Frontline: Wikisecrets, can offer no interviews with its primary subject, Spc. Bradley Manning, as he’s currently imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Still, the program, premiering Tuesday night and now available online, provides a seemingly detailed portrait of the young American soldier accused of passing restricted information to Wikileaks: among other things, he was frustrated and dismayed by his treatment by his military colleagues and the institution per se, at least in part because he’s gay. More provocatively, the program presents stories from other players in the case, including a hacker named Adrian Lamo (who appears in a rumpled trench coat and offers his personal observations of Manning’s state of mind, whom he met via email), as well as onetime Wikileaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg (who has his own observations to make about the way Wikileaks operates).
Julian Assange also speaks, if only to insist that “protecting our sources” remains a priority—this even as Manning has reportedly been tortured, or at least held many months held in isolation, as he awaits trial. The program constructs a timeline for events (with locations ranging from New York to London to Iraq to Oslo) and hints at motives and coverups. If, as Assange and other argue, Wikileaks’ exposures of illegal or otherwise shady exploits might transform the world (and perhaps stop warfare), the show raises questions as to costs, for individuals more than governments and organizations, which tend to go on. Asked to measure effects, Domscheit-Berg says, “I mean, it’s a very hard distinction you have to take. What is more important? Bringing the truth to the light or protecting one person?”