knew its employees had been killed. The news agency requested the video but the army refused, claiming the video was classified.

Bill Leonard: The fact that innocent people were killed in that helicopter attack, that was a known fact that was not classified.

Narration by Alex Gibney: A record of the incident and a word-for-word transcript of the pilots' conversation had already been published in a book called “The Good Soldiers” by a writer embedded with the army. The army later confirmed that the information was not classified, yet the army would prosecute the man who leaked the video to WikiLeaks. What kind of games was the army playing? Why was a transcript less secret than a moving image?

Bill Leonard: Clearly the government recognizes the power of images. But the ultimate power of image is that it helps people understand what it is, this fact is that we all know. Flag-draped coffins help us understand the consequences of sending our children off to war. Pictures of detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib help us understand exactly what was taking place. Video of that unfortunate occurrence where innocent people were killed helps us understand that this is an inevitable consequence of war.

News footage of press conference

Julian Assange: We can't discuss our sourcing of the video.

by Alex Gibney: Adriam Lamo is known as the homeless hacker, a couch-surfing computer infiltrator who had been convicted of hacking into the New York Times. In 2010, not long after the release of the Collateral Murder video, Lamo used twitter to urge his followers to donate to WikiLeaks. Only one day later he was contacted by someone with the screen name “bradass87”.

Adrian Lamo: Frankly, I didn't find what he had to say all that interesting at first, not until he started making references to spilling secrets.

No comment from Assange on Gibson's sympathetic characterism of the Collateral Murder leak.

Adrian Lamo: At that point I knew that this wasn’t some kind of game. It was for real and that I was going to have some very hard choices. In Star Trek every prospective commanding officer is expected to pass a test called "Kobayashi Mari".
Note: In fact, the alleged chatlogs between Lamo and Manning show that Lamo started slyly manipulating and exploiting Manning immediately. Lamo was a researcher for WIRED magazine (owned by Conde-Naste). He claimed that he could protect Manning under journalist-source confidentiality laws then also claimed he could additionally protect Manning under Californian Confessional laws (as he was a registered priest). When WIRED magazine first published the alleged logs, these references were censored, allowing Lamo to lie to the press about what they contained. Later publication of the alleged logs make the duplicity clear.

WIRED's censorship of the logs has been attributed by journalist Glenn Greenwald to the close personal relationship between Adrian Lamo and WIRED section editor Kevin Poulsen.
And Lamo begs to differ. I think most people following this case would be against Lamo's actions, but again, while I see you'd love to spend less time on the negatives and more time on this particular topic... it's not your documentary to allocate time as you would choose.

Footage from Star Trek movie.

Adrian Lamo: The test cannot be passed. It is there to see how they deal with a no-win situation.

More footage from Star Trek.

Adrian Lamo: In this case, it was a no-win situation deciding what to do with it. No matter what you do, you're gonna screw somebody over.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Unsure what to do, Adrian contacted Tim Webster, a friend and former army counter-intelligence agent.

Timothy Webster: Adrian called me and he said "What would you do if somebody had approached you and said hey, I'm leaking secrets". I thought it was a pretty stupid question because of course Adrian knows exactly what I would have done in the situation.
In fact, as the alleged chat logs make clear, Manning had already lost his security clearance, his access, and was being discharged from the US Army in relation to another issue. Despite this and Lamo's promises of confidentiality, Lamo not only became an informer, but immediately pushed the story out through WIRED magazine, issued nine press releases, gave dozens of interviews, and campaigned for Assange's extradition.

Court records show that Lamo actively attempted to inform on other people well after the Manning arrest, including Jason Katz, a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, who he alleged helped WikiLeaks decode the encryption on a US Air Force massacre video. Katz was fired and swept up into the ongoing FBI investigation against WikiLeaks as a result of his alleged contribution to uncovering a war crime. People close to him were forced to testify against him at the WikiLeaks grand jury. None of this is covered by Gibney.
Again, Assange, this is not your documentary. You do not get to control how time gets allocated. For a document ostensibly posted to rebut inaccuracies, you're sure spending a lot of time as a backseat film producer.

Alex Gibney: What would you have done?

Timothy Webster: Well, of course turned him in. There's nothing else you can do in that situation. But Adrian was on the fence about it ethically. On one hand, here was this kid leaking all this classified information - could potentially cost lives - on the other hand, he was this kid who reached out to Adrian in confidence and trusted him. And Adrian took that pretty seriously. He indicated he didn’t know who this person was, there was just a screen name. So very quickly of course the first thing anybody would be interested in is: who is this guy?

Jason Edwards: I first met Bradley Manning at a New Year's Eve party. It was a 1930s theme party. I was the Prince of Wales and Brad showed up without any kind of costume or persona. I looked at him and he was small and had this kind of ingenue expression on his face, this bright blonde hair so I said, oh, Jean Harlow.

On the screen Bradley Manning's face is morphed onto Jean Harlow's.
Selective editing. By introducing Bradley Manning in this way, Gibney establishes Manning's character in the context of an alleged gender confusion. This context is reinforced through constant repetition over the next few minutes of the film, in order to leave a lasting impression on the audience. This is Gibney's frame for Manning's alleged acts throughout the entire documentary: that his alleged acts represent a failure of character, rather than a triumph of conscience. In an interview, Gibney stated that:

The initial presentation of the story was that Bradley Manning was a pure political figure, like a Daniel Ellsberg. I don’t think that’s a sufficient explanation of why he did what he did. I think he was alienated; he was in agony personally over a number of issues. He was lonely and very needy. And I think he had an identity crisis. He had this idea that he was in the wrong body and wanted to become a woman, and these issues are not just prurient. I think it raises big issues about who whistleblowers are, because they are alienated people who don’t get along with people around them, which motivates them to do what they do.

This "crude gay caricature" is a version of a classic attack on whistleblowers, once used on Daniel Ellsberg: to distract from acts of conscience by focusing on sexuality, character, psychology and alleged "issues," rather than conscience, motive and morality. In order to carry out this attack, it is necessary for Gibney to ignore the explicit statements as to motive given or alleged to be given by Bradley Manning himself. From the alleged chatlogs between Manning and Lamo:

god knows what happens now. hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. if not... than we’re doomed as a species. i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens. the reaction to the video gave me immense hope... CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed... Twitter exploded... people who saw, knew there was something wrong. [...] i want people to see the truth... regardless of who they are... because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public

From Bradley Manning's plea statement of February 28, 2013:

...the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely "good samaritans". The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote "dead bastards" unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass. While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew's lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see that the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew – as soon as the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request for authorization to fire on the bongo truck and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times. Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle" unquote. The aerial weapons team crew members sound like they lack sympathy for the children or the parents. Later in a particularly disturbing manner, the aerial weapons team verbalizes enjoyment at the sight of one of the ground vehicles driving over a body – or one of the bodies. [...] For me it's all a big mess, and I am left wondering what these things mean, and how it all fits together. It burdens me emotionally. [...]

I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public, who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled – if not more troubled that me by what they saw. [...]

For me, the SigActs represented the on the ground reality of both the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. [...] I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan. I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the affected environment everyday. [...] [I] stated I had information that needed to be shared with the world. I wrote that the information would help document the true cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. [...] I considered my options one more time. Ultimately, I felt that the right thing to do was to release the SigActs. [...]

The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public. I once read and used a quote on open diplomacy written after the First World War and how the world would be a better place if states would avoid making secret pacts and deals with and against each other. I thought these cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy. Given all of the Department of State cables that I read, the fact that most of the cables were unclassified, and that all the cables have a SIPDIS caption. I believe that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States, however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations.
First off, Manning is unquestionably the hero of this documentary, and his own attorney is making precisely this argument in court:

His attorney has also said Manning struggled privately with gender identity early in his tour of duty, when gays couldn't openly serve in the military. Those struggles led Manning to "feel that he needed to do something to make a difference in this world," Coombs said.

So the fact that you find Gibson to be picking on Manning is indeed strange.

Now, I guess this shouldn't be surprising, coming from someone who described themself as a chauvanist even while denying being a rapist, who wrote on his blog about how women's brains can't do math and how he's a god to women, someone who banned criticism within Wikileaks of a world-famous misogynistic author (Israel Shamir) who thinks that there's an ancient female conspiracy to turn men gay in order to control them, who tons of former supporters have complained about mysogyny from, and on and on... I can understand how you would interpret any mention of someone being gay or trans as an attempt to smear them. But Julian, the 1960s just called. They want their stereotypes back. It's the year 2013. An adult mentioning that another adult is gay or trans does not mean that they're trying to smear them.

The reality is that it's Manning who spends a good chunk of the conversation with Lamo talking about gender issues. How they're essentially in the middle of a nervous breakdown for it. We know that Manning had gotten to the point where they punched an officer due to all of this stress. Leaving it out, as you want Gibney to do, is simply uncalled for. I'll repeat for emphasis: it is NOT an insult to point out that someone was getting bullied and felt isolated for being gay or trans. It was Manning himself who wrote:

(1:13:10 PM) bradass87: i just... dont wish to be a part of it... at least not now... im not ready... i wouldn't mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn't for the possibility of having pictures of me... plastered all over the world press... as boy...

But you want to hide that. Well, sorry, it is what it is. And it's *not* an insult to one's character. Manning had pangs of conscious *while* going through personal issues. And again, nobody sums it up better than Manning (FYI, for anyone not familiar with trans terminology: "transition" means "switch genders"):

(1:34:11 PM) bradass87: waiting to redeploy to the US, be discharged... and figure out how on earth im going to transition
(1:34:45 PM) bradass87: all while witnessing the world freak out as its most intimate secrets are revealed
(1:35:06 PM) bradass87: its such an awkward place to be in, emotionally and psychologically

This is relatively personal to me because I know someone who once was in a very similar situation to Manning. Army intelligence operator. Trans, male-to-female. She joined the military under Reagan, believing in all of the whole "Evil Empire" nonsense. The US military is the world's largest closet, and it's a great place for trans women to hide; nobody questions the masculine credentials of someone in the military. She had a natural gift for languages and was assigned to sigint, being the first line in identifying what an unknown language was, and then either translating it directly or passing it on to people more specialized in that language. And while there, she steadily underwent a crisis of conscience. The more she heard, the more she came to realize that the Soviets were just like them, that they weren't some evil enemy that everyone pretended they were, and that the US was doing just as much underhanded stuff as they were. And she underwent increasing stress from having to hide being trans. There was no Wikileaks at the time. Had she had access to material like Manning had access to it, I don't know what she would have done. Instead, her breakdown and her disillusionment with the military progressed to the point that she started watching "Tora, Tora, Tora" regularly, just the scenes where the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, over and over. I'd like to ask her what she would have done had the situation been different, but I can't. After leaving the military, she was fired from her civilian job when she came out, lost her health coverage and got cancer. I buried a small part of her ashes on a tiny island in Japan in 2005.
Jason Edwards: Wrote that on a name tag, slapped it on his chest and we went on with the rest of the evening. When I met him at the party, he made no mention to me that he was in the army. This came as a surprise to me.

Narration by Alex Gibney: To get government money for college, Bradley Manning enlisted in the army. In 2007, he began basic training. He was 19 years old. Just weeks after he started he was sent to a discharge unit to determine if he should stay in the army.

US Army colleague: My locker was next to his and that's when I met him. Nobody puts their sister's picture - with him posing next to his sister - there. It was kinda weird but we knew right away that he was gay, it was like so obvious. So... Not that I have a problem with it.

US Army colleague: He was small, a little bit effeminate and that made him like public enemy one for drill sargeants to beat that marching into him. We're talking professional army - 30, 40 year old people that would pick on him just to torment him.

Alex Gibney: And what happened? Did he get discharged?

US Army colleague: No. The funny thing is, he was the least army material of anybody there and they all got discharged and he didn’t.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Instead of discharging Manning, the army decided to make him an intelligence analyst.

US Army recruitment video for intelligence roles

US soldier: There's a lot of points that go with the job. I'm in charge of security, document security, physical security, personnel security, like people's clearances. Does it make me feel like James Bond a little bit? Yeah, to some degree. What would I like the public to know about the army? We love what we do.

Interview with Jihrleah Showman, a prosecution witness at Manning's pre-trial hearing

Jihrleah Showman: He was definitely what society would label as a computer nerd. He was constantly up all night building specific computer programs.

Alex Gibney: So he was unusually adept at computers?

Jihrleah Showman: He was probably the first person in the military that I had met that is as talented as he was with computers. But I had to pull him aside several times for his lack of sleep. He was desperately addicted to soda. He drank approximately a litre to two litres every night, so he literally did not sleep, ever. One time he was late for formation and he had a very public display physically. He was jumping up and down, flailing his arms, screaming at the top of his lungs, and to me, I had never seen a soldier do that before. It had to be something else, a seizure or something like that because it was very radical body movement. But it wasn’t something else. He didn’t like messing up. He had to have everything perfect. I actually recommended three times that he not deploy.

Audio of Bradley Manning's voicemail greeting.

Narration by Alex Gibney: In October 2009, Bradley Manning was sent to Iraq, posted to Forward Operating Base Hammer just outside of Baghdad.

Jihrleah Showman: We were the furthest FOB east that you could go out of the Baghdad area. It was definitely the best, most uneventful place you could have been deployed to. We never had any enemy fire. We could walk around without battle gear. We had a full gym, there's pool tables, basketball court. We had a little movie theatre, we had a Pizza Hut, a Burger King, a place to get your hair cut, a place to get a massage. We had air-conditioned living quarters - you could actually get cable and internet in your room. It was literally just a home away from home. Footage of cheerleaders performing at Forward Operating Base Hammer.

Jihrleah Showman: When you receive intel in it's extremely raw. A lot of the times it's even in Iraqi so we have to actually get it translated and build a product so the commander can actually make military decisions.

Narration by Alex Gibney: But much of the information available to Manning’s intelligence unit had nothing to do with day-to-day combat operations. All of the analysts had access to central computer networks for the armed forces and the State Department. With a few keystrokes a skilled user could gain access to vast streams of classified emails, memos and reports from around the world.

Alex Gibney: Why was it that Private Manning had access to all that information?

PJ Crowley: Now look, firstly the mindset changed after 9/11 from a need-to-know to a need-to-share, and the database that he had access to was a representation of the need for one hand of government to share broadly information about its activities with another agency of government.

Alex Gibney: How many people had access?

Michael Hayden: It's a hard question to answer.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Manning was regarded as one of the smartest intelligence analysts in the unit, but more than others he became increasingly distressed by the reports he was seeing.

Chat logs between Adrian Lamo and "Bradass87" on screen.

Jihrleah Showman: He back-talked a lot. He constantly wanted to debate. He wanted to be the person that disagreed with everybody. We had a separate little conference room, it had a doorway but it didn't have a door that you could close and he'd go in there and just scream.

More chat logs on screen.

Footage from Mark Davis' documentary "Inside WikiLeaks".

Mark Davis: I was trying to trace him after the Collateral Murder video, but he's a pretty evasive guy. He doesn’t have a home, he doesn’t have an office, so it was no easy task. I’d been chasing him for weeks and had one phone contact with him but I heard that he was speaking in Norway so I jumped on a plane. Turned up in Oslo and sort of, you know, shadowed him for a few days until things started to click.

Footage of Julian Assange's speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Julian Assange: This is not the virile democracy that we had all dreamed of, this is an encroaching privatised censorship regime. [applause]

Footage of Julian backstage after speech.

Julian Assange: So embarrassing

Mark Davis: What's that?

Julian Assange: Having that camera in my face.

Mark Davis: At that time he had an underground following, of which I was aware. He's Australian, he's from Melbourne, but he had no public profile really.

Mark Davis: WikiLeaks is not the first time you've come to the attention of the Australian public. Of course you had another controversial period when you were involved with a group that was essentially trying to penetrate military computer systems. What was the motivation there?

Julian Assange: Well, there was two motivations for it. One was just the intellectual exploration and the challenge to do this, so if you're a teenager at this time so the government... This was before there was public access to the internet – this was an incredibly intellectually liberating thing, to go out and explore the world with your mind. Footage from an Australian news programme about hackers

Interviewee: They're not someone who kills their victim, dismembers them and cuts them into small pieces, hackers do far more damage than that.

Newsreader: Hackers, the mystery operators of the internet. In the eyes of the law, they're criminal, but who are they?

Robert Manne: There was a really interesting period in Melbourne in the early 90s. There was a few places on earth that really clicked into the internet, pre-internet. There was also a sense of rebelliousness, a sort of an alternative political culture in Melbourne. All those things converged and Julian was absolutely the core part of it. It was almost a cliché – the teen hacker.

Footage from the movie War Games.

Actor: 72,000,000 people dead? Is this a game, or is it real?

Robert Manne: Their struggle was against the state and they thought the triumph of intelligent individuals over the possibility of state surveillance - that's the heart of what they were doing. And Julian Assange, who at that point was a young hacker, got into that world and he became the central figure.

No comment from Assange.

Narration by Alex Gibney: The group was called the International Subversives. Among them was Julian Assange, known by the online name of Mendax, short for a Latin phrase meaning “noble liar”.

Hackers in Melbourne were also suspects in the Wank worm attack but their involvement was never proven. Two years after the Wank worm Assange was implicated in another hack.
Gibney fabricates the significance of one of Julian Assange's teenage screen names "Splendide Mendax" (from the classical author Horace). He does so throughout the film. The screen name is a joke. In Latin it means "Nobly untrue", but as a pseudonym it describes how handles protect an author's identity even though being inherently "untrue". It is a phrase which describes itself, not its author, just like the word "word".

"Claims my teenage nickname was Mendax, “given to lying”, instead of Splendide Mendax, “nobly untruthful”, which is a teenage joke on handles being inherently untrue. It is self-referential, not a psychoanalysis 20 years ahead of its time!"

— Julian Assange, Complaint to Ofcom regarding the Guardian co-produced Secrets & Lies documentary, January 9, 2012.
Given that "noble liar" and "nobly untruthful" are essentially the same, and Assange offers nothing against the second sentence from Gibney here... what exactly is the "factual error" here?

Newsreader: Julian Assange allegedly accessed computer systems around the world through weak links in the internet system, meaning the whole computer opened up to him and he could walk around like God Almighty.

Ken Day: Hackers have this belief that we are getting a police state, that information is being hidden from the broad community, that... Editing abruptly cuts off.

Narration by Alex Gibney: Ken Day was an Australian expert on hackers and the first person to investigate Julian Assange as part of an undercover sting called Operation Weather.

Ken Day: It was a difficult case because it was only the second time we had done an investigation in this particular style, so we were still learning. What we did was capture the sound going across the telephone line so we could see what was typed and the signal coming back.

Narration by Alex Gibney: The hackers had broken into the US Air Force, the Navy and the US Defence network that had the power to block entire countries from the internet.

Julian Assange: We had a backdoor in the US military security co-ordination centre. This is the peak security, or development of security, of, the US military internet. We had total control over this for two years.
Note: Julian Assange set out his group's Golden Rules as follows:

Don’t damage computer systems you break into (including crashing them); don’t change the information in those systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks); and share information.

At his eventual trial, the judge recognised that Assange's actions had not been malicious, had caused no damage and had been motivated by intellectual curiosity.
Again, his source for this claim is one Julian Assange. If you're alleging untruth, then you're alleging it against yourself. Secondly though... you're right. This claim by you was yet another lie.

This ends part 1 for now; Assange has a heck of a lot more free time than me. More later when I've got the chance!

No comments:

Post a Comment