Alex Gibney's film about WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning is a thorough and decently intentioned work, though it accepts a little too glibly the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger line against Assange: that he is a fascinating radical who simply became a paranoid authoritarian.
Gibney concludes by saying that Private Manning is the real whistleblowing hero by leaking the documents – and he is, but Assange put the facts in the public domain in a way conventional media never could, and like Manning, he faced extraordinary pressures from which conventional journalists are shielded.
Both men are troubled, but it is probably only such temperamental outsiders who will do what they did. Without them, we would not know that civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan are much higher than the authorities pretended, nor of the dysfunctional US relationship with aid-recipient and drone-target Pakistan. In creating an anonymous "dropbox" for the WikiLeaks site, so that he could not name his informant even he wanted to, Assange himself became both journalist and source, creating a unique mental ordeal that might make anyone difficult to deal with.
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