Sunday, June 12, 2011

New CNN Investigation Profiles WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

'CNN Presents: WikiWars – The Mission of Julian Assange' debuts at 8pm (eastern) tonight on CNN Domestic. A preview and release from CNN is below.

CNN Press Release: Julian Assange says he is on a mission to change the world, by fighting corruption and what he sees as injustice, through exposing secrets. He has launched a cyber war over the control of sensitive information, inciting a debate over the power of secrecy and who has the ‘right’ to release confidential information. Exposing everything from secret war logs, to diplomatic cables, to explosive videos, the 39-year-old Australian founder of the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks has been called both a hero and a villain.

CNN correspondent Kaj Larsen reports on the unconventional life and mission of the WikiLeaks revealer-in-chief in a one-hour documentary, CNN Presents – WikiWars: The Mission of Julian Assange. The documentary debuts Sunday, June 12 at 8:00p.m. ET and PT replays on Saturday, June 18 at 8:00p.m. ET and PT on CNN/U.S.

Through a series of in-depth interviews, conducted over several months between Australian freelance journalist Mark Davis and Julian Assange, WikiWars recounts Assange’s evolution from a convicted teenage computer hacker, to someone who provokes outrage from governments around the world. Assange has attained cult hero status among his supporters, but critics accuse him of being obsessed with targeting the U.S. military, and recklessly endangering lives.

Larsen interviews former WikiLeaks spokesperson, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, author of Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website, who describes an organization in turmoil – running short of funding and running high on infighting. Larsen also spoke with former hacker Adrian Lamo, who communicated with PFC Bradley Manning in a series of web chats that eventually led to Manning’s arrest for allegedly leaking confidential State and Defense Department records related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, he interviewed Brigadier General Mark T. Kimmitt, USA (Ret.) about the fallout from WikiLeaks’ release of the controversial “Collateral Murder” video which reveals U.S. soldiers shooting at a group of men, killing insurgents and two men later identified as journalists.

In the summer of 2010, in one of its most notorious leaks, WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of documents to The New York Times, Germany’s Der Spiegel, and the U.K.’s The Guardian. The Guardian’s Nick Davies says that many of the reporters who were part of this unprecedented collaborative review came away from the experience with concerns. “All of us came across material, which was clearly likely to lead to the death of innocent civilians if we published it. All of us had the experience of bringing this to his [Assange’s] attention, and being told by him, in effect: ‘If an Afghan civilian helps coalition forces, then they deserve to die.”

Though Davies says Assange belatedly made some attempts to withhold some documents, he says sensitive identity data was released at the WikiLeaks website which, in his view, ‘reduced’ Assange’s moral authority. “He’d made a terrible tactical mistake,” says Davies.

In addition to the television airing, later this week users will find video excerpts from the documentary at Users will also find an article written by Kaj Larsen describing his first-person, behind-the-scenes account of his experience working on this documentary, and the impact of WikiLeaks upon journalism, diplomacy, government communications, and more.

Heather O’Neill is the senior producer for Wiki Wars; Ken Shiffman was a producer. Kathy Slobogin is managing editor for the CNN Special Investigations Unit.

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