WASHINGTON — Even as prosecutors build a case against the Army private suspected of passing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, the State Department is promoting a documentary film that celebrates Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg.
Amid its struggle to contain damage from the WikiLeaks revelations, the State Department announced Saturday that "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" has been selected as one of 18 films that will tour the world this year as part of its "American Documentary Showcase" program.
Ellsberg, whom the film portrays as a whistleblower of conscience, has been a champion of Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, the alleged leaker of the documents who is currently jailed. He has also spoken in defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who may also face charges for publishing classified information.
Ellsberg spent months copying the top secret Pentagon Papers on a Xerox machine and when the documentary was released in 2009 before WikiLeaks' earned notoriety, he recalled that it took The New York Times three months to review the study and decide to publish it.
"If that had happened today," he told The Associated Press, "I would have posted it directly on the Internet."
While Manning remains in prison awaiting trial, the Obama administration has loudly denounced Assange for releasing the documents that detail the inner workings of American foreign policy and contain blunt assessments of foreign leaders and governments. The administration says the documents were stolen and demanded that WikiLeaks return them.
But the administration has not gone to court, as the Nixon White House did in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971, to try to stop their publication.
The "American Documentary Showcase" series is funded and organized by the State Department's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. It brings "award-winning contemporary American documentaries to audiences around the world to offer a view of American society and culture as seen by independent documentary filmmakers," according to its website.
The films are intended to foster "understanding and cooperation, dialogue and debate," it says.
The department said that this year's selections, chosen by the University Film and Video Association and independent international group of filmmakers, educators and students, explore topics ranging from civil rights and the treatment of military veterans to environmentalism and freedom of the press.
Among the other documentaries chosen for this year's showcase are "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front," which deals with the radical environmental group that some regard as a terrorist organization; "Freedom Riders," which traces the experiences of civil rights advocates in 1961; and "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson," which examines the youthful legal troubles of the basketball star.