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Former Assange associates, including right-hand man Daniel Domscheit-Berg, defect for new site
Julian Assange (left), founder of WikiLeaks, and former associate Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
Based only on conversations I’ve shared with family and friends, it seems that many people don’t know quite how to judge the moment’s most famous whistleblower, WikiLeaks, which is in the process of publishing over 200,000 secret U.S. diplomatic documents. While pretty much anyone can get behind freedom of speech and freedom of the press, not everyone believes that this particular whistleblower, with founder Julian Assange at the helm, is going about it the right way.
In fact, even some of Assange’s previous partners found WikiLeaks problematic.
Former WikiLeaks staffer Daniel Domscheit-Berg, along with a few other defectors who have so far remained anonymous, are launching a new site on Monday called Openleaks, a new whistleblower with a completely reworked mentality and set of procedures.
Domscheit-Berg, described as Assange’s former right-hand man, said the WikiLeaks founder acted like ”some kind of emperor or slave trader,” always making decisions himself and painting himself as the poster child of the entire movement. That very same poster child was arrested this week in London in connection with rape charges brought against him in Sweden, which some former associates believe diminishes the reputation of WikiLeaks.
Openleaks, then, is a fresh start.
If WikiLeaks is a dictatorship, then Openleaks aims to be a democracy, where all team members will jointly govern the organization’s actions. Additionally, the site will aim to be more of an intermediary than a host; whoever anonymously submits classified documents to Openleaks will be able to specifically name media organizations to whom Openleaks will forward the information.
The Openleaks team likely hopes to stir less negative publicity with this method, in contrast to the high-profile controversy created by WikiLeaks’ “Cablegate,” which has been publishing new cables for over a week now.
One cable leaked on Thursday revealed that Egypt President Hosni Mubarak not only plans to run for another term in 2011, but that he has plans to retain his position for the rest of his life. Another alleges, with direct quotations as evidence, that oil and gas company Shell’s top manager in Nigeria, Ann Pickard, was boasting about company sources having infiltrated “all relevant ministries” of the Nigerian government.
“[The Nigerian government] had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries,” reads one quotation attributed to Pickard in a cable dated Oct. 20, 2009.
Only a small fraction of WikiLeaks’ 251,287 United States embassy cables have been published, but already just a few have caused a global drama whose plot has most lately culminated in the UK arrest of Assange, in relation to the rape allegations brought against him in Sweden, and a bevy of anonymous cyberattacks targeting the sites of Amazon, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal--the first for removing WikiLeaks from its servers and the latter three for suspending payments to the organization’s account.
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