The subject matter of Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras’ new film “Risk” could not be more timely: controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“I absolutely defend what WikiLeaks published,” Poitras tells Robert Scheer in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence” on KCRW. “It’s crucial journalism.”
Poitras, director of “The Oath” and “Citizenfour,” and Scheer discuss Assange’s role as a publisher and the effect WikiLeaks had on the 2016 presidential election. Their conversation comes just as Assange is back in the headlines: Early Friday, news broke that Sweden has dropped rape charges against the leaker.
“I don’t agree with all of Julian’s decisions. I don’t agree with his decision to not redact certain information—I think that if something is personal information, and it’s not newsworthy, it should be redacted,” Poitras explains. “But those are differences of opinion, not differences of his right to publish.”
Scheer notes that many Americans blame Assange for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election, to which Poitras responds:
But that’s just really shortsighted. All you need to do is do a bit of research into WikiLeaks and realize he’s actually very consistent here. He’s interested in publishing information. And I feel pretty confident [that] if he had had, for instance, Donald Trump’s tax returns, we would have seen them on WikiLeaks. Julian is not somebody who’s going to withhold information to assist a political party. That’s not his mission or his philosophy. He’s interested in releasing information from all parties. ... The idea that he was doing targeted leaking to damage one political party over the other, I don’t believe that. Which isn’t to say that what he was given doesn’t have some motivations behind it.
The two go on to discuss U.S. relations with Russia and media “red-baiting,” and the evolution of honest documentary filmmaking. “These are disturbing times,” Poitras tells Scheer.
The interview concludes with a discussion about whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, who was freed this week after serving seven years of a 35-year prison term.
“You asked at the beginning of this interview, ‘Why aren’t there more whistleblowers?’ ” Poitras says to Scheer. “I’m not sure that that’s the right question, because the price that Chelsea Manning has paid, or that Edward Snowden has paid, is so enormous. I think that the real question is, ‘Why aren’t our elected officials informing the public?’ in terms of what this country is doing, and ‘Why aren’t people who commit acts of violence in other countries held accountable?’ ”
Listen to the full conversation below, and listen to past editions of “Scheer Intelligence” here.