Yet another documentary about WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange is set to hit the airways this Sunday.
CNN’s WikiWars – The Mission of Julian Assange does a good job of tying together all of the events of the last year and providing new behind-the-scenes footage of Assange in Europe and elsewhere during the events that brought him to center stage. None of that footage, however, was obtained by CNN. Instead, it was licensed from Australian freelance journalist Mark Davis, since CNN was unable to obtain an interview with Assange.
Davis, who is also interviewed in the piece, got some candid, behind-the-scenes footage of Assange on a train, in cafes, in the Guardian newspaper’s bunker room and elsewhere. Though none of the information in the documentary is new, it will serve to feed a fix for those who can’t get enough of Assange — particularly since he has remained out of the spotlight the last few months.
‘WikiLeaks has already condemned the CNN documentary as being “anti-WikiLeaks” and “full of the usual slanders.” Larsen’s background and his comments about it in the documentary opens CNN to further possible criticism.’
Through some of the sound effects the film uses, the camera angles the photographers have chosen, and the choice of host, the documentary seems clearly designed to appeal to a younger, hipper crowd than CNN generally targets. But this leads to the one main problem with the piece – its host, Kaj Larsen, who has a loose and unsophisticated method of delivery that seems better suited for MTV or CurrentTV than CNN. In fact, Larsen is a former CurrentTV correspondent. He’s also, it turns out, a former Navy SEAL. Yes, that’s right:
Prior to his work in television journalism, Larsen spent five years serving as a U.S. Navy SEAL. As a young Lieutenant, he led a SEAL team of special warfare personnel in covert operations overseas.
Which seems like an odd choice to helm a documentary about massive leaks of military documents, particularly when some of those leaks involve questioning the actions of soldiers on the ground.
During one strange exchange in the documentary over the infamous “Collateral Murder” video that WikiLeaks published, Larsen oddly leverages his military background in discussing the video with retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmit. Stepping out of journalist mode, Larsen poses the question to Kimmit as a fellow military man, as if he expected Kimmit to answer more honestly than if Larsen were not a former SEAL.
“Sir, as you know I have almost a decade in Naval special warfare,” Larsen says in the clip above. “You’re obviously 30 years in the Army. Soldier to sailor, groundpounder to groundpounder, should these men have exercised more restraint?”
Kimmit replies that from what he can tell, the soldiers followed the proper procedures.
“So if they did everything by the book, is there something wrong with the book?” the former lieutenant asks the former general. Kimmit replies that the book doesn’t cover every scenario.
Given the sheer number of WikiLeaks leaks about the military, Larsen’s background is either the perfect choice for this documentary or the perfectly wrong one.
Perhaps I’m the only one who will be bothered by this exchange. After all, no one expects Christiane Amanpour to avoid reporting on Iran because she’s Persian or Wolf Blitzer to avoid reporting on Israel because he’s Jewish. But then neither of these journalists is likely to step out of journalist mode in the middle of an interview to make an issue of his or her background.
WikiLeaks has already condemned the CNN documentary as being “anti-WikiLeaks” and “full of the usual slanders.” Larsen’s background and his comments about it in the documentary opens CNN to further possible criticism.