One of the founders of OpenLeaks, himself a former WikiLeaks member, is facing accusations that he sabotaged Julian Assange’s whistle-blower site and “stole” thousands of documents.
The chap in question is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who just happens to have a WikiLeaks-related book launching this week. He was a WikiLeaks volunteer, but left to become a co-founder of the new rival site OpenLeaks–a spin-off borne of the controversy surrounding the original document whistle-blower website and its contentious leader Julian Assange. According to some accusations made by current WikiLeaks staff, Daniel “unplugged” a key component of WikiLeaks’ infrastructure that protects the anonymity of its leakers and partners.
Domscheit-Berg denies the allegations of sabotage, but has difficult things to say about Julian Assange: While he was “imaginative, energetic” and “brilliant” at first, he’s now become “paranoid, power-hungry” and a “megalomaniac.” He admits to taking a backlog of three hundred thousand leaked documents with him when he left, presumably to use them to prime OpenLeaks with fresh, controversial meat. He alleges that leaving the documents with Assange would have been “irresponsible.”
The legality of the matter is likely up in the air. Technically, WikiLeaks may never have owned the leaked documents in question, so Domscheit-Berg may not have “stolen” them. WikiLeaks has, for its part, distanced itself from him by noting he was not a high-ranking official, merely a “spokesman for WikiLeaks in Germany at various times.”
Julian Assange is currently on trial in the U.K. under an extradition request from Swedish authorities who seek him in connection with rape allegations–a matter that itself is riddled with complexity, controversy, and accusations of collusion between the two female witnesses. Assange’s lawyer this week even invoked a suggestion the U.S. may, should it succeed in acquiring Assange from Sweden, subject him to a Guantanamo Bay imprisonment and investigation.
What can we take from this? The world of whistle-blowing websites is mired in controversy whichever way you look at it–but unilateral acts from the tricky characters involved in making these websites work could result in their quick implosion, by spinning the controversy up to even higher levels. Would you trust a website that “stole” potentially “stolen” documents?
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