Risk

statement by director Laura Poitras...

I first approached WikiLeaks in 2010. They had just published a leaked Apache helicopter video that documented U.S. soldiers gunning down Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists. I began filming the organization in 2011, after the Arab Spring had begun and the U.S. government had launched a multi-agency investigation into Julian Assange and the staff.

By enabling secure, anonymous leaking of large datasets, WikiLeaks’ publishing has changed the landscape of journalism. Their activities foreshadowed and enabled the emergence of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and leaks like the Panama Papers. Today, many mainstream newsrooms have systems for anonymous sources to submit leaks securely. 

Shooting the material for my documentary RISK prepared me for what happened later when Edward Snowden contacted me. Filming with WikiLeaks, I learned about secure communication, encryption, source protection, and navigating publication of classified information. 

RISK premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2016. Events unfolded before and after the Cannes screening that obligated me to continue working on the film. These included legal and personal pressure and demands by Assange and his legal team to remove scenes in the film in which he speaks about the ongoing sexual offences investigation in Sweden, and new sexual misconduct allegations made against another person in the film. 

The recent threats against WikiLeaks and their staff by the director of the CIA and the Attorney General are chilling. These threats should be interpreted for what they are: an aggressive effort on the part of the Trump administration to silence the free press and attack the First Amendment. 

In 2006, the U.S. government placed her on a secret watch list and, through 2012, she was detained and interrogated at the U.S. border each time she traveled internationally. In 2015, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. government to obtain her FBI and other government files. Over 1,000 pages have been released.

She has received many honours for her work, including a MacArthur Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Creative Capital grant, and a Peabody Award. She has attended the Sundance Institute Documentary Labs as both a Fellow and Creative Advisor. She is on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and is Co-Creator of the visual journalism project Field of Vision.