Openleaks: Timid in the face of power?

Sunday, February 27, 2011
Daniel Domscheit-Berg

WikiLeaks has announced it will pursue legal action against disgruntled former employee Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose recently released book, Inside WikiLeaks, slams Julian Assange's leadership and character in a series of allegations.

Some of the allegations appear serious. Others are hopelessly trivial.

Domscheit-Berg told AFP that Assange would "boast about how many children he had fathered in various parts of the world" and that Assange's "main criterion for a woman was simple. She had to be young. Preferably younger than 22." He also accuses Assange of being power-obsessed.

It’s important to note that Domscheit-Berg gives no evidence for these claims. But they have been widely reported by the world’s media.

"We used to be best friends, Julian and I," writes Domscheit-Berg. He goes on to criticise Assange's hygiene, complaining Assange would wipe his hands on his pants after eating.

Domscheit-Berg also bemoans occasions when Assange would drink the last of his hot chocolate or eat his canned meat.

While seemingly trivial, Domscheit-Berg's crusade against the WikiLeaks founder has worked to reinforce the hysterical claims of conservative American politicians who have taken issue with the publication of classified US military and government documents by WikiLeaks.

These claims also distract from more serious implications of comments made by Domscheit-Berg.

WikiLeaks dismissed Domscheit-Berg in September 2010. Since leaving, Domscheit-Berg has announced that he intends to launch his own WikiLeaks-style organisation, Openleaks.

Demotix.com reports that Openleaks was founded with the intention of being a "'neutral conduit', remaining transparent", and Domscheit-Berg notes that Openleaks would operate "without a political agenda".

In a February interview with ABC’s Four Corners, Domscheit-Berg said: “I think [Assange] was aiming at taking up the biggest fight possible, and that fight was by taking up a fight against the United States in that case as the biggest political player in the field.”

These claims by Domscheit-Berg imply a level of collusion between WikiLeaks and its sources to encourage provision of a specific type of leaked document, in this case relating to the US government or military.

He went on to claim WikiLeaks’ decision to release the US cables was an example of Assange’s “megalomania”.

Assange has repeatedly refuted claims that WikiLeaks has a specific political target. But WikiLeaks’ has taken a consistent political stance in favour of transparent power.

In a recorded video address to a February public meeting in Melbourne, Assange said: “We support a cause that is no more radical a proposition than that the citizenry has a right to scrutinise the state.”

Unlike most traditional news outlets, WikiLeaks’ stories are not commissioned, but rather leaked to it by sources that are unknown to the organisation.

"We don't 'go after' a particular country. We just stick to our promise of publishing material that is likely to have a significant impact," Assange told CBS News.

Recent WikiLeaks releases have been US military documents and diplomatic cables from US embassies. But it has also published information on suppression of free speech in Africa and Germany, the draft Copenhagen climate change agreement, and leaks about scientology, insider trading at JPMorgan and more.

Domscheit-Berg’s claim that his new organisation will not have a political agenda cannot be taken seriously.

He is critical of WikiLeaks’ decision to publish the leaked US cables simply because the US is such a big “political player”.

But US government secrets should be treated no differently from the secrets of other, less powerful, nations or institutions.

The decision by WikiLeaks to press ahead with publication does not prove Domscheit-Berg’s claims of Assange being characterised by “megalomania”. Rather, it shows WikiLeaks applies its ideals consistently.

Domscheit-Berg’s attacks have added to the tabloid-sensationalism surrounding the court proceedings Assange now faces in the UK, from where Sweden has sought to extradite him for questioning over sexual abuse allegations.

In a hearing in London on February 24, a judge ruled that Assange be extradited to Sweden. Assange will appeal the ruling.

WikiLeaks released a statement on February 25 saying: "Despite the recent events involving WikiLeaks editor-in-chief and spokesperson Julian Assange and its latest developments, WikiLeaks will go on as usual, cables will keep being published as we normally do."

From GLW issue 870

Comments

In the best case DDB is naive.

Dear openleaks,

Daniel, is your 'Black Box' concept to receive material from anonymous informer
(material which has not been published for the traditional media) and then dispatch it to
the same traditional media? What for? How old are you?

You have so much to learn from Julian..., Daniel don't try,

It is better to be a good helper than a 'try hard' leader.

Regards.
Vicente.

How Tough Are You?

I don't think Domscheit-Berg distances himself from Wikileaks because he had problems with Assange. He just extremely got nervous when Wikileaks heads on with superpowers.

For that I admire Assange's courage even more. It's not hard to imagine how scary it is facing a monster a few hundred billion times more dangerous than Mesdusa and Chimera put together .

What sort of lawsuit is

What sort of lawsuit is Wikileaks levying against Domscheit-Berg? The article seems to include some fairly petty anecdotes from Domscheit-Berg's book, but it hardly seems worthy of a slander charge. Furthermore, with both Assange and Domscheit-Berg being in the business of "exposé", I would be even more surprised if Wikileaks pursues an antitrust litigation case against Openleaks. If the legal action is pursued, I will be very curious to note the charge.

rediculous

so the so called "socialist" group joins in on slamming assange for a mostly apolitical reason?

who cares about this hygeine! i give a damn about freedom of speech and making the capitalists squirm!

ridiculous?

Ummmm, perhaps you need to reread this article. It hardly "slams" Assange! But it does critique Domsheit-Berg's attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks and argues that Openleaks' claim to have no political agenda cannot be taken seriously.

It is hard to find anything relevant

Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s book seems to be rather one sided. It is hard to find anything relevant through all the character insults. Given ones past experience in life one would have to believe that there are always two sides to a story. Most people are waiting until Julian Assange has an opportunity to tell his side of the story as most beleive he is due the respect. It is apparent that many people who have known Julian Assange have managed to cash in on the relationship whether it be one of a personal or professional nature, which could be considered a form of exploitation and it is unimpressive. Without the driving force of Julian Assange it is likely that Openleaks will not be a successful outlet of information for the public. It is also unlikely that Julian Assange founded Wikileaks without expecting to make a few enemies along the way. What is happening to Julian Assange is an example of how powerful entities use corruption and the media as its own resources for promoting its destructive agenda and the abuse is unacceptable.

My interpretation is that

My interpretation is that Daniel & Julian had differences of opinion of how things should be done,
management issues, also, rightly so as it was Julians Brain Child and he is the better communicator of the two, the media was focused on Julian.
This combination saw them part ways, however the reaction of each is different.
Julian publicly welcomes openleaks as a good thing, he has no personal comment on Daniel.
On the other hand Daniel is acting like spoilt brat that couldn't get his own way. Criticizing Wikileaks, talking to press about Julians' private self, down to his daily functions, to open and honest people they are all pretty normal behaivours of some human beings. We really don't care whether Julian wipes his hands on his pants or washes his hands 3 times before a meal, both are common human traits. It's frustrating that press don't just ignore this and focus on the peaceful movement of making the world fair, honest, understanding and compasionate in peace.

Come off it, now

Anybody who's read his book can see how well Daniel Domscheit-Berg has described Assange - this article is a clear case in point.

Dear Julian, get over it and do something useful (again) for a change. If you can, since everybody but the sycophants seem to have left. Your little big ego almost destroyed it. You're hurting the good cause. I'm not interested in your squabbles.

Agendas, you say?

Speaking of 'agendas', let's look at the agenda of DDB in relation to writing and releasing this book. There is nothing here that is in the interests of 'the greater good', it's all small-time slander designed to cash in on the public interest surrounding the Julian Assange/Wikileaks phenomenon.

I would not trust my secrets to an organisation that fears taking risks in releasing material, whose primary spokesperson shows emotional instability and who leaves it up to the mainstream media to make decisions about what will and will not be published. The mainstream media sat on the 'Collateral Murder' video for a year, have refused to publish because of legal threats (see Carter-Ruck case and the Guardian as just one example) and have relied heavily on the judgement of the government in release selection (just look to the Open Secrets excerpt regarding Keller and the cables for this one).

Let's not forget the recent BOA/HBGary scandal - could it be that drty money has exchanged hands in return for this slanderous material DDb has penned?

This whole saga is full of agendas. It is in the interests of 'old media' to fight the threat that 'new media' poses to their commercial stranglehold.

It is in the interests of many members of the mainstream media to maintain their relations with government officials, either due to the fact that they're thrown convenient 'tidbits' by the government about the government, the fact that editors and publishers have become entrenched in the social coterie of elite government officials or the fact that their commercial sponsors donate heavily to political parties.

It is in the interests of DDB to destroy Wikileaks in order to proclaim his fledgling business as the new shining light.

It is in the interests of governments and big businesses around the world to portray leakers and high risk publishers as fiends, rapists and terrorists in order to continue to protect their own conspiratorial behaviour.

Does Assange have an agenda? I think he's made it quiteclear that he does. He aims to transform goverments from corrupt and secretive institutions to beacons of democracy through the mechanism of transparency.

His other agenda is to promote awareness for the cause. Releasing documents about the US has provided endless publicity for the cause and changed the way many of us view our governments and their level of hypocrisy. Where does it say that Wikileaks promises to released leaked documents in some kind of consecutive order? Assange has stated that he releases documents that are most relevant at the time - during the Dutch elections he released cables concerning Dutch government, during the Egyptian uprising he released cables relating to Egypt, prior to the Kenyan elections he released documents which altered the outcome of the election. It would be foolish to hold off releasing documents that allow people to understand the principles they are acting on - it would run contrary to their ethos of assisting to create transparent governments if Wikileaks did not operate this way.

Everyone has an agenda - but those with a conspiratorial agenda secretly act to cloud the agenda of those who aim to shed light on their behaviour.

Some of the allegations appear serious.

You elaborate only on the "hopelessly trivial" ones in this article. Which one do you think should be taken seriously?

From what I gathered by reading the book, these might be:
- that WL abandoned the practise of releasing leaks in the order of submission. ("it has also published information on suppression of free speech in Africa and Germany, the draft Copenhagen climate change agreement, and leaks about scientology, insider trading at JP Morgan and more." does not refer to 2010)
- that WL neglected re-engineering of the infrastructure

Sad to see, that a project with the same goals of WikiLeaks is being bashed for being too different, too complicated or lead by a specific controversial person.

EDIT: my first comment read "...for NOT being too different..." Sorry, I changed the sentence structure a few times.

"Green Left" this website is called? Does it help the 'left' if it's various factions slash each other up? Calm down and let OpenLeaks get started. If they do bad work, there will still be enough opportunity to hate them.

Treating documents differently

"But US government secrets should be treated no differently from the secrets of other, less powerful, nations or institutions."
The problem is that there are thousands of other documents that got submitted over the last year that Wikileaks didn't yet publish because Assange claims that Wikileaks doesn't have the resources to do so.

In 2010 Assange did treated US documents differently. His justification is that he seeks to maximize impact by focusing on those documents that have the most impact instead of treating all submitted documents equally.

"While recent WikiLeaks releases have been US military documents and diplomatic cables from US embassies, it has also published information on suppression of free speech in Africa and Germany, the draft Copenhagen climate change agreement, and leaks about scientology, insider trading at JP Morgan and more."
The problem is that with a few exceptions they didn't release that type of material in 2010. It's not because nobody submitted documents.
It's because Assange focuses the energy of Wikileaks on the high impact US documents.

That's the political decision over which Daniel left.

Some of the allegations appear serious.

You elaborate only on the "hopelessly trivial" ones in this article. Which one do you think should be taken seriously?

From what I gathered by reading the book, these might be:
- that WL abandoned the practise of releasing leaks in the order of submission. ("it has also published information on suppression of free speech in Africa and Germany, the draft Copenhagen climate change agreement, and leaks about scientology, insider trading at JP Morgan and more." does not refer to 2010)
- that WL neglected re-engineering of the infrastructure

Sad to see, that a project with the same goals of WikiLeaks is being bashed for not being too different, too complicated or lead by a specific controversial person.

"Green Left" this website is called? Does it help the 'left' if it's various factions slash each other up? Calm down and let OpenLeaks get started. If they do bad work, there will still be enough opportunity to hate them.

Guys...

I support wikileaks, but this article wouldn't get past the editor of a high-school newspaper. This is awful work. You figure out why. I'm too busy to unpack it. Shame on you.

balanced?

I love the way you mix facts with opinion stated as fact

boring

I can't wait to read a review of Domscheit-Berg's book that isn't pre-conditioned by the reviewer's attitude to Assange and Wikileaks. This is not such a review.

Expected

How much does it take to recruit help in the desperate demonisation of Assange? Not much I guess. I believe they have miscalculated one thing though. Unlike the average voter in some puritanical republic who assumes their politicians to be moral and sterile, Assange supporters are probably much more sophisticated. Do they care what Assange's private life and taste in women are like, whether what have been reported are true or not? I doubt it. They support Assange for what he has done, and what it means to the hypocrisy that loiters the sordid moral ground. So, he's a person, not a Catholic Saint? Oh dear, what else is new? Guo Du (www.guodu.blogspot.com)

Post removed

This comment was removed. Please keep your comments focused on politics and free of personal insults - Moderator.

Were you there....did you see and feel it ??

Julian is the only one with the truth.....i am and IAm....he is not a rapist or womaniser....women love him , but some women want to bring him down because they want him but he's not interested in EVERY woman.... FACT !!!

Get your facts straight...

As someone who has read the book, I think your claim that "These claims by Domscheit-Berg imply a level of collusion between WikiLeaks and its sources to encourage provision of a specific type of leaked document" is simply incorrect. There is nothing about "collusion" in the book. Quite the opposite: as opposed to other books for example by the Spiegel journalists, Domscheit-Berg makes a point of stating that none of them new the source of the document or had any contact and that the big US leaks took them more or less by surprise. Domscheit-Berg merely criticized the decision to publish those documents right away, as opposed to going by order of submission as usually. Assange decided to ignore "smaller" leaks for the time being because he thought the US documents were more important. Domscheit-Berg didn't agree with that. He wanted to publish smaller (but older) documents first and in the meantime build up a better infrastructure, while Assange wanted to go for what he perceived bigger, more important leaks. Both are valid positions, but to appreciate that, you have to get your facts right...

Secondly, as for "not having a political agenda". I find this entirely believable simply because that's the way OpenLeaks works. Look at their concept... they don't publish, edit or comment on stuff. They simply receive documents, anonymize them and pass them on to their partners (like media organizations or NGOs). Not much of an opportunity for pushing an agenda there. For the same reason it's unlikely they would shy away from important or controversial leaks.

So, not saying you have to like Domscheit-Berg or OpenLeaks. But if you want to criticize, please at least come up with better arguments for it.

Domscheit-Berg comes off as

Domscheit-Berg comes off as whiny and jealous. He would be completely ignored if he had made these silly allegations against someone less controversial and sensational. Assange "wipes his hands on his pants after eating"? Really?? OMG so do I! Quick someone notify Anderson Cooper! Pleeeease. Domscheit-Berg's 15 minutes of fame that he so desparately craves will be over in 14.9 seconds.

small minded guy

OK, nobody is perfect, and Julian has for sure a strong mind that irritates many, but I can see that D-Berg is a small minded nevrotic guy attacking Julian "bellow the belt" as french use to say.
Releasing more US cables than ......Uganda's cables is pure mathematical sense, easy to understand by an non nevrotic reasoning!