Julian Assange Joins Trump’s War on CNN


Julian Assange has had it with CNN. Since July 4, the founder of WikiLeaks has tweeted 14 times in support of Donald Trump’s latest battle with the media: Gif-Gate.

Like many controversies in Washington these days, this one involves a tweet. Last week Trump tweeted a gif that portrayed him putting fake wrestling moves on a body with the CNN logo for its head.

Assange’s interest in this is all about CNN’s response. On July 5, the network’s master internet sleuth, Andrew Kaczynski, tracked down the Reddit user who came up with the Trump-CNN wrestling video. But because the maker apologized on the forum, CNN decided not to name him. That said, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

That last sentence has inspired some pearl clutching among Trump’s supporters. The alt-right has accused CNN of blackmailing some poor Reddit user who just likes trolling the media.

Now it should go without saying that this is a very thin reed. According to CNN, the Reddit user voluntarily apologized for the gif and other memes that were racist. Also, CNN never threatened to disclose reams of private information on the Reddit user, just his name. But such is the nature of these social media kerfuffles in the age of Trump. Both sides try to maximize grievance. CNN accuses the president of inciting violence. Trump’s supporters accuse CNN of mafia tactics.

What’s interesting here is how Assange responded. “When Trump goes low CNN goes lower: threatens to dox artist behind ‘CNN head’ video if he makes fun of them again,” he tweeted, referring to the online tactic of posting someone’s personal details on the web. For two days, Assange continued along these lines, speculating that CNN may have even violated the law in “censoring” this “artist.”

Doxxing, as it’s known, usually applies to an online persona who wishes to remain anonymous. But the concept is closely related to the kind of thing Assange himself has been doing since he founded WikiLeaks, publishing the private communications of public figures.

Methinks the WikiLeaker doth protest too much. After all, Assange’s organization posted the personal emails of John Podesta, Neera Tanden and other Democrats. And while some of those emails had legitimate news value, most of them didn’t. Did the public really have a right to know Podesta’s risotto recipe?

The hacked emails WikiLeaks disclosed last year are different from the State Department cables provided to the organization by Chelsea Manning. While some of those cables endangered US government sources in dangerous places, government documents in our republic belong to the people. The same cannot be said for the personal emails of Democratic operatives, who are exercising their right to political participation.

Assange is hardly alone as a participant in this new threat to online privacy. I wrote articles based on the hacked emails WikiLeaks published, as have many other journalists. Anonymous, the online hacker group, has doxxed people before as well. But Assange, as an advocate for radical transparency, has done much to usher in this new era.

And this new era should trouble us. In the 20th century, the state was the greatest threat to the individual’s privacy. But in the internet era, where so much of our lives is online, this threat has democratized. Individuals today pose a threat to privacy in a way we used to think was the sole province of the NSA and FBI. At any moment, an email, text or browsing history could be hacked and posted on the web for all to see. In an instant, our private lives can become public.

More recently, foreign governments have become threats to our privacy. Four US intelligence agencies assess that Russia orchestrated a campaign to advantage Trump in the election through hacking and leaking the emails of leading Democrats. The Russians used this tactic in 2014 in combination with their special forces, when RT, the Kremlin-funded network, would post audio recordings of US diplomats.

We are already starting to see imitators. Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon lost his job because emails and texts were leaked to the Associated Press that made it appear that he sought a business relationship with one of his sources. Solomon has said he never entered into such a relationship.

None of this is to say that there is not news value to some of these disclosures. It’s always a balance. The problem is that people like Assange never cared about this balance until now. For years he believed the public’s right to know outweighed the privacy rights of his victims. Today he argues the privacy of an online troll outweighs the public’s right to know who exactly is making the memes the president tweets in his war against CNN.


Arresting Julian Assange is a Priority: Sessions


The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now a “priority” for the US, attorney general Jeff Sessions has said.

The US authorities have prepared charges against Assange who is currently in London, US officials familiar with the matter revealed.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain since 2012 seeking to avoid an arrest warrant on rape allegations in Sweden.

“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” Sessions said at a news conference when reporters asked him about a US priority to arrest Assange.

“This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious,” he added.

Barry Pollack, Assange’s lawyer, denied any knowledge of imminent prosecution. “We’ve had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr Assange,” he stated.

Earlier, during the presidential election campaign, US president Donald Trump praised the anti-secrecy website saying during a rally “I love WikiLeaks.” However, Trump and his administration have put heat on WikiLeaks after it embarrassed the Central Intelligence Agency last month by releasing a large number of files and computer code from the spy agency’s top-secret hacking operations.

US authorities have been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks since at least 2010 when it released, in cooperation with publications including the Guardian, more than a quarter of a million classified cables from US embassies leaked by US army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

Prosecutors in recent weeks have been drafting a memo that looks at charges against Assange and other WikiLeaks members, with these charges including conspiracy, theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed US officials familiar with the matter.

WikiLeaks supporters, however, say it’s practicing the constitutional right of freedom of speech and the press.

“WikiLeaks’s sole interest is expressing constitutionally protected truths,” Assange said in an opinion piece he published earlier, acknowledging “overwhelming admiration for both America and the idea of America.”

Socialist candidate Lenin Moreno, who won the recent election in Ecuador, has promised not to extradite Assange.

The Unraveling of Julian Assange

Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain Feb. 5, 2016. Peter Nicholls/Reuters

You almost have to feel sorry for Julian Assange. Shut in at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London without access to sunlight, the founder of WikiLeaks is reduced to self-parody these days.

Here is a man dedicated to radical transparency, yet he refuses to go to Sweden despite an arrest warrant in connection with allegations of sexual assault. His organization retweets the president-elect who once called for him to be put to death. He spreads the innuendo that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer, was murdered this summer because he was the real source of the e-mails WikiLeaks published in the run-up to November’s election. And now he tells Fox News’s Sean Hannity that it’s the U.S. media that is deeply dishonest.

This is the proper context to evaluate Assange’s claim, repeated by Donald Trump and his supporters, that Russia was not the source for the e-mails of leading Democrats distributed by WikiLeaks.

We all know that the U.S. intelligence community is standing by its judgment that Russia hacked the Democrats’ e-mails and distributed them to influence the election. And while it’s worrisome that Trump would dismiss this judgment out of hand, this also misses the main point. Sometimes the spies get it wrong, like the “slam-dunk” conclusion that Saddam Hussein was concealing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The real issue is Assange. The founder of WikiLeaks has a history of saying paranoid nonsense. This is particularly true of Assange’s view of Hillary Clinton. His delusions have led him to justify the interference in our elections as an act of holding his nemesis accountable to the public.

Bill Keller, the former New York Times executive editor, captured Assange’s penchant for dark fantasy in a 2011 essay that described him casually telling a group of journalists from the Guardian that former Stasi agents were destroying East German archives of the secret police. A German reporter from Der Spiegel, John Goetz, was incredulous. “That’s utter nonsense, he said. Some former Stasi personnel were hired as security guards in the office, but the records were well protected,” Keller recounts him as saying.

In this sense, WikiLeaks’s promotion of the John Grishamesque yarn that Seth Rich was murdered on orders from Hillary Clinton’s network is in keeping with a pattern. Both Rich’s family and the Washington police have dismissed this as a conspiracy theory. That, however, did not stop WikiLeaks from raising a $20,000 reward to find his “real” killers.

Add to this Assange’s approach to Russia. It’s well known that his short-lived talk show, which once aired a respectful interview with the leader of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, was distributed by Russian state television. WikiLeaks has also never published sensitive documents from Russian government sources comparable to the State Department cables it began publishing in 2010, or the e-mails of leading Democrats last year.

When an Italian journalist asked him last month why WikiLeaks hasn’t published the Kremlin’s secrets, Assange’s answer was telling. “In Russia, there are many vibrant publications, online blogs, and Kremlin critics such as [Alexey] Navalny are part of that spectrum,” he said. “There are also newspapers like Novaya Gazeta, in which different parts of society in Moscow are permitted to critique each other and it is tolerated, generally, because it isn’t a big TV channel that might have a mass popular effect, its audience is educated people in Moscow. So my interpretation is that in Russia there are competitors to WikiLeaks, and no WikiLeaks staff speak Russian, so for a strong culture which has its own language, you have to be seen as a local player.”

This is bizarre for a few reasons. To start, Assange’s description of the press environment in Russia has a curious omission. Why no mention of the journalists and opposition figures who have been killed or forced into exile? Assange gives the impression that the Russian government is just as vulnerable to mass disclosures of its secrets as the U.S. government has been. That’s absurd, even if it’s also true that some oppositional press is tolerated there.

Also WikiLeaks once did have a Russian-speaking associate. His name is Yisrael Shamir, and according to former WikiLeaks staffer James Ball, he worked closely with the organization when it began distributing the State Department cables. Shamir is a supporter of Vladimir Putin.

This is all a pity. A decade ago, when Assange founded WikiLeaks, it was a very different organization. As Raffi Khatchadourian reported in a 2010 New Yorker profile, Assange told potential collaborators in 2006, “Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations.”

For a while, WikiLeaks followed this creed. The first document published, but not verified, was an internal memo purporting to show how Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union intended to murder members of the transitional government there. It published the e-mails of University of East Anglia climate scientists discussing manipulation of climate change data. In its early years, WikiLeaks published information damaging to the U.S. as well. But no government or entity or political side appeared to be immune from the organization’s anonymous whistle-blowers.

Today, WikiLeaks’s actions discredit its original mission. Does anyone believe Assange when he darkly implies that he received the DNC e-mails from a whistleblower? Even if you aren’t persuaded that Russia was behind it, there is a preponderance of public evidence that the e-mail account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta was hacked, such as the e-mail that asked him to give his password in a phishing scam. Assange himself is not even sticking to his old story: He told Hannity that a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta’s emails. Good to know.

In short, the founder of a site meant to expose the falsehoods of governments and large institutions has been gaslighting us. Just look at the WikiLeaks statement on the e-mails right before the election. “To withhold the publication of such information until after the election would have been to favour one of the candidates above the public’s right to know,” it said.

That’s precious. WikiLeaks did favor a candidate in the election simply by publishing the e-mails. And the candidate it aided, Donald Trump, is so hostile to the public’s right know that he won’t even release his tax returns. In two weeks, he will be in charge of an intelligence community that asserts with high confidence the e-mails WikiLeaks made public were stolen by Russian government hackers. Assange, of course, denies it, and Trump seems to believe him. Sad!


Julian Assange Questioned by Ecuadorian Prosecutors

The latest twist in a vicious and long-running legal battle over a rape allegation, prosecutors reportedly were questioning WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadoran embassy in London on Monday, .

Swedish prosecutor Ingrid Isgren, due to be present while Assange faced a grilling by an Ecuadoran prosecutor, entered the embassy shortly before 1000 GMT, an AFP photographer reported.

Elisabeth Fritz, the lawyer for Assange’s victim, said: “My client has been waiting six years for justice… It is time for this to go to trial.”

On the other hand, Assange’s lawyer Per Samuelsson said the questioning is expected to last several days at the embassy where the founder of the secret-spilling website has been holed up for four years, refusing to come out over fears he could be extradited to the United States.

“I am very hopeful,” Samuelsson told Sweden’s TT news agency. “Objectively, there is no doubt that everything happened as Assange said it did.”

Assange, a 45-year-old Australian, sought refuge in the embassy in June 2012 after Sweden sought his arrest over allegations of rape and sexual assault. He has always denied the claims, saying they were politically motivated.

The former computer hacker insists his sexual encounters with the two women, who he met on a 2010 trip to Sweden, were consensual.

He has refused to travel to Sweden for questioning, fearing he could be extradited over WikiLeaks’ explosive release of 500,000 US secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Swedish prosecutors dropped the sexual assault probe last year after the five-year statute of limitations expired.

But they still want to question him about the 2010 rape allegation, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations.

Assange’s lawyer said he had made “repeated requests” for an interview with police to address the rape claim, though Ecuadoran prosecutors say a hearing scheduled for October was postponed at the Australian’s request.

“Julian Assange has always wanted to tell his version to the Swedish police. He wants a chance to clear his name,” Samuelsson told AFP.

The grilling comes after WikiLeaks returned to the spotlight with the leak of tens of thousands of emails from the US Democratic Party and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the final weeks of the race for the White House.

Assange defended the publication, denying links with Russia and claims that his website was trying to influence the US vote which saw Trump defeat Clinton in a stunning upset.

Tensions with his Ecuadoran hosts have been growing, with the Clinton leaks prompting the embassy to cut Assange’s internet access, citing respect for “non-intervention” in the affairs of other states.

WikiLeaks’ Assange Promises Leaks on U.S. Election, Google

Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain Feb. 5, 2016. Peter Nicholls/Reuters

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange promised on Tuesday “significant” disclosures with around one million documents to be published in the coming weeks.

Assange said WikiLeaks plans to start publishing new material starting this week, but wouldn’t specify the timing and subject. He said the leaks include “significant material” on war, arms, oil, internet giant Google, the U.S. election and mass surveillance.

Assange announced the planned release schedule in a video address at the end of a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday morning, where the organization was celebrating its tenth anniversary.

WikiLeaks hopes “to be publishing every week for the next 10 weeks,” Assange said.

“There is enormous expectation in the United States,” Assange said of the forthcoming leaks.

“Some of that expectation will be partly answered; but you should understand that if we’re going to make a major publication in relation to the United States at a particular hour, we don’t do it at 3AM.”

WikiLeaks, which released Democratic National Committee emails days before the party’s national convention earlier this year, wouldn’t say who or what campaign would be affected by the upcoming U.S. election leaks, which Assange promised to publish before the elections.

Assange said speculation that he or WikiLeaks intend to harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is “false.”

Asked whether he feels any personal affinity with Clinton’s Republican rival, Donald Trump, Assange replied: “I feel personal affinity really, I think, with all human beings.”

“I certainly feel sorry for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,” he added. “These are two people that are tormented by their ambitions in different ways.”

Assange said her campaign had falsely suggested that accessing WikiLeaks data would make users vulnerable to malicious software.

Assange also signaled changes in the way WikiLeaks is organized and funded, saying the group would soon open itself to membership. He said the group was looking to expand its work beyond the 100 media outlets it works with.

Assange, 45, remains in the Eucador Embassy in London where he sought refuge in 2012 to avoid possible extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations that he committed rape in 2010.

Assange denies the allegations and says he fears extradition to the United States, where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is underway.

He told a packed news conference at a Berlin theater the group’s work would continue, even if he had to resign in the future, and he appealed to supporters to fund the group’s work, and said several new books were forthcoming.

Assange said Britain’s vote to leave the European Union could complicate his case by limiting his ability to appeal to the European Court of Justice.

Asked how he felt after four years in the embassy, he said “pale” and joked he would be a good candidate for medical study since he was otherwise healthy but had not seen the sun in over four years.

Assange Lawyers Ask Swedish Court to Overturn Arrest Warrant

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a copy of a U.N. ruling as he makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a copy of a U.N. ruling as he makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Lawyers for Julian Assange have made a formal request to a Swedish court to overturn an arrest warrant for the Wikileaks founder in a rape case.

The move follows a decision by a United Nations panel that his stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London amounted to “arbitrary detention”.

Assange filed a complaint in 2014 with the UN committee – arguing that he was arbitrarily detained because he was incapable of leaving the embassy without being arrested.

The journalist, 44, took refuge at the embassy in June 2012 after his appeal against extradition to Sweden failed in the UK courts.

Thomas Olsson, one of Assange’s lawyers, said in a statement: “We consider that there have arisen a number of new circumstances which mean there is reason to review the earlier decision”.

Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over a sex allegation, which he denies, but believes that if he goes to Sweden he will be taken to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks.

He says the accusation is a scheme that would eventually lead to his extradition to the United States, where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is still open.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said earlier this month that Assange should be allowed to leave the embassy in London.

Authorities in Britain and Sweden rejected the UN panel’s finding, saying Assange had detained himself by seeking refuge in the embassy.

A second lawyer representing Assange said he remained ready to be interrogated in the Ecuadoran embassy, according to Sweden’s national news agency.

Ecuador has granted Assange asylum, yet he is unable to travel to the South American country. Assange says his rights have been infringed.

Both Britain and Sweden denied that Assange was being deprived of freedom. An application to interview Assange will be renewd, said the Swedish prosecutor in charge of the case.

Prosecutor Marianne Ny said the U.N. panels’ non-binding ruling had no impact on the case.

In 2010, WikiLeaks released more than 90,000 secret documents on the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by almost 400,000 U.S. military reports detailing operations in Iraq. Those disclosures were followed by release of millions of diplomatic cables dating back to 1973.

A U.S. Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks is ongoing.

Swedish prosecutors offer to quiz Assange in London

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures during a press conference inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on August 18, 2014. (AFP Photo/Pool/John Stillwell)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures during a press conference inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on August 18, 2014. (AFP Photo/Pool/John Stillwell)

Are, Sweden, AP—Swedish prosecutors on Friday offered to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London, potentially unlocking a stalemate in an almost five-year-old investigation into alleged sex crimes.

Prosecutors had previously refused to travel to London, where Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy. Lead prosecutor Marianne Ny explained the change in position by saying some of the crimes Assange is accused of will reach their statute of limitations in August.

“My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorean embassy in London would lower the quality of the interview, and that he would need to be present in Sweden in any case should there be a trial in the future,” Ny said in a statement.

“Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies in the investigation and likewise take the risk that the interview does not move the case forward,” Ny said.

She said she had made a request to Assange’s legal team on Friday to interview him in London and to have a sample of his DNA taken with a swab.

One of Assange’s defense lawyers, Per Samuelson, welcomed the move and said Assange would likely accept the offer after reviewing it in detail. He said he had spoken to Assange early Friday.

“This is something we’ve demanded for over four years,” Samuelson told The Associated Press. “Julian Assange wants to be interviewed so he can be exonerated. So of course we welcome this.”

Assange has not been formally indicted in Sweden, but he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct and rape involving two women he met during a visit to the Scandinavian country in 2010. He denies the allegations.

Assange has been in the Ecuadorean embassy since June 19, 2012.

He has said he has no intention of going to Sweden because he has no guarantees he wouldn’t subsequently be sent to the US, where an investigation into WikiLeaks’ dissemination of hundreds of thousands of classified US documents remains live.

Ny has dismissed claims of any US involvement in the Swedish investigation.

Review: Citizenfour

In this image released by Radius TWC, Edward Snowden (L) appears with Glenn Greenwald in a scene from ‘Citizenfour,’ a documentary that intimately captures Snowden during his leak of NSA documents. (AP Photo/Radius TWC)
In this image released by Radius TWC, Edward Snowden (L) appears with Glenn Greenwald in a scene from ‘Citizenfour,’ a documentary that captures Snowden during his leak of NSA documents. (AP Photo/Radius TWC)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A slim, but innocuous-looking man with ashen skin and dark circles under his eyes studies himself in the mirror of his Hong Kong hotel room, where he has been hiding out for over a week. The TV screen by him is playing the day’s leading world news story: the identity of a recent US intelligence leak has been revealed. Dressed in a black suit and shirt, the man fusses with hair gel, an electric shaver and contact lenses—an open umbrella, even—attempting to disguise his appearance as it looks on screen, in order to escape from the room unnoticed.

You could be forgiven for thinking this scene is from a Hollywood spy movie; in fact it’s from Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour, the documentary that follows former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden as he exposes the US government’s invasive post-911 surveillance activities to the world—via two flash drives smuggled from his post in Hawaii and an agreement with two newspapers, including the UK’s Guardian.

The content of these million-plus classified documents has since been widely reported: nine internet firms were being tapped by the NSA, including Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google; the phone data of nearly every US citizen was being collected from leading telecommunications companies; numerous governments were cooperating in collecting e-mails, video chats, texts and voicemails of US citizens and foreigners—the list is extensive. The revelations exposed the terrifying extent of government surveillance in the information age, and reignited furious debates about the needs of national security versus personal privacy.

Conversely, according to a statement by three leading UK spy chiefs, terrorists, including Al-Qaeda, were “rubbing their hands with glee.” The public exposure of US spying tactics in cooperation with three of its ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance—the UK (GCHQ), Canada (CSEC), and Australia (ASD)—meant the terrorists were changing their procedures, impeding global national security operations for years.

For various reasons, many didn’t know what to make of Snowden, a former CIA and Booze Allen Hamilton employee, when he first came to public attention in June 2013. Was he a narcissist with a “God complex” as fellow whistleblower Julian Assange is often labeled? Was he seeking revenge on former employees and colleagues? Or did he really, as claimed in the documentary, give up his family and former life for altruistic reasons—for the betterment of society? “I’m worried that the world today is obsessed with personality. I don’t want to be the story,” he says early on in the film.

Somehow, Citizenfour’s intimate portrayal of Snowden—who comes across as self-effacing, calm and sincere—and his journey into the unknown, raises more questions about him than it answers; the unsettling subject matter still leaves the viewer with a lingering sense of paranoia.

“I’m not trying to tell the whole story or survey the whole industry. I’m interested in why these particular individuals are willing to risk so much,” said filmmaker Poitras at the movie’s sold-out UK screening at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts on Friday evening. Yet, Poitras—herself placed on a government watch-list for her 2006 Academy Award-nominated film, My Country, My Country, about the US occupation of Iraq—does little in the film to probe Snowden’s motives.

The film was conceived very differently before Snowden made contact with Poitras in January 2013 (after watching Poitras’ film about NSA veteran whistleblower William Binney, according to the director) using an encrypted email service and the pseudonym, ‘Citizenfour,’ now the film’s title. “We had a rough cut of the film before Snowden got in touch,” Poitras said. “We’d assembled a lot of scenes around similar themes.”

After some correspondence in the film—shown as white-on-black typed messages—Snowden summons Poitras and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald to a hotel in Hong Kong. They meet covertly: “I’ll be working on a Rubik’s cube, approach me and ask where the lounge is,” types Snowden. All these spy-film-esque exchanges culminate—around a half-hour into the film—in Snowden’s appearance.

The 29-year-old IT contractor is introduced to us sitting in his hotel room, a little awkwardly, on the side of the bed in a white T-shirt and jeans. This commonplace scene, where the bulk of the filming takes place, is where Snowden discusses with Greenwald-—the first to break the story—and later Guardian reporter Ewen MacAskill, how they will roll out the classified material in the newspaper over the course of eight days, until ultimately revealing Snowden’s identity—the point at which he initially plans to give himself up to the authorities (it is never divulged why or when he changed his mind about the latter).

The tension builds slowly over the course of the revelations. Long close-ups of Snowden show him reading emails—updates from home from his partner, Lindsay, whom he left without informing of his plans, while she was on holiday—telling him his direct debit to his landlord has been mysteriously canceled and that “construction vans” are now parked outside his house. There is tension, too, every time he reveals to the group, as they fumble with disks, wires and laptops, all the many ways in which they could potentially be being watched or recorded. A suspiciously timed fire drill sets everyone on edge. When asked about his stress levels, Snowden replies that he is OK, but “that all might change when they kick in the door.” Though his nerves mount as the film progresses, Snowden is unflinching in his determination to see his plan through to the end. “These aren’t my issues, these are everyone’s issues,” he says at one point, seemingly explaining his resolve.

As with all true-life situations, nothing is entirely seamless and the film is also humorous thanks to its awkward moments. At one point, Snowden hides beneath a red cloth to protect his keystrokes from potential cameras. As tense as they are by this point, this bizarre image of a man hunted by the authorities leads to ripples of laughter from the audience.

After his identity is made public on June 9, 2013, the crew is forced to separate for an extended period. Poitras returns to Berlin and Greenwald to Rio. The last scene plays out in Russia where Snowden is now living with Lindsay—a fact reported in the papers after it was revealed in the documentary. Here, Greenwald informs Snowden via scribbled notes (to evade audio monitoring) of another NSA agent feeding information about drone strikes—to raised eyebrows and awed muttering from Snowden. Little detail is given about the content of the conversation, though it did appear to be a teaser for the next round of leaks.

The documentary offers a fascinating insight into the events and the man behind the biggest intelligence leak in history. It would, however, also be irresponsible to present the film as the whole truth. Poitras is not merely the filmmaker, but also part of the story, and hers and Greenwald’s investment is clear. The film barely acknowledges questions about the legality or the ultimate impact—good or bad—of Snowden’s actions, leaving the viewer with a less-than-full picture of the film’s protagonist, let alone its subject matter. Poitras is successful in capturing the tension and drama of the situation, and in portraying the rawness and inconvenience of the experience of her subjects, a testament to her skills as a filmmaker. Certainly, leaving the theater one can’t shake the feeling of being watched. Before watching Citizenfour, however, it would be advisable for anyone to fully inform themselves of the facts of the case, just to be sure that their lasting impression of one of the biggest intelligence scandals in history isn’t simply down to clever film-making.

Anticipating the 38th Toronto International Film Festival

In this undated file photo released Wednesday Jan.23, 2013, by DreamWorks Studios, Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange,left, with Daniel Bruhl as Daniel Domscheit-Berg are seen during the filming of the WikiLeaks drama, "The Fifth Estate," in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Toronto International Film Festival in September, 2013, will open with the WikiLeaks drama “The Fifth Estate” (AP Photo/ Frank Connor, FILE)
In this undated file photo released Wednesday January 23, 2013, by DreamWorks Studios, Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange (L) and Daniel Bruhl as Daniel Domscheit-Berg are seen during the filming of the WikiLeaks drama “The Fifth Estate” in Reykjavik, Iceland. (AP Photo/ Frank Connor, FILE)

Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat—Audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will laugh when Woody Allen says “You Know, waitresses share tips” in John Turturro’s The Fading Gigolo. Allen, who plays a bookshop owner, says this to his only employee after receiving a large tip from an attractive woman played by Sharon Stone.

Allen—appearing at TIFF as an actor, and not in his more famous role as a a director—was added to the guest list of the 38th edition of the festival, which will open on September 5. The Fading Gigolo is one of the many divisive films that have been added to the busy line-up of the Canadian festival. While some think the TIFF represents the future of film festivals, others believe that a festival that does not have a judging panel is a strange phenomenon.

TIFF, or the “Festival of Festivals,” as some prefer to call it, used to attract the best of them films screened at festivals around the world, from Berlin, Hong Kong and Moscow to San Sebastian and Cannes. In doing so, the founders of the festival wanted to offer the Canadian audience the best international films in one place.

Eventually, the directors of the Toronto festival decided to welcome directors whose films had little chance of being screened elsewhere. This move made TIFF a chief competitor to Europe’s prestigious festivals, including the Venice Film Festival that usually opens only a days before Toronto.

Directors’ growing interest in TIFF comes down to both the fact that it guarantees a wider distribution for their films in North America, and that TIFF’s presence in the last quarter of the movie industry calendar helps increase the chances that films screened there will win major awards.

The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, will open this year’s TIFF.

The Canadian festival will close with the world premiere of Daniel Schechter’s Life of Crime, starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Mos Def. The movie, which is based on the novel The Switch by Elmore Leonard, tells the story of two criminals who kidnap a millionaire’s wife for ransom.

Other remarkable films will include Gravity by director Alfonso Cuarón. The techno-thriller features Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts fighting for life on a damaged spacecraft.

Other world premieres include Joel Hopkins’ Love Punch and The Railway Man, directed by Jonathan Leplitzky, in which Collin Firth stars as a man who was a British prisoner during the Second World War who later goes in pursuit of his captor.

Arab cinema will also feature in this year’s TIFF. Of note is Jehane Noujaim’s The Square, a documentary that centers on the events in Egypt on January 25, 2011. The Egyptian–American film director rose to fame for her documentary Control Room, which tackled the influence of the US Central Command on Al-Jazeera and other media organizations during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Wikileaks to Release More US Diplomatic Records

This Aug. 19, 2012 file photo shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange making a statement to the media and supporters at a window of Ecuadorian Embassy in central London. Source: AP Photo/Sang Tan
This Aug. 19, 2012 file photo shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange making a statement to the media and supporters at a window of Ecuadorian Embassy in central London. Source: AP Photo/Sang Tan

London, AFP—Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks was on Monday to publish more than 1.7 million US diplomatic and intelligence documents from the 1970s, founder Julian Assange revealed.

The website has collated a variety of records including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence and is releasing them in a searchable form.

Assange has carried out much of the work from his refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London and told the domestic Press Association that the records highlighted the “vast range and scope” of US influence around the world.

Assange has been holed up in the tiny diplomatic mission for nine months as he seeks to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault, which he denies.

WikiLeaks sent shockwaves around the diplomatic world in 2010 when it released a set of more than 250,000 leaked US cables.

The new records, dating from the beginning of 1973 to the end of 1976, have not been leaked and are available to view at the US national archives. They include many communications which were sent by or to then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

Many of the documents, which WikiLeaks has called the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), are marked NODIS (no distribution) or Eyes Only, while others were originally marked as secret.

Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in June after losing his battle in the British courts against extradition to Sweden.

Ecuador granted him asylum in August but Britain has refused to allow him safe passage out of the country, sparking a diplomatic stalemate.

Assange founded the WikiLeaks website that enraged Washington by releasing cables and war logs relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in one of the biggest security breach in US history.