Berlin: Alex Gibney Says He Is "Angry" About Cyber Warfare Secrecy

Alex Gibney Sundance - H 2015
Arthur Mola/Invision/AP

"The grid is vulnerable, especially in the United States, where things are interconnected," the Oscar-winning doc maker told the 'Zero Days' press conference.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney on Wednesday said cyber espionage and warfare were threatening democracy and called for a debate about their risks and impact.

"Yes, I am angry about the incredible amount of secrecy in the United States, and how it's become an obsession that's damaging our democracy," Gibney told the press conference for his competition entry Zero Days at the Berlin Film Festival. "That (secrecy) is one thing we should resolutely attack, which might prevent problems in the future."

Zero Days, which has its world premiere in Berlin, explores the world of cyber war, telling the story of Stuxnet, a self-replicating computer malware that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target.

"The grid is vulnerable, especially in the United States, where things are interconnected," he said.

"I think frankly that the trend and momentum towards greater and greater secrecy in the U.S. administration is appalling. It's preventing an important discussion about offensive cyber weapons," Gibney said. "Unless we start to talk about these weapons, we do face bigger threats downstream."

The irony is Gibney managed to keep his Zero Days project largely under wraps ahead of its unveiling in Berlin. "When the government keeps secrets, sometimes it's important for filmmakers to keep secrets, too," he told the presser. On the topic, Gibney backed Julian Assange and Edward Snowden as whistleblowers when questioned about their roles in exposing cyber war and other classified information.

"I don't think they were criminals, unless you count the Assange sex case, which is a different matter. In terms of leaking information, no, Assange was a publisher who published material that was leaked by Chelsea Manning," Gibney said. "I don't think it caused any great damage. In fact I think it was rather valuable."

"I think you're seeing the inevitable results of over-secrecy, and there will be a blowback. It's the same thing with Edward Snowden. I think he performed a valuable service," the filmmaker said.

Zero Days was acquired by Magnolia Pictures and Showtime ahead of the Berlinale bow. Magnolia, which acquired all U.S. rights excluding paid television, will release Zero Days theatrically in late summer, followed by the film’s television debut on Showtime, which has the paid TV rights.