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WikiLeaks: the Secret Story - join in the debate

As the extradition hearing to decide whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange must return to Sweden to face a rape allegation reaches its judgement, Panorama talks to his former right hand man who walked out last year.

Assessing what WikiLeaks and its exposing of sensitive official material has achieved, the film examines claims that the organisation famous for leaking government secrets was paranoid about leaks from within and that it has failed to live up to its own ideals on openness.

We welcome your views on WikiLeaks: the Secret Story. Please use this forum to leave a comment.


  • Comment number 1.

    We welcome your views on WikiLeaks: the Secret Story. Please use this forum to leave a comment.

  • Comment number 2.

    An interesting, albeit partial, observation on mr Sweeneys "hit piece":
    BBC Joins Smear Campaign Against Assange and Wikileaks

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm afraid this comes across as a smear campaign. It gets a bit boring and sadly pathetic.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have just watched this Julian Assange say that he wants 'guaranteed free press around the world'. If this is the case, how come his 'revelations' seem to only exist to destroy the west? I don't see any secrets coming out about Osama B L etc., Why aren't we allowed any secrets? He (JA) lives in the west, does he wish to wake up one morning to find his home/town/city/country destroyed by terrorists? Is he secretly in their employ? Come on Mr. A. be fair, I don't wish to be blown up because you want to give all our secrets away. Why don't you tell us about all the military from our side who were tortured during the Iraq & Afghanistan wars? If this Wikileaks thing continues for much longer, we can almost guarantee more 7/7's & 9/11's. Why do it? We all had to keep our mouths shut during the second world war, so why not now? Why is this not illegal? If wikileaks had existed in Hitler's day, he would have won the war. Is that what you want Mr Assange?

  • Comment number 5.

    I was looking forward to learning more about the subject but came away feeling none the wiser, just a sense of Mr Sweeney's indignance at not getting the people he wanted to talk for the piece to talk rendering it pointless. Note to Panorama..there is an ongoing court case, it is probably more important than your documentary to Mr Assange and his supporters.

  • Comment number 6.

    BBC, truly disappointing to see that you are not even trying to hide how the government controls you. Completely agree with comments made by FLYING3... pathetic.

  • Comment number 7.

    John Sweeney, to a lawyer (!)

    -Do you work for the CIA?
    -Uh, Ok.

    This was a sloppy hatchet job, complete with the close-ups of a diabolical looking JA lit in red, or appearing in bad photos with red eyes above moody underscore, redolent of one of the BBC's homebrewed "spy" adventures.
    Still at least Sweeney managed not to appear "tired and emotional" and simply yelling at the subject of his "investigation".
    So what did we find out here? That hackers tend towards bitchiness. That people who are extremely computer literate often have poor interpersonal skills. That fledgling organisations often have a period of messy power struggles between the egos at the top.
    Can't wait for Sweeney's next one- a shocking expose that promises to lift the lid on the secret world of bears' silvine toilet habits.

  • Comment number 8.

    Wow, John Sweeney and the BBC come across pretty badly in this poor excuse for journalism. For once I feel my lisence fee has been well spent!

    When you see the BBC start trying to muddy the name of stand-up independant journalists like John Pilger you know that what you are watching is absolute tosh.

  • Comment number 9.

    It was a bit of a hatchet job, which, admittedly, Assange has allowed.

    John never asked PJ Crowley to identify anyone allegedly arrested.
    John never mentioned the inhumane conditions under which Pte. Manning, who has not been charged with any offence, is subjected.

    Openleaks is going to act as a secure conduit to the mass media.
    Would any have published the Iraq video, or Iraq war logs (which, although secret, were accessible by over 1.5 million people -- hardly secure) and showed that the U.S. was lying when they said: "we don't do body counts".
    To this day, some papers, including the Guardian refuse to publish cables released to them. Perhaps, the Guardian could have been asked that too?

    The short piece could have been informative.
    To anyone who has been following Wikileaks, the presence of Israel Shamir is a little unnerving but the overall theme of the program was deeply negative regarding Wikileaks, which, in my opinion, has done the world a service by exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity of our elected elites once elected.

  • Comment number 10.

    Oh dear! I am an inveterate consumer of Panorama and love the Programme, but, my respect for it has just plummeted! Tonight's Programme was thin, thin, thin and seemed based on internal divisions in a big organisation! The BBC should know all about that. You must ask yourselves who really organised this? You have left yourselves open to allegations of smearing on the behalf of an 'outside body!'
    More in sorrow than anger!

  • Comment number 11.

    Note: your profanity filter doesnt like the word 'n o n c e' so I have deliberately mispelled it (last paragraph)

    Last nights Panorama program came across as a state sponsored attack on Assange. We the viewers were left with the impression (if we didnt know better) that Assange was a sexual predator who deserved to be locked up for life.

    It is pretty clear, to anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention, that the charges against Assange are not only politically motivated but they arent even considered illegal in most countries.

    Sweeney put together a poor collection of half truths and hearsay to support his own preconcieved ideas about Wikileaks and Assange. It would have been nice to see something about our American friends who have been calling for Assange to be murdered and the lengths they are going to shut down Wikileaks.

    One part in particular reminded me of the 'Non ce Sense' Brass Eye program - Sweeney was asking what damage had been done by the revealations of Wikileaks and the person being interviewed said that it had put Afgani lives at risk, there was no evidence that anyone had been killed, but it was definately putting lives at risk - ie its a fact even though there is no evidence to support it.

  • Comment number 12.

    I find it strange that so many are prepared to attack the BBC, using words like 'state sponsored attack' and 'smear campaign'. If indeed the BBC was state sponsored in this way, and in the way so many communist & dictator led states broadcasters are, I'm sure this blog would never be allowed. Many seem to forget that Assange was invited to take part in the programme and was given the opportunity to comment during it, both of which he declined to do, a rather strange act for someone who supposedly champions freedom and openness.

    With regards to the comments by DrKRodgers, I don't think evidence that lives have been put at risk necessarily needs for someone to have died - I think that any reasonable person living in Afghanistan would consider their live at risk, if there name were disclosed as an informant to the US or British forces against the Taliban.

  • Comment number 13.

    Well it's pretty clear that publishing the names of Afghan informers is going to put their lives at risk but to some people no harm has been done until one of them actually gets killed. An odd sort of logic. Assanges attitude exposed him as a sociopath and hypocrite but them some of us realised that weeks ago.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hello BBC. In your report on Wikileaks you mention that with "changing the world comes scrutiny and responsibility". Well, I would like to probe into your report.
    It's obvious that Panorama's reporting style is polished and entertaining, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's enlightening.
    I could understand an analysis of Assange's character as being crucial to understanding the workings of Wikileaks. However, I think more than an unbiased analysis what transpired was a subtle character assassination in what is obviously a delicate moment for Wikileaks.
    I'm certainly not suggesting the BBC needs to be responsible for Assange's PR. But I wonder how much of the mix of messages you put together in the report - internal battles, sexual abuse, antisemitism, emotionally infantile, insensitive to others, putting people's lives in danger - is actually fair reporting or just unabated character assassination.
    I found very little in your report as an "assessing what WikiLeaks and its exposing of sensitive official material has achieved". Nor did I find in your report anything that substantiates your online statement that "the film examines claims that the organisation famous for leaking government secrets was paranoid about leaks from within and that it has failed to live up to its own ideals on openness." You didn't talk about the organization being paranoid. You only inferred Assange was a paranoid type.
    A clear example of this is that you never asked Domscheit-Berg if he or others in the group had ever felt paranoid about leaks from within Wikileaks. That would have been a fair question. But fairness is not a strength in Wikileaks the Secret Story.
    Usually in a balanced report you seek out others who would give what could be another view of what a person's character is like. Someone who would possibly counter the personal opinions given by those who you present in your report. However, the only one who seems to even come close to supporting Assange's character is toward the end of the report when the commentator states that "to his supporters Julian Assange, however flawed, has changed the world" - however flawed, beautiful last hit. And even then his supporter says that "when you're a pioneer you do make mistakes".
    It was obvious your report was anything but fair. Wikileaks the Secret Story (what a suggestive title) may be true in many of its aspects, but it definitely isn't fairly presented.
    What your report seems to be insinuating is that Wikileaks is one big mistake driven by an insensitive dictatorial infant. Did I get your message right?
    The number of truly independent news organizations that stand for fair and accurate reporting are only a handful. And I would think you would agree the BBC isn't exactly one of them. Your organization has often been accused of representing the status quo.
    The perfect hero in life is hard to find. And it's obvious that after watching your report, no one will think Assange is perfect.
    May Cameron cut your funding if you can't do investigative journalism fairly :- )
    PS Why don't you try selling your report to National Enquirer. I'm sure you would find a sense of kinship in their style of journalism.

  • Comment number 15.

    I am so pleased that I am not the only one who watched this program and thought it was a cheap piece of mudslinging. The BBC is moving towards a “News International” tabloid style of reporting and John Sweeny is leading the charge. I recall a previous Panorama which exposed “dodgy dealings” in English football, among the “accused” was Harry Redknapp who moved on to a bigger club and is regarded as a contender for the coveted England manager job. The evidence against him must have so strong that no action was taken. No surprise there!

  • Comment number 16.

    I think many people have missed the point. The point of the Panorama wasn't a trial of Julian Assange but to open up debate about who WikiLeaks (and Assange in particular) is accountable to. It's all very well claiming to be acting on behalf of freedom and transparency, but unless WikiLeaks is transparent itself then its claims start to ring hollow.

    Assange's comment that "informers deserve to die", (which was quoted by a collaborative Guardian journalist rather than the Panorama team) leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. When Assange is in a position where he effectively can decide on protection versus persecution then I think it is important to know who he considers himself answerable to. While I am all for good investigative journalism that exposes wrongdoing and corruption (such as the Telegraph with MP's expenses) my problem with WikiLeaks is that it is not accountable and it is not a transparent organisation. In that sense, I think that Panorama were right to open up a debate on this question.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    "I recall a previous Panorama which exposed “dodgy dealings” in English football, among the “accused” was Harry Redknapp who moved on to a bigger club and is regarded as a contender for the coveted England manager job. The evidence against him must have so strong that no action was taken."

    The threatened libel case against the BBC was withdrawn just before it was due to go to court too and Renknapp is currently facing tax evasion charges.

    If Wikileaks and it's founder really belive in transparency they should have no problem applying that principle to their own affairs.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am very interested by the Wikileaks thing and I've heard a fair bit about it. I was hoping to learn more from this program and I didn't really which is disappointing. It turned out rather one sided I don't know whether it's because of the reluctance of Wikileaks to be interviewed or whether Panorama simply didn't dig very deep. The rape accusation is very silly when you look into it with things to do with spys and Israel brought into it. From the program I learnt about Assange rather than Wikileaks. Assange may have been put in a bad light however I feel Wikileaks is a good idea and I'm in favour of it and find it terrible how governments allow the things published to happen and then instead of sorting out the problem try to remove Wikileaks.

  • Comment number 20.

    Empty and hysterical. 'The secret story' was no more than a baseless attempt at a critique that had no foundtaion even within the context of this programe. Panorama...............?

  • Comment number 21.

    I am getting sick of the BBC attacking wikileaks. The BBC should be on the side of journalism. The BBC used to be my source of news but I no longer trust it. 'Democracy Now' with Amy Goodman provides more in depth news and is far less biased than the BBC. On tv Al Jazeera provides much better world news. The BBC has become just a platform for the government line. At least with Sky they do not pretend to be impartial. Panorama has been very disappointing. I no longer support the BBC.

  • Comment number 22.

    I sense that Wikileaks' supporters are really aggrieved that Panorama dared to be critical as opposed to there being any real problems with the programme.

  • Comment number 23.

    WOW Panorama used to have a good reputation but balance has been lost here, just saying no one would talk to you doesn’t mean balance and having seen the programme expecting insight I heard nothing new. I was more disappointed with the programme being on the BBC rather than an article in a tabloid where you expect this level of journalism. My expectations were obviously way too high, although the length of the programme was a clue, I do remember what Panorama used to be able to do and do well but I must resign myself to lazy unbalanced pieces from the BBC and get my news from other sources.

  • Comment number 24.

    I would have to disagree. Wikileaks is an interesting website, and an interesting philosophy, but is no where near it's status as some sort of social liberator. I also think it's a ridiculous suggestion to state that it helped instigate the uprisings in Northern Africa.

    I thought Panorama's coverage, although, admittedly, a little sensationalist, successfully pointed out the flaws in the organization's autocratic style and it's numerous hypocrisies, and brought a few back to reality after being taken up into this little drama.

    As for Mr Assange, the self-styled neo-Moses, I have to quote "ponder blog" when it says "if your going to [allegedly] rape numerous people in one evening, your going to have to face the consequences"!

    Ponder Blog URL:

  • Comment number 25.

    I was wondering a bit why my post number 17. made At 2:47pm on 16 Feb 2011 is still not shown? Can someone contact me on [Personal details removed by Moderator] and tell me what's wrong with it or is the moderators afraid of the truth?

  • Comment number 26.

    I was most disturbed by the leaked e-mail wrt Israel Shamir and would be very grateful if an pdf or other photographic image of this document (redacted as necessary) could be posted. I am very interested in the context in which the suggestion that Shamir could post under another name was made and also the date of that e-mail.

    It help a great deal in addressing the apparent gross breach(es) of faith apparently demonstrated.

    I'd love a response to this e-mail from the Wikileaks supporter who initially objected to Mr. Shamir's involvement.

    I am a long time fervent Wikileaks supporter and while I have little use of the rest of this cobbled together from videos I had already seen, containing very little new, this Shamir e-mail business stopped me cold.

    Please consider posting the email, redacted as necessary.

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 27.

    @ZonCor #25:
    Do you mean there is still 'another secret story' that makes the moderators afraid of the truth? Very interesting.

  • Comment number 28.

    While filming this did the BBC ever thought about the deaths of the hundreds of thousands innocent civilians. You guys should be ashamed. But then again I don't expect anything fair from a organization controlled by government. It seems to the BBC that wars are trivial matters. Even if they interviewed Assange I am 100% sure they would have asked him about sex allegations and basic problems within wikileaks rather than the cables they released which shows the unjust deaths of mass population, I'm glad Assange turned the BBC down.


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