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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 3rd, 2013
05:37 PM ET

New documentary examines WikiLeaks

The court-martial trail began Monday for Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, the American soldier who has already admitted to helping make public more than 700,000 war-related and classified U.S. documents through the secret-sharing website WikiLeaks. Manning could end up spending the rest of his life behind bars for his actions.

Manning is accused of "aiding the enemy." Prosecutors Monday said the government will provide evidence indicating that materials al Qaeda operators delivered to bin Laden can be traced to Manning's illicit downloading and transmission to WikiLeaks.

But Manning still has a lot of supporters, who see him as a victim of an overly secretive government. They argue that were it not for Manning, the public would not know, for example, that the U.S. killed Reuters reporters and civilians in Iraq in a helicopter strike in 2007.

Manning has also found what some might consider an ally in a new documentary, "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks."

"It may have been somewhat naive of Pvt. Manning to have leaked documents without knowing precisely how they may be handled by WikiLeaks," said filmmaker Alex Gibney. "Some of those documents were not properly redacted."

But Manning's leak was not a "data dump," Gibney argues. Manning chose documents that "shed some light, not only on the damage which had been done in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also on some rather good things that had been done by American diplomats around the world."

The documentary centers both on Manning's life, and on the exploits of Julian Assange, creator of WikiLeaks. It casts Manning as a sympathetic character, he uses his security clearance to make public some moments of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he believes were unconscionable - particularly the death of innocents and civilians.

Charges against Manning contend that his actions put the lives of other innocents at risk, including Iraqis and Afghans who worked with the U.S.

The documentary portrays Julian Assange as an ego maniacal genius, driven by high ideals, who ultimately falls victim to his own self-interest. Some have criticized this portrayal.

"The problem with Assange is he ended up bungling his own operation, in part by conflating his own personal misdeeds with the transparency agenda, and that's where I lost some sympathy with him," said Gibney.

The film takes its title from former CIA Director Michael Hayden's description of his own agency's mission.

The government's treatment of Manning, who was kept in a 6-by-8-foot cell by himself for nine months, has been controversial.

"What the U.S. government has done to Pvt. Manning has been outrageous," said Gibney.

Manning was also reportedly kept in solitary confinement, and forced to sleep naked without pillows or blankets.

"What was done to Bradley Manning was absolutely cruel and unusual punishment," said Gibney.

Manning's trial is ongoing, and "The Lead" will cover all angles of this story as it progresses, hearing from many different voices.

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