Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Fifth Estate (2013)

Time Magazine has Benedict Cumberbatch on the its front cover ( I presume published too early for the financial deal with the Republican party climb down) the actor who played Julian Assange in the Film The Fifth Estate with the Time headline “ playing Genius“, an interesting recognition given that Assange remains one of those the USA would like to have the opportunity to charge with something or the other for leaking of the those quarter of million emails released in full without redactions as well other giving on line space other countless other former USA secrets..

I have mow heard two reviews of the film which make the same point that in their attempt to be even handed the film fails as a film although in my judgement this is its strength if attempting an honest account of the man and the brief history of Wikileaks and the relationship between the one person creator and the man who helped become global although the two fell out with Assange becoming venomous about his former partner.

My main interest as is often the case with such films is the extent to which the portrait of the characters as well as of the events is an accurate one. First Wikileaks is a world wide programme which enables anyone anywhere to upload information which governments and political organisations do not want published whether they are documents which should be treated as confidential. They have also published material relating to big business with the film highlighting corrupting banking avoiding taxation payments.

The anarchical group is comparatively recent in that publication did not get going until 2006 and therefore the prior history of its creator is crucial to any understanding. Julian Assange is said to have accepted £1million for an assisted written autobiography but after protracted difficulties the book was published as an unauthorised and as in the film he admits to stretching truth in the interests of the cause, first denying that in had any contact with the two women accusing him of sexual conduct resulting in a European arrest warrant being issues for his removal to Sweden, the film also states that he has admitted to a consenting sexual relationship.

Just as over the past few days I have echoed those in Government, Opposition and the political and other media who have said what the three Police Federation officers did was unacceptable irrespective of what can be assumed has been honest and committed public service in the cause of Justice I place question anything that is said about Assange especially said by him unless there is proof which I can also inspect and assess. This after all is the reason why Assange has stated and as is stated in the film he believed that the original leaked documentation or film should be published without any editorial changes. The only editorial action was to publish and not publish and only to do so without first some verification that the matter is original and not faked or itself altered.

Assange was born in Australia to a single parent in July 1971 with his mother marrying Richard Assange when he was a year old.. By the time he was nine his mother was divorced, remarried, separated and commenced to go into hiding for five years with her two sons, one of the second marriage because of a custody battle. They moved constantly and he is known to have been enrolled in at least 12 schools although he claims more, some attending for only one day,

The film refers to a period when his mother joined a cult with an authoritative approach to children There is uncertainty about his hair being white whether he was forced to die it when younger or it turned white under the emotional pressure of the experiences he faced.

Given his nomadic existence he must have innate intelligence to have learned how to use and programme computers to be able to hack into governmental and other organisations by the time he was sixteen and when tried in court with others he avoid a ten year sentence in part because of his childhood but also because the Judge considered he had been curious rather than wanting to do damage.

(He married young, separated and claims that he raised his son as a single parent for 14 years although the films has him explaining that he had not seen his son for years part of the sacrifice which his missionary zeal for the work involved.)

His computer knowledge and skill resulted in programmes and publications, forming companies and which included encryption work and then he enrolled as an undergraduate in a university course 2202 to 2205 but did not graduate and where his performance is said not have been more than average and then a year late he created Wikileaks and which according to the film he seems to have worked out and created on his own also writing what and what he hopped to achieve, nothing less than regime change when the natural character of any regime is not to change. To achieve this he would provide the opportunity for people to publish information as they wished that is without editing other than taking the decision to publish thus protecting the anonymity of the whistle blowers.

In the film he suggests to his then would be close associate Daniel Domschiet-Berg that he had hundreds of volunteer helpers and then confesses that he worked alone because there was no one could be trusted and who world not betray in the end. Prophetic and a genuine concern at one level given the role of governments themselves in using the technology for spying both permitted and secret as with what has emerged in relation to the use by the UK Government of the monitoring of the who contacts who communications of contacts by the USA governments something that has long since been possible via traditional phone tapping and has now been extended to all other forms of communication with the problem , as I understand it, that the programme needs to everything f everyone everywhere. So what are good government supposed to do it is important to ask, stand by and let the Chinese for example hack into everything they want to do, spy freely and then block to prevent their own people gaining access and information? Let International criminal gangs rule cyber space?

I also suggests that his wish to personally lead a crusade to bring regimes down or change them because they do not wish to do so, if an accurate statement also raises the issue of who or how is one to decide what is acceptable or an unacceptable regime. Communism in Yugoslavia, had its faults and no doubt individuals were persecuted, tortured and murdered for political reasons but were the numbers as bad as what happened in the Ethnic cleansing subsequently and did the regime in Iraq kill more of its own citizens than from intervention in terms of “collateral damage” and the subsequent religious based and ongoing civil war... Do we continue to monitor or care now that our own troops are no longer being killed? Syria is a very good current example where the excitement about a potential Arab Spring on the part of Western media and its governments has quickly turned sour with the realization that all the destabilization was doing, is dismantling the existing regime, changing it to what appeared likely to become a fundamentalist extreme terrorist protecting and supporting regime with access to the chemical and other weapon of mass destruction held by the regime and who were sold to them by the same western and other big powers who condemn their use.

There is a fundamental difference between wanting to ensure that bad things, bad acts by individuals whether on behalf of their government or not, including by corporations and agencies whether public or private are exposed and appropriate action is taken and not covered and wanting to bring whole regimes down without know what is to happen next and ensuring that what follows is not worse than what happened before.

The list of Wikileaks exposures is impressive and the extent to which the work has gained financial support suggests that the work has had widespread support, leading to the exposure which pushed what had been a cult on to the front pages and main headline organisation across the globe. This was the arrival of a quarter of million emails between the Foreign State Department and its embassies around the world in which staff commented on leaders and relationships and which led to the prosecution of the military man for the release of state secrets. Washington had to embark on a major effort to protect sources and the film concentrates on one source from getting himself and his family quickly out of Libya and into Egypt and having done so asking what do I do next, a question which the films fails to provide an answer as to what happened,

The arrival of the documents and the need to redact names and other identifying information was a problem at the time and about which the subsequent full disclosure availability continue to be subject of controversy. In the film the decision of Julian to insist on the release led to Daniel Domschiet and other associates not just leaving but taking positive steps to prevent the further access to a substantial number of documents in order to protect the sources, especially of those in the diplomatic cables,

In the film the trouble between the former close associates comes to head when unexpectedly Julian accepts the invitation to dine with the parents of Daniel but he is shown to react negatively at being in a normal family and resentful and then angry because of what is in some of the press cuttings about her son which the father has collated mainly because the stories appear to give credit to his contribution as an important partner whereas to Julian, Daniel was no more than one of many volunteers. According to the film it was Daniel and the others who persuaded Julian to accept that they should agree to the Guardian Newspaper in the UK in association with other major papers around the world initiating the publication in 2010 of the Diplomatic cables and which did indeed create worldwide attention and the full might of the USA Government and indeed the other governments involve because of the content. In the film the impression is given that Julian authorised the publication of all the texts with redactions. The argument is over the publication of the password in a book which the Guardian thought was only temporary

In the film Julian is warned by the Guardian to expect a smear campaign and this becomes focussed on allegations and formal complaints made against him by two women which had been an important base for the work. As stated Julian is reported as denying that he knew either woman, and then that although he had sexual relations with them these had been consensual. His reasoning was that to he held in Sweden would lead to extraditions to the USA before any trial could take place a threat which given the efforts of the USA Government to bring charges against him personally, appears very real, still, he has taken refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012 after a European Arrest warrant was issued.

But a compromise must reached unless he proposes to spend the rest of his life in the Embassy . Governments, possible Sweden individually and the EEC in relation to the warrant may need to give a public assurance that if he returns to Sweden to answer the charges, the USA government should also state beforehand if it intends to seek extradition and if it is the Swedish government must state openly how it will treat the request in terms of its existing judicial system. There should be no back door unpublished deal unless it is acceptable to Julian and his legal advisers.

Tucked away in the no connection Wikipedia article is the information that one time Julian assisted authorities in Australia with technical advice in relation to combating child pornography online and it occurs that someone with his undoubted skill and knowledge would be an asset to any government and given that his work is continuing for better or worse through the activities of others, this is the kind of deal he should consider although managing such a temperament could prove a challenge..

The film is said to have been based on the book by Daniel called Inside Wikileaks My time with Julian Assange in the World’s most dangerous website. Factually he was an associate between 2007 and 2010

It is understood that 3500 unpublished documents have been destroyed known to have included the US Government no Fly List, 5 GB Bank of America Leaks, insider information of 20 Right Wing Organisations, and proof of torture and government abuse in a Latin American Country. The film paints Daniel as very level headed but who allows Julian to take over his life for a time resulting in the break up with a woman with whom he as having a loving and supportive relationship but which have the break with Assange he gave the priority deserved. Although he with others proposed to set up a new group concerned with big business than government it has not yet started. Interesting.

I agree the film failed to reach any conclusions or pose questions I have raise but it is an entertainment and not a documentary, something which has been produced but I ha not yet seen.


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