Under Review: ‘Wikileaks’


News releases are out today about Pfc. Bradley E. Manning’s 2007 video documenting an apparent US massacre of at least 12 civilians in Bagdad. He’s been charged with eight violations of the U.S. Criminal Code for illegally transferring classified data to Is he a traitor or a hero?

Mixed in this embarrassing mess for the Pentagon is white-haired, lean, soft-spoken Julian Assange. He has proudly joined the ranks of Daniel Ellsberg in being referred to as the most dangerous man on earth.

It’s all about transparency in the Age of Information.

Assange is the editor-in-chief of, a Web site devoted to exposing secrets. Any country, any organization, any person. Primary documents, including videos, are downloaded anonymously through digital dropboxes. This is where Manning went, motivated by conscience, to download his video and government documents, probably hoping that the promise of anonymity and legal protection would provide true sanctuary and affect a change in current military practices.

Wikileaks began in the ‘80s in Melbourne, Australia, as an international hackers’ club called International Subversives. It eventually grew into a powerful site challenging governments, organizations and businesses throughout the world. In the last three years it has uncovered human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay, political murders in Africa and banks laundering money through offshore tax havens. Both Amnesty International and ‘The Economist Magazine’ have given it media awards.

All of this information is covered in the documentary short, narrated by Andrew Fowler, ABC News foreign correspondent, called “Wikileaks” released for free viewing on Journeyman Pictures this month.

Comments from Daniel Ellsberg, famous for the 1971 Pentagon Papers leak, are sprinkled throughout the film. At one point, regarding US policy, he says, “We’re being lied to and led into a hopeless war.”

Ellsberg goes on to point out that in the last 17 months the Obama administration has “outdone previous administrations in pursuing leakers. The Obama administration, very briefly, is as secretive as the Bush administration … and in many cases has gone beyond Bush.”

Manning’s video of the civilian street casualties taken from a US helicopter in Iraq three years ago and downloaded to Wikileak’s site, is shown in this film. Unarmed civilians are walking down a street. Amongst them are two Reuter’s photographers. We are informed that the camera one of the journalists is carrying is mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by the air crew.

A command by an immature voice tells the gunner to “take ‘em out.” The road is strafed, bodies drop. Rescuers quickly arrive to offer help, including a man driving his children to a tutoring lesson. They are all “taken out” as well.

Then it is revealed that U.S. policy regulations stipulate that when one person on a street comes in the line of fire, all people on the street must be killed.

You might think the U.S. Army is investigating this sad incident because of the mistaken command to mow down a photographer carrying camera equipment. However, the probe is not about the murders but about who leaked the information.

A returning soldier touring America with a group of Afghanistan vets repeatedly explains to audiences that incidences like this are not uncommon. For soldiers like him, they can’t live with it and are going out to speak against the war.

In addition, “Live from Paris” reported today that 90,000 secret documents on the war in Afghanistan have been posted on Wikileaks. The U.S. considers this an illegal breach of national security, but Wikileaks plans to release 260,000 more documents.

Interestingly, Wikileaks, based by permission in Iceland, appears to be protected from prosecution because the Icelandic government has written legislation declaring itself a protected offshore publication center.

Time magazine has reported that the concept behind Wikileaks “ … could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

Julian Assange states the Wikipedia purpose, “What we want to create is a system where there is guaranteed free press across the world – the entire world. That every individual in the world has the ability to publish material that is meaningful. We are kept honest by the fact that we release primary source material… readers can check what the primary source says.” (

The bottom line is that “Wikileaks” is the most important film you can watch, at your own convenience on your own computer, this week. After viewing it let IJM know — is 22-year-old Pfc. Bradley E. Manning a hero or traitor?


Producer: ABC Australia
Featuring: Andrew Fowler, Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg and others
Distributor: Journeyman Pictures
Time: 24 min 09 sec
Released: July 5, 2010
Web site viewing:

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6 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Adam Poynter #

    Not so sure if I’m very interested in this one, I mean I’ve seen a ton of documentaries and liked a lot of them… this one just doesn’t seem to tickle my fancy!

  2. Paul Helton #

    We prosecute war atrocities all around the world as violations of the rights of mankind. This would simply be another of those. This is why I refuse to put a “tag” on Manning. As with anything human, it’s not that black and white without knowing all the facts. No group is above the law of basic human rights. Period. (At least that is what my moral code says for me.)

  3. 3

    I cannot say whether or not that Manning and Assange are patriotic or not. At this point, I’m not sure that there is anything about the US being in either Afghanistan or Iraq that is patriotic other than one human being caring for another in horrific times; be they Afghan or a couple of enlisted men. That seems to be about all the humanity that exists there.

    Yes, this leak is going to create some hell for those in power. It will call them to step up and be accountable for their actions. They are working on our behalf as US citizens and it is ultimately our responsibility for what they do. You may not like that idea, but I suggest that it is the truth. When enough of us are sufficiently angry about what is going on, the needed changes will be made in Washington, D.C. Until then, we will continue to get more of what we’re already getting.

    Are people pissed off and angry? You bet they are! There is a place in the Bible where Jesus is telling the people, “….and the truth will make you free.” They left out a very important preface to that statement which is, “But first it is going to really, really piss you off!” That’s the nature of the truth. It will cause upset, but it is upset that has the possibility of bringing us to the truth of what needs to be done.

    I’m all in favor of the truth. We have not had “the war in our living rooms” like it was during the Vietnam War. We are anesthetized. We don’t know what is happening and we want to hide from it. It is painful to know the truth. I know that there are downsides to telling the truth in the short-term, but in the larger picture, the truth will make us free.

    For now I will refrain from judging a person to be patriotic or not. What we need is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We need to know “what’s so,” so that we can get to “what works.” Once we have the “what works” we can begin doing what needs to be done.

  4. 4

    I just read Bev’s Bess O’Brien review. It is a totally unrelated article, but when Bess was asked the three most important things she learned from making a movie about the most poignant issues for teens today, one of the three most important things she learned was, “That telling the truth can create change.”

  5. #

    Good God! What a screwed up mess we have created.
    Coming from the Vietnam era, when the US govt lied to the people but the press brought the war into our homes every night (back when families sat down before dinner and watched the news together)- it is deja vu, isn’t it?
    I thought the purpose of studying history was to avoid repeating our mistakes.
    As for hero or villian, I don’t feel I have the right to judge. I feel my responsibility is to vote my conscience.
    To ignore what is going on elsewhere by saying, “It’s not my problem, I can’t do anything about it.” is a croc.

  6. Bev Questad #

    8/28/10 CNN Update (excerpts)

    Manning had top-secret clearance as an intelligence analyst with the Army while he was stationed in Iraq. He was detained in June and sent to the U.S. base in Kuwait for his connection to the release of the classified U.S. military combat video showing the shooting death of Iraqi civilians and two journalists in 2007 by a helicopter gunship.

    The Army is trying to trace who Manning’s contacts were and on what computer servers he had to possibly access a plethora of information from U.S. military documents to Department of State cables, according to the official.

    Manning has not been cooperating with Army investigators; the official said Manning has invoked the Fifth Amendment and is refusing to answer questions from investigators.

    Manning is still being held by the U.S. military in Kuwait.

    Manning could be additionally charged as the Army’s investigation continues, according to the official. At the moment, he has been charged with illegally transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system in connection to the leaking of the helicopter video.

    He has also been charged with communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source and disclosing classified information concerning the national defense with reason to believe that the information could cause injury to the United States in connection to the leak of the same video.

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