Julian Assange: silver-haired freedom fighter or creepy cyber-guru? Bradley Manning: courageous whistle-blower or tormented info-traitor? Alex Gibney’s overlong but fascinating “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” manages to convince you that both sides of the equation deserve consideration even as the film carefully separates the strands of a maddening snarl of event and accusation. This is the documentary that lets you grasp the 2010 WikiLeaks scandal in its entirety, even if the questions raised — whether facts belong to a government or its people, whether any secrets deserve to remain so, whether diplomacy is possible in a world where all is known — are left for us to resolve.
Unexpectedly, some of the film’s most forthcoming talking heads are men once charged with keeping America’s secrets. The title comes from a comment made by General Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA and CIA, who bluntly acknowledges that stealing other nations’ information is what his agencies do. J. William Leonard, from 2002 to 2008 the government’s “classification czar,” sounds like a chartered Wired subscriber, toeing the information-wants-to-be-free line and describing how the US intelligence agencies set the stage for Assange, founder and editor in chief of WikiLeaks, by agreeing to share data and put everything online in the post-9/11 era.