WikiLeaks insider dishes dirt on Assange
BERLIN – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was on the sharp end of some unwelcome exposures himself on Thursday as a former ally spilled the beans on the controversial Australian and his whistle-blowing organisation.
“Inside WikiLeaks” is billed as a warts-and-all account of Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s time as chief programmer and media spokesman for what his tell-all book calls “the world’s most dangerous website.”
Set for release in 16 countries from Friday, it says the “chaotic” WikiLeaks cannot protect its sources and accuses the “power-obsessed” Assange of being economical with the truth, according to leaked excerpts.
Domscheit-Berg, along with others, left WikiLeaks in September complaining that Assange was being autocratic and that the organisation, ironically for a group on a crusade for openness, was becoming excessively secretive.
“The book tells my time at WikiLeaks, including the ups and downs of its development while I was there. It tells a lot of positive stories, but also is very open with my criticism about what was going on,” the German told AFP.
“When Julian decided to misrepresent the situation around my departure publicly, and started to discredit me with half-truths and lies, I decided to get some of the facts straight.”
WikiLeaks is “far too easy to attack,” the 32-year-old told German magazine Stern this week, quoting him as calling Assange “brilliant” but “paranoid” and a “megalomaniac.”
Founded in 2006, WikiLeaks caused a storm last year with major document leaks on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as publishing US diplomatic cables that have caused Washington and others considerable embarrassment.
The leaks have earned Assange and WikiLeaks massive public attention and plenty of enemies.
He is currently in London fighting extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and molestation following his arrest by British police in December, a case he says is politically motivated.
Domscheit-Berg told British daily The Times that he had suggested Assange curtail his activities after Swedish authorities started investigating him.
“He saw this as an attack and suspended me,” said Domscheit-Berg, who at the time used the alias Daniel Schmitt.
According to leaked extracts from the book, Domscheit-Berg disputes Assange’s claim that work on a US military video released last year of a deadly helicopter strike in Baghdad cost him 50,000 dollars.
“He … asserted that a lot of the work had gone into decrypting the videos. I knew for a fact that this was not entirely true,” website Cryptome (http://cryptome.org/) cites the book as saying.
“In essence, Julian’s only costs would have been rent for the house in Iceland and the price of his plane ticket.”
Domscheit-Berg also said that when he left he took with him important software vital to security of the WikiLeaks site and material, although he says he will not publish it via his own upcoming rival site, OpenLeaks.
“Children shouldn’t play with guns,” he says in the book. “We will only return the material to Julian if and when he can prove that he can store the material securely and handle it carefully and responsibly.”
He also has a dig for Assange’s attitude to women in the book.
“Julian’s main criterion for a woman was simple. She had to be young. Preferably younger than 22. And it went without saying that she couldn’t question him. ‘She has to be aware of her role as a woman,’ he used to say.”
Assange also used to “boast about how many children he had fathered in various parts of the world … Whether he took care of any of these alleged children, or whether they existed at all, was another question.”
WikiLeaks could not be reached for comment.