Sue Halpern

The New York Review of Books - - Contents - Sue Halpern

Risk a doc­u­men­tary film di­rected by Laura Poitras

About forty min­utes into Risk, Laura Poitras’s messy doc­u­men­tary portrait of Ju­lian As­sange, the film­maker ad­dresses the viewer from off-cam­era. “This is not the film I thought I was mak­ing,” she says. “I thought I could ig­nore the con­tra­dic­tions. I thought they were not part of the story. I was so wrong. They are be­com­ing the story.”

By the time she makes this con­fes­sion, Poitras has been film­ing As­sange, on and off, for six years. He has gone from a bit player on the in­ter­na­tional stage to one of its dra­matic leads. His glee­ful in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion—first with the re­lease of e-mails poached from the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, timed to co­in­cide with, un­der­mine, and pos­si­bly de­rail Hil­lary Clin­ton’s nom­i­na­tion at the Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion, and then with the pub­li­ca­tion of the pri­vate e-mail cor­re­spon­dence of Clin­ton’s ad­viser John Podesta, which was leaked, drip by drip, in the days lead­ing up to the elec­tion to max­i­mize the dam­age it might in­flict on Clin­ton—el­e­vated As­sange’s pro­file and his in­flu­ence.

And then this spring, it emerged that Nigel Farage, the Trump ad­viser and for­mer head of the na­tion­al­ist and anti-im­mi­grant UK In­de­pen­dence Party (UKIP) who is now a per­son of in­ter­est in the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia, was meet­ing with As­sange. To those who once saw him as a crusader for truth and ac­count­abil­ity, As­sange sud­denly looked more like a Sven­gali and a will­ing tool of Vladimir Putin, and cer­tainly a man with no par­tic­u­lar af­fec­tion for lib­eral democ­racy. Yet those ten­den­cies were present all along.

In 2010, when Poitras be­gan work on her film, As­sange’s four-year-old web­site, Wik­iLeaks, had just be­come the con­duit for hun­dreds of thou­sands of clas­si­fied Amer­i­can doc­u­ments re­veal­ing how we pros­e­cuted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in­clud­ing a graphic video of Amer­i­can sol­diers in an Apache he­li­copter mow­ing down a group of un­armed Iraqis, as well as for some 250,000 State Depart­ment diplo­matic ca­bles. All had been up­loaded to the Wik­iLeaks site by an army pri­vate named Bradley—now Chelsea—Man­ning.

The ge­nius of the Wik­iLeaks plat­form was that doc­u­ments could be leaked anony­mously, with all iden­ti­fiers re­moved; Wik­iLeaks it­self didn’t know who its sources were un­less leak­ers chose to re­veal them­selves. This would pre­vent any­one at Wik­iLeaks from in­ad­ver­tently, or un­der pres­sure, dis­clos­ing a source’s iden­tity. As­sange’s goal was to hold power—state power, cor­po­rate power, and pow­er­ful in­di­vid­u­als—ac­count­able by of­fer­ing a se­cure and easy way to ex­pose their se­crets. He called this “rad­i­cal trans­parency.” Man­ning’s bad luck was to tell a friend about the hack, and the friend then went to the FBI. For a long time, though, As­sange pre­tended not to know who pro­vided the doc­u­ments, even when there was ev­i­dence that he and Man­ning had been e-mail­ing be­fore the leaks.

Though the con­tra­dic­tions were not im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous to Poitras as she trained her lens on As­sange, they were be­com­ing so to oth­ers in his or­bit. Wik­iLeaks’s young spokesper­son in those early days, James Ball, has re­counted how As­sange tried to force him to sign a nondis­clo­sure state­ment that would re­sult in a £12 mil­lion penalty if it were breached. “[I was] wo­ken very early by As­sange, sit­ting on my bed, prod­ding me in the face with a stuffed gi­raffe, im­me­di­ately once again pres­sur­ing me to sign,” Ball wrote. As­sange con­tin­ued to pester him like this for two hours. As­sange’s “im­pulse to­wards free speech, ” ac­cord­ing to An­drew O’Ha­gan, the erst­while ghost­writer of As­sange’s failed au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “is only per­mis­si­ble if it ad­heres to his mes­sage. His pur­suit of gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions was a ghostly re­verse of his own fears for him­self. That was the big se­cret with him: he wanted to cover up ev­ery­thing about him­self ex­cept his fame.”

Mean­while, some of the com­pany he was keep­ing while Poitras was film­ing also might have given her pause. His as­so­ci­a­tion with Farage had al­ready be­gun in 2011 when Farage was head of UKIP. As­sange’s own Wik­iLeaks Party of Aus­tralia was aligned with the white na­tion­al­ist Aus­tralia First Party, it­self headed by an avowed neo-Nazi, un­til po­lit­i­cal pres­sure forced it to claim that as­so­ci­a­tion to be an “ad­min­is­tra­tive er­ror.”

Most egre­gious, per­haps, was As­sange’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Is­rael Shamir, an un­apolo­getic anti-Semite and Putin ally to whom As­sange handed over all State Depart­ment diplo­matic ca­bles from the Man­ning leak re­lat­ing to Be­larus (as well as to Rus­sia, East­ern Europe, and Is­rael). Shamir then shared th­ese doc­u­ments with mem­bers of the regime of Be­laru­sian Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lukashenko, who ap­peared to use them to im­prison and tor­ture mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion. This prompted the hu­man rights group In­dex on Cen­sor­ship to ask Wik­iLeaks to ex­plain its re­la­tion­ship to Shamir, and to look into re­ports that Shamir’s “ac­cess to the Wik­iLeaks’ US diplo­matic ca­bles [aided in] the pros­e­cu­tion of civil so­ci­ety ac­tivists within Be­larus.” Wik­iLeaks called th­ese claims ru­mors and re­sponded that it would not be in­ves­ti­gat­ing them. “Most peo­ple with prin­ci­pled stances don’t sur­vive for long,” As­sange tells Poitras at the be­gin­ning of the film. It’s not clear if he’s talk­ing about him­self or oth­ers. Then there is the mat­ter of redac­tion. Af­ter the Man­ning cache came in, Wik­iLeaks part­nered with a num­ber of “legacy” news­pa­pers, in­clud­ing The New York Times and The Guardian, to bring the ma­te­rial out into the world. While ini­tially go­ing along with those pub­li­ca­tions’ poli­cies of re­mov­ing iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion that could put in­no­cent peo­ple in harm’s way and ex­clud­ing ma­te­rial that could not be ver­i­fied, As­sange soon balked. Ac­cord­ing to the Guardian jour­nal­ists David Leigh and Luke Hard­ing in Wik­iLeaks: Inside Ju­lian As­sange’s War on Se­crecy, their 2011 post­mortem of their con­tentious col­lab­o­ra­tion with As­sange on the so-called Afghan war logs—the por­tion of the Man­ning leaks con­cern­ing the con­flict in Afghanistan—the Wik­iLeaks founder was un­moved by en­treaties to scrub the files of any­thing that could point to Afghan vil­lagers who might have had any con­tact with Amer­i­can troops. He con­sid­ered such editorial in­ter­ven­tion to “con­tam­i­nate the ev­i­dence.”

“Well they’re in­for­mants. So, if they get killed, they’ve got it com­ing to them. They de­serve it,” Leigh and Hard­ing re­port As­sange say­ing to a group of in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists. And while As­sange has de­nied mak­ing th­ese com­ments, Wik­iLeaks re­leased troves of ma­te­rial in which the names of Afghan civil­ians had not been redacted, an ac­tion that led Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, the Open So­ci­ety In­sti­tute, the Cam­paign for In­no­cent Vic­tims in Con­flict, and the Afghanistan In­de­pen­dent Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion to is­sue a joint re­buke. The group Re­porters With­out Bor­ders also crit­i­cized Wik­iLeaks for its “in­cred­i­ble ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity” in not re­mov­ing the names. This was in 2010, not long af­ter Poitras ap­proached As­sange about mak­ing a film.

Lack of redac­tion—or of any real ef­fort to sep­a­rate dis­clo­sures of pub­lic im­por­tance from those that might sim­ply put pri­vate cit­i­zens at risk—con­tin­ued to be a flash­point for Wik­iLeaks, its sup­port­ers, and its crit­ics. In July 2016, pre­sum­ably when Poitras was still work­ing on Risk, Wik­iLeaks dumped nearly 300,000 e-mails it claimed were from Turkey’s rul­ing AKP party. Those files, it turned out, were not from AKP heavy­weights but, rather, from or­di­nary peo­ple writ­ing to the party, of­ten with their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion in­cluded.

Worse, Wik­iLeaks also posted links to a set of huge voter data­bases, in­clud­ing one with the names, ad­dresses, and other con­tact in­for­ma­tion for nearly ev­ery woman in Turkey. It also ap­par­ently pub­lished the files of psy­chi­atric pa­tients, gay men, and rape vic­tims in Saudi Ara­bia. Soon af­ter that, Wik­iLeaks be­gan leak­ing bun­dles of hacked Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee e-mails, also full of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing cell phone and credit card num­bers, lead­ing Wired mag­a­zine to de­clare that “Wik­iLeaks Has Of­fi­cially Lost the Moral High Ground.”

Poitras doesn’t say, but per­haps this is when she, too, be­gan to take ac­count of the con­tra­dic­tions that even­tu­ally turned her film away from ha­giog­ra­phy to­ward some­thing more nu­anced. Though she in­ter­mit­tently in­ter­jects her­self into the film—to re­late a dream she’s had about As­sange; to say that he is brave; to say that she thinks he doesn’t like her; to say that she doesn’t trust him—this is pri­mar­ily a film of scenes, episodic and nearly pi­caresque save for the un­ap­peal­ing van­ity of its hero. (There is very lit­tle in the film about the work of Wik­iLeaks it­self.)

Here is Ju­lian, holed up in a sup­porter’s es­tate in the English coun­try­side while un­der house ar­rest, get­ting his hair cut by a gag­gle of sup­port­ers while watch­ing a video of Ja­panese women in biki­nis danc­ing. Here is Ju­lian in a car with that other fa­mous leaker, Daniel Ells­berg. Here is Ju­lian in­struct­ing Sarah Har­ri­son, his Wik­iLeaks col­league, to call Sec­re­tary Clin­ton at the State Depart­ment and tell her she needs to talk to Ju­lian As­sange. Here is Ju­lian walk­ing in the woods with one of his lawyers, cer­tain that a bird in a nearby tree is ac­tu­ally a man with a cam­era. Here is Ju­lian be­ing in­ter­viewed, for no ap­par­ent rea­son, by the singer Lady Gaga:

Lady Gaga: What’s your fa­vorite food?

As­sange: Let’s not pre­tend I’m a nor­mal per­son. I am ob­sessed with

po­lit­i­cal strug­gle. I’m not a nor­mal per­son.

Lady Gaga: Tell me how you feel?

As­sange: Why does it mat­ter how I feel? Who gives a damn? I don’t care how I feel.

Lady Gaga: Do you ever feel like just fuck­ing cry­ing?

As­sange: No.

And here is Ju­lian, in con­ver­sa­tion with Har­ri­son, who is also his girl­friend:

As­sange: My pro­file didn’t take off till the sex case. [It was] very high in me­dia cir­cles and in­tel­li­gence cir­cles, but it didn’t re­ally take off, as if I was a glob­ally rec­og­nized house­hold name, it wasn’t till the sex case. So I was jok­ing to one of our peo­ple, sex scan­dal ev­ery six months. Har­ri­son: That was me you were jok­ing to. And I died a lit­tle bit inside.

As­sange: Come on. It’s a plat­form.

The sex case to which As­sange is re­fer­ring is the one that be­gan in the sum­mer of 2010 on a trip to Swe­den. While there, As­sange had sex with two young sup­port­ers a few days apart, both of whom said that what started out as con­sen­sual ended up as as­sault. Even­tu­ally, af­ter nu­mer­ous back-and-forths, the Swedish court is­sued an in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rant for As­sange, who was liv­ing in Eng­land, to com­pel him to re­turn to Swe­den for ques­tion­ing. As­sange re­fused, declar­ing that this was a “honey pot” trap or­ches­trated by the CIA to ex­tra­dite him to the United States for pub­lish­ing the Man­ning leaks.

Af­ter a short stay in a Bri­tish jail, sub­se­quent house ar­rest, and many ap­peals, As­sange was or­dered by the UK Supreme Court, in May 2012, to be re­turned to Swe­den to an­swer the rape and as­sault charges. As­sange, how­ever, claim­ing that there was a se­cret war­rant for his ar­rest in the United States (though the ex­tra­di­tion treaty be­tween Swe­den and the US pro­hibits ex­tra­di­tion for a po­lit­i­cal of­fense), had made other ar­range­ments: he had ap­plied for, and was granted, po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in Ecuador. Be­cause the Bri­tish govern­ment re­fused “safe pas­sage” there, As­sange took refuge in the Ecuado­rian em­bassy in Lon­don.

Poitras was with As­sange in an undis­closed lo­ca­tion in Lon­don as the Bri­tish high court in Par­lia­ment Square was is­su­ing its fi­nal rul­ing. The cam­era was rolling and no one was speak­ing—it was all sealed lips and pan­tomime—as As­sange dyed his hair red and dressed in biker’s leather in order to make a mad dash on a mo­tor­cy­cle across town to the em­bassy. (There’s a sor­row­ful mo­ment when his mother, who, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, is in the room, too, writes “I love you, honey,” on a piece of note­book paper and hands it and a pen to her son and he waves her off.)

This past Jan­uary, five years into As­sange’s self-im­posed ex­ile, he promised to fi­nally leave the em­bassy and turn him­self over to the Amer­i­cans if Pres­i­dent Obama were to grant cle­mency to Chelsea Man­ning, who had been sen­tenced to thirty-five years in prison for giv­ing doc­u­ments to Wik­iLeaks. Obama did; As­sange didn’t. In May, the same month Man­ning left prison, Swe­den dropped all charges against As­sange. He re­mains in the em­bassy. The “sex case,” as As­sange called it, fig­ures promi­nently in Risk. It serves to re­veal his ca­sual and some­times nox­ious misog­yny, and it is a foil for him to con­flate the per­sonal with the po­lit­i­cal, us­ing the po­lit­i­cal to get out of an­swer­ing to the per­sonal, and the per­sonal to claim that he’s the vic­tim here. “Who is af­ter you, Mr. As­sange?” Lady Gaga asks. “For­mally there are more than twelve United States in­tel­li­gence or­ga­ni­za­tions,” As­sange tells her, reel­ing off a list of acronyms. “So ba­si­cally a whole fuck­ing bunch of peo­ple in Amer­ica,” she says, and then he men­tions that the Aus­tralians, the Bri­tish, and the Swedes are also pur­su­ing him. Whether this is true or not has long been a mat­ter of dis­pute. The Swedes def­i­nitely wanted him to re­turn to their coun­try, and the Bri­tish were ea­ger for him to abide by the Swedish war­rant, and he made no friends in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Fol­low­ing the Man­ning leaks in 2010, the at­tor­ney gen­eral, Eric Holder, made it clear that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, along with the Depart­ment of De­fense, was in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether As­sange could be charged un­der the 1917 Es­pi­onage Act, though no war­rant was ever is­sued pub­licly. Hil­lary Clin­ton, then the sec­re­tary of state, said that Wik­iLeaks’s re­lease of the diplo­matic ca­bles was “an at­tack on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity [and] we are tak­ing ag­gres­sive steps to hold re­spon­si­ble those who stole this in­for­ma­tion.” Still, As­sange’s self-ex­ile in the em­bassy, which the United Na­tions con­demned as an “ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion,” was pred­i­cated on his be­lief that the Amer­i­cans were ly­ing in wait, ready at any mo­ment to haul him to the US, where his ac­tions might land him in prison for a very long time, or even lead to his ex­e­cu­tion.

All this was well be­fore As­sange was ac­cused of us­ing Wik­iLeaks as a front for Rus­sian agents work­ing to un­der­mine Amer­i­can democ­racy dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. And it was be­fore can­di­date Trump de­clared his love for the web­site and then watched as As­sange re­leased a huge arse­nal of CIA hack­ing tools into the pub­lic do­main less than two months into Trump’s pres­i­dency. This, in turn, prompted the new CIA di­rec­tor, Mike Pom­peo, who ap­peared to have no prob­lem with Wik­iLeaks when it was shar­ing in­for­ma­tion detri­men­tal to the Democrats, to de­clare Wik­iLeaks a “hos­tile in­tel­li­gence ser­vice,” and the new at­tor­ney gen­eral, Jeff Ses­sions, to pre­pare a war­rant for As­sange’s ar­rest. If the Jus­tice Depart­ment wasn’t go­ing af­ter As­sange be­fore, it ap­pears to be ready to do so now. De­spite As­sange’s vo­cal dis­dain for his for­mer col­lab­o­ra­tors at The New York Times and The Guardian, his as­so­ci­a­tion with those jour­nal­ists and their news­pa­pers is prob­a­bly what so far has kept him from be­ing in­dicted and pros­e­cuted in the United States. As Glenn Green­wald told the jour­nal­ist Amy Good­man recently, Eric Holder’s Jus­tice Depart­ment could not come up with a ra­tio­nale to pros­e­cute Wik­iLeaks that would not also im­pli­cate the news or­ga­ni­za­tions with which it had worked; to do so, Green­wald said, would have been “too much of a threat to press freedom, even for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.” The same can­not be said with con­fi­dence about the Trump White House, which per­ceives the Times, and na­tional news

or­ga­ni­za­tions more gen­er­ally, as ad­ver­saries. Yet if the Ses­sions Jus­tice Depart­ment goes af­ter As­sange, it likely will be on the grounds that Wik­iLeaks is not “real” jour­nal­ism.

This charge has dogged Wik­iLeaks from the start. For one thing, it doesn’t em­ploy re­porters or have sub­scribers. For another, it pub­lishes ir­reg­u­larly and, be­cause it does not ac­tively chase se­crets but ag­gre­gates those that oth­ers sup­ply, of­ten has long gaps when it pub­lishes noth­ing at all. Per­haps most con­fus­ing to some ob­servers, Wik­iLeaks’s rudi­men­tary web­site doesn’t look any­thing like a New York Times or a Wash­ing­ton Post, even in those pa­pers’ more re­cent dig­i­tal in­car­na­tions. Nonethe­less, there is no doubt that Wik­iLeaks pub­lishes the in­for­ma­tion it re­ceives much like those tra­di­tional news out­lets. When it burst on the scene in 2010, it was em­braced as a new kind of jour­nal­ism, one ca­pa­ble not only of speak­ing truth to power, but of out­smart­ing power and its in­sti­tu­tional gate­keep­ers. And the fact is, there is no con­sen­sus on what con­sti­tutes “real” jour­nal­ism. As Adam Pe­nen­berg points out, “The best we have comes from laws and pro­posed leg­is­la­tion which pro­tect re­porters from be­ing forced to di­vulge con­fi­den­tial sources in court. In craft­ing those shield laws, leg­is­la­tors have had to grap­ple with the neb­u­lous­ness of the pro­fes­sion.”

The dan­ger of carv­ing off Wik­iLeaks from the rest of jour­nal­ism, as the at­tor­ney gen­eral may at­tempt to do, is that ul­ti­mately it leaves all pub­li­ca­tions vul­ner­a­ble to pros­e­cu­tion. Once an ex­cep­tion is made, a rule will be too, and the rule in this case will be that the govern­ment can de­ter­mine what con­sti­tutes real jour­nal­ism and what does not, and which pub­li­ca­tions, films, writ­ers, ed­i­tors, and film­mak­ers are pro­tected un­der the First Amend­ment, and which are not.

This is where cen­sor­ship be­gins. No mat­ter what one thinks of Ju­lian As­sange per­son­ally, or of Wik­iLeaks’s reck­less pub­li­ca­tion prac­tices, like it or not, they have be­come the lit­mus test of our com­mit­ment to free speech. If the govern­ment suc­cess­fully pros­e­cutes Wik­iLeaks for pub­lish­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, why not, then, “the failed New York Times,” as the pres­i­dent likes to call it, or any news or­ga­ni­za­tion or jour­nal­ist? It’s a slip­pery slope lead­ing to a sheer cliff. That is the real risk be­ing pre­sented here, though Poitras doesn’t di­rectly ad­dress it.

Near the end of Risk, af­ter Poitras has shown As­sange a rough cut of the film, he tells her that he views it as “a se­vere threat to my freedom and I must act ac­cord­ingly.” He doesn’t say what he will do, but when the film was re­leased this spring, Poitras was loudly crit­i­cized by As­sange’s sup­port­ers for chang­ing it from the hero’s jour­ney she de­buted last year at Cannes to some­thing more crit­i­cal, com­pli­cated, and at best am­biva­lent about the man. Yet am­biva­lence is the most hon­est thing about the film. It is the emo­tion As­sange of­ten stirs up in those who sup­port the Wik­iLeaks mis­sion but are dis­turbed by its chief mis­sion­ary. This am­biva­lence, too, is what makes Risk such a dif­fer­ent film from Ci­ti­zen Four (2014), Poitras’s in­tense, res­o­lute, Os­car-win­ning doc­u­men­tary about Ed­ward Snow­den. While Snow­den and As­sange are of­ten twinned in the press and in the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion, th­ese films demon­strate how false that equiv­a­lence is. Snow­den leaked clas­si­fied NSA doc­u­ments that he said showed ram­pant un­con­sti­tu­tional in­tru­sions by the govern­ment into the pri­vate lives of in­no­cent cit­i­zens, do­ing so through a care­ful process of vet­ting and se­lec­tive pub­li­ca­tion by a cir­cle of hand-picked jour­nal­ists. He iden­ti­fied him­self as the leaker and said he wanted to pro­voke a pub­lic de­bate about govern­ment spy­ing and the right of pri­vacy. As­sange, by con­trast, ap­pears to have no in­ter­est in any­one’s pri­vacy but his own and his sources’. Pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, in­ti­mate con­ver­sa­tions are all fair game to him. He calls this ni­hilism “freedom,” and in so do­ing el­e­vates it to a prin­ci­ple that gives him li­cense to act with­out re­gard to con­se­quences.

The mis­sion As­sange orig­i­nally set out to ac­com­plish, though—pro­vid­ing a safe way for whistle­blow­ers to hold power ac­count­able—has, in the past few years, eclipsed Wik­iLeaks it­self. Al­most ev­ery ma­jor news­pa­per, mag­a­zine, and web­site now has a way for leak­ers to up­load se­cret in­for­ma­tion, most through an anony­mous, on­line, open-source drop box called Se­cure Drop. Based on cod­ing work done by the free speech ad­vo­cate Aaron Swartz be­fore his death and cham­pi­oned by the Freedom of the Press Foun­da­tion—on whose board both Laura Poitras and Ed­ward Snow­den sit, and which is a con­duit for do­na­tions to Wik­iLeaks among other or­ga­ni­za­tions—Se­cure Drop gives leak­ers the op­tion of choos­ing where to up­load their ma­te­rial. The New York Times, The Wash­ing­ton Post, The New Yorker, Forbes, and The In­ter­cept, to name just a few, all have a way for peo­ple to pass se­crets along to jour­nal­ists.

It is not yet known why a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency con­trac­tor named Re­al­ity Leigh Win­ner didn’t use a dig­i­tal drop box when she leaked a clas­si­fied NSA doc­u­ment to The In­ter­cept in May out­lin­ing how Rus­sian cy­ber spies hacked into Amer­i­can elec­tion soft­ware. Un­like Ed­ward Snow­den, who care­fully cov­ered his tracks be­fore leak­ing his NSA cache to Glenn Green­wald (be­fore Green­wald started The In­ter­cept) and Laura Poitras (who filmed Snow­den’s state­ment of pur­pose, in which he iden­ti­fied him­self as the leaker), Win­ner used a printer at work to copy the doc­u­ment, which she then mailed to The In­ter­cept. What she and those at The In­ter­cept who dealt with the doc­u­ment did not know, ap­par­ently, is that this govern­ment printer, like many print­ers, em­beds all doc­u­ments with small dots that re­veal the se­rial num­ber of the ma­chine and the time the doc­u­ment was printed. Af­ter The In­ter­cept con­tacted the NSA to ver­ify the doc­u­ment, the FBI needed only a few days to find Win­ner and ar­rest her. We will soon get to wit­ness what the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion does to those who leak clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, and to those who pub­lish it. Wik­iLeaks, ap­par­ently, will be pro­vid­ing the govern­ment with an as­sist. It is of­fer­ing a $10,000 re­ward for “the pub­lic ex­po­sure” of the re­porter whose ig­no­rance or care­less­ness led the FBI to Re­al­ity Win­ner’s door. Such are the va­garies of rad­i­cal trans­parency.

Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange in Laura Poitras’s doc­u­men­tary film Risk

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.