- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
Ever since WikiLeaks.org began releasing thousands of classified cables, State Department employees have been forbidden from visiting the website without explicit authorization. (Sure, it was a silly prohibition given the proliferation of mainstream newspaper stories based on the WikiLeaks cables, but them’s the rules). So how about viewing WikiLeaks the movie?
Not a problem, the State Department tells The Cable. Watching the hotly anticipated WikiLeaks drama Fifth Estate will not place employees on the naughty list.
“The department hasn’t issued any sort of guidance on the movie, so there would be no prohibition against the movie,” a State Department official said of the film, which debuts nationwide on Friday. “Employees would be free to watch whatever movie they’re interested in.”
For foreign services officers taken with Benedict Cumberbatch, the rising-star actor whose portrayal of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange is earning rave reviews, it’s good news.
For Julian Assange, not so much. The mercurial activist has gone out of his way to impugn the film, calling it a failed project based on “discredited and “toxic” books that give a “falsified” version of WikiLeaks. “The result is a reactionary snoozefest that only the U.S. government could love,” he told the New York Times. (The movie is based on the books Inside WikiLeaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg and WikiLeaks by David Leigh and Luke Harding.) Earlier reviews describe the Assange character as “obsessed and arrogant, committed and charismatic.”
No friend of the State Department, the 2010 Cablegate disclosures hit Foggy Bottom harder than any other U.S. department. The total number of disclosed files amounted to an unprecedented 251,287 documents, seven times larger than the size of the world’s previously largest classified release, “The Iraq War Logs.”
Now Assange will have to cope with the fact that America’s diplomats — many of whom were reassigned or negatively impacted by the disclosures — will be watching Cumberbatch’s depiction on the big screen. Enjoy the show.