The ongoing row between WikiLeaks and director Alex Gibney (pictured) has intensified, with the whistle-blowing organization publishing an annotated and critical transcript of the filmmaker’s doc We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks – a transcript that Gibney says is incomplete.
WikiLeaks published what purports to be a transcript of Oscar-winner Gibney’s Universal-backed doc, which had its world premiere at Sundance in January, on Thursday (May 23), the day before We Steal Secrets had its release in the U.S.
The film looks at the nature of secrecy in the 21st Century, with regards to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and the U.S. government.
In a statement, WikiLeaks said the annotated transcript “reveals errors and sleight of hand by the director,” and “suggests – erroneously and when evidence is to the contrary – that Assange may be guilty of conspiring with Bradley Manning to commit espionage or similar offenses.”
The annotations take issue with the vast majority of content in the film.
In a series of Tweets, Gibney hit back at WikiLeaks, claiming that the organization “has published an incomplete and inaccurate transcript” of the doc, based on a non-final version of the film.
Gibney said the transcript is missing all of Manning’s printed words, which constitute almost a quarter of film. “Mighty WikiLeaks: publishing a phony transcript that leaves out all of Manning’s words,” Gibney Tweeted. WikiLeaks, meanwhile, responded that their transcript was a “full audio, not screen, transcript.”
The latest war of words is part of an ongoing row between the two parties over the film, which does not feature an original interview with Assange, instead relying on archival interview footage.
Both parties concede that Gibney held talks with Assange about contributing to the documentary during its making, but offer conflicting accounts as to why the talks fell apart.
WikiLeaks said, in its annotation of the transcript, that there were numerous reasons why the talks fell apart, including security concerns, financial concerns, and concerns over the direction of the project.
However, talking at the Realscreen Summit in Washington DC earlier this year, Gibney said disagreements over an appearance fee led to the impasse.
Talking to the BBC’s Nick Fraser during a keynote chat, Gibney said: “In our final exchange, which was a six hour meeting, [Assange] said that he wanted money, and he cited as the market rate for an interview with him a figure of one million dollars, which I thought was rather inflated, particularly since I seemed to be the only person in the world who didn’t get an interview with Julian Assange.
“The other thing he said was, ‘Well, if you do not want to pay money how about this: how about you spy on the other interview subjects and then report back to me.’ I found that a very interesting proposal from a ‘transparency organization’”.
The WikiLeaks annotation, however, denies that Assange said the market rate for an interview with him was $1 million, and says the reference to that meeting in the film “deliberately distorts the final, lengthy negotiation between Julian Assange and Alex Gibney regarding his and WikiLeaks’ possible participation in the documentary.”
WikiLeaks said that while it did not cooperate with Gibney for the film, it has cooperated for other feature documentaries, “including a film by respected, Academy Award-nominated U.S. filmmaker Laura Poitras, which will be out later this year and another film, co-produced with Ken Loach’s 16 Films, which will be released shortly.”