Anyone who thinks Washingtonians lack passion and personality should have been at Tuesday night's advance screening of "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks" at the E Street Cinema.
Documentaries by Alex Gibney about national security secrets and the leakers who liberate them that run 130 minutes aren't what necessarily first come to mind when thinking about theater trash-talking. But tell that to the crowd that showed up for the 7 p.m. screening, many of them National Press Club members and journalists.
"Stop f---ing crying," one woman yelled at the screen when one of the film's subjects, hacker Adrian Lamo, tears up while talking about turning in Bradley Manning, the alleged leaker of hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. When shushed, the woman yelled back, "He's an actor. He turned him in on day one." That was enough for one guy in the back of the room. "Keep your comments to yourself, b----," he said.
Earlier in the screening, the same woman started aggressively clapping when someone in the film pointed out that if Manning is to be prosecuted for revealing state secrets, then so should the editor of The New York Times, who partnered with WikiLeaks and The Guardian of London to publish classified information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and State Department diplomatic cables. She high-tailed it from the theater after the movie ended before we could catch up to her and ask where she was coming from.
Of course, journalists and transparency advocates are a little on edge these days, what with the Justice Department snooping through The Associated Press' phone logs and tailing Fox News reporter James Rosen. In a discussion after the screening, Gibney said the press should feel like it's being backed into a corner.
"It's something close to criminalizing journalism," he said of the Obama administration's aggressive pursuit of national security leakers.