Given what happened last time, just six weeks ago, it’s a bit of a surprise that PBS Frontline, now in its summer season, is choosing to rerun its controversial WikiSecrets episode tonight.
After its first showing, on May 25, hackers brought down the PBS site for a spell. Both Julian Assange and Bradley Manning friend David House challenged the report–showing up unannounced in an online chat with the creators of the episode. Many other critics voiced complaints on the web. It was followed, two weeks later, by an even more disappointing CNN special on the same subject.
Since WikiSecrets will gain many new viewers tonight, here’s my review once again.
The mountain labored, and in the end, it gave birth to a mouse. Or rather, a goldfish. One of the only bits of new information in the much-ballyhooed PBS Frontline program on WikiLeaks, Assange and Bradley Manning which aired tonight was: The man who fingered Manning, Adrian Lamo, secluded in California, has a large goldfish in his apartment.
The other scoop: it was Manning’s aunt who made the final update to his Facebook page, announcing his arrest. Come to think of it, maybe that one came out before. But we’ve still got that goldfish.
The rest of the program, from beginning to end, was nothing but rehash, much of it from news reports going back to last June or a little later. We also heard from plenty of Assange critics making their usual and much-published charges. We absorbed multiple appearances by David Leigh, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Nick Davies, Bill Keller. Paging Glenn Greenwald! We did get a few seconds of Dan Ellsberg—at a rally.
It took Manning’s friend, David House, about fifty-five minutes in to remind viewers, and correspondent Martin Smith, that the soldier has not been convicted of anything. But you’d never know it from the program (which you can watch online here, and peruse related material).
Actually, the biggest scoop of the night came from the WikiLeaks site, which posted the complete fifty-five-minute interview that Smith conducted with Assange. It opens with Assange rightly scolding Smith for a quarter-hour about his segment earlier this year on Manning’s teenage years (I made most of the same points myself in a piece the night it aired and in my Bradley Manning book).
WikiLeaks has also posted the full transcript of the non-scolding part of the interview from the PBS site, along with—at the bottom of the page—correspondence between an Assange associate and the Frontline producer Marcela Gaviria about the ground rules for the interview. Gaviria calls previous coverage and films on WikiLeaks “unsatisfactory and uneven.”