Documentary director Alex Gibney is premiering his new filmWe Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks at the Sundance Film Festival this week. Gibney spent many hours with Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' founder, although he didn't formally interview him, he says in a revealing interview with The Daily Beast, because Assange demanded $1 million and asked Gibney to spy on his own interview subjects and share "intel" with Assange.
Assange has said the U.S. is on a "witch hunt" to prosecute him and and his supporters, and he has said he's being tracked by Western intelligence agencies and is the victim of a "smear campaign" in connection to accusations of sexual assault against him. Gibney thinks that's unlikely.
The Daily Beast noted, "Julian did get more and more paranoid, as the documentary states, as his popularity rose, to the point where he thought he was worthy of all these crazy espionage plots."
"It's fantastic, isn't it?" Gibney said. "It's as if he is Frodo carrying the ring and Sauran, the great eye in the American kingdom of Mordor, only has their eye on Julian and devotes all their resources to bringing him down. I'm sure there were a lot of chuckles within the Department of Defense when Julian Assange got mixed up with a condom case in Sweden, but I don't think they were planting CIA agents there. Julian's imagination is just fantastic."
The condom case refers to allegations by two women in Sweden that Assange had unprotected sex with them. Gibney noted that no charges have been filed against Assange. (He is wanted for questioning.) Gibney investigated the case. "There is absolutely no evidence that I was able to find other than that these women were mad at him, and they just wanted him to get an AIDS test. He refused, so they went to the police to force him to get an AIDS test."
Gibney says it was the Sweden case that changed his mind about Assange, for whom he initially had a lot of sympathy.
"My perception changed fundamentally because I investigated the Swedish case. Initially, it seemed to me that Julian and his supporters were correct, and it was probably some kind of stunt to embarrass Julian at a moment when he was leaking all these documents. I investigated it and came to the conclusion that it was just the opposite. It was a personal matter that Julian cleverly transformed into a political issue."