The story of WikiLeaks is recent history, so recent that to call it "history" at all seems like a misdirection. We have not seen the end of this narrative: Bradley Manning's trial is set to begin in little more than a week; Julian Assange is living out his days in Ecuador's London embassy.
But what has already passed is tremendous, raising complicated questions about the roles of governments, civilians, and technology in a time when classification of information is prodigious, yet leaking seems technically easy. The rapid and constant developments in this story have impeded holistic assessments, and director Alex Gibney's new film, " 'We Steal Secrets': The Story of WikiLeaks," fills in that gap. He explores not just the strange and fascinating characters that animate this story, but also the conflicting ideas they hold about secrecy and transparency in modern democratic government. I had the chance to speak with Gibney about his film; its two main characters, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning; and its powerful, non-human third -- the national security establishment of the U.S. government.
An edited, condensed transcript of our conversation follows.
Can you begin by describing what the story is that your film is telling, and how you originally got interested in it?
I was always interested in the WikiLeaks story, just as a civilian, and when I was approached to do the film by Marc Shmuger from Universal, I just leapt at the chance. It seemed like a great moment. It's a story to me that's all about what should and should not be secret. It's also about the whole character of the Internet, not only what the Internet is, but how it's changing us. So, for all those reasons, I thought it was important to dig in.