Ex-WikiLeaks staffers to launch rival whistleblower site: report

Friday, November 5, 2010 10:25 EDT
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A group of former WikiLeaks staffers are planning on launching their own site for leaked documents, according to a published report.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, an important member of WikiLeaks who quit in September after disagreements with the site’s founder Julian Assange, is reportedly planning to create his own whistleblower site along with other former members of WikiLeaks, Wall Street Journal reports.

“There is some indication that Daniel and some others are setting up a similar venue, and we wish them luck,” said Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesman. “It would be good to have more organizations like WikiLeaks.”

WikiLeaks staffers claim the site has been plagued by internal discord ever since they decided to publish US military documents, but Hrafnsson says the reports of conflict within the organization are “quite overblown.”

Many staffers have been publicly critical of Assange, who faces an ongoing “molestation” investigation against him in Sweden.

Assange denies the allegations against him and says he is the victim of a smear campaign.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, a prominent WikiLeaks organizer, told The Daily Beast that Assange should step down as WikiLeaks’ public spokesman and turn his management responsibilities over to others until the criminal investigation is over.

“Somebody needs to say this,” said Jonsdottir. “If it means I get banned, I don’t care. I really care very much for WikiLeaks and I do consider myself to be Julian’s friend. But good friends are the people who tell you if your face is dirty. There should not be one person speaking for WikiLeaks. There should be many people.”

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Domscheit-Berg, who at the time was using the alias Daniel Schmitt, said that Assange should have “pulled back a bit so that he could quietly deal with these problems,” noting that the allegations against him “do not have anything to with WikiLeaks directly.”

Former staffers have criticized WikiLeaks for focusing all of its resources on US military documents and neglecting to publish lower-profile documents from other parts of the world.

“Key people have become very concerned about the direction of WikiLeaks with regard to its strong focus on US military files at the expense of ignoring everything else,” Smari McCarthy, a former Wikileaks volunteer from Iceland, told The Independent. “There were also serious disagreements over the decision not to redact the names of Afghan civilians; something which I’m pleased to see was not repeated with the Iraq dossiers.”

“WikiLeaks was very much about creating small hubs in different countries where people could leak important information to,” adds Jonsdottir. “It shouldn’t just be about the international scoops.”

Due to the amount of documents that have been neglected and still need to be published, speaking in London last week, Assange said WikiLeaks would not be accepting new documents temporarily.

“I think it is not right to be receiving documents that people may wish to get out urgently if you’re not in a position to publish them within a reasonable period of time,” Assange said.

Due to the amount of work that went into publishing the US military documents, WikiLeaks has not “been able to restructure our organization accordingly,” Domscheit-Berg said in August. “This has created a situation in which not all of the work is being done correctly, and that is overwhelming the project.”

“WikiLeaks has a structural problem. I no longer want to take responsibility for it, and that’s why I am leaving the project.”

A “technician” and “two or three volunteers” have also quit, according to Hrafnsson.

“I will continue to do my part to ensure that the idea of a decentralized whistleblower platform stays afloat,” said Domscheit-Berg. “In the end, there needs to be a thousand WikiLeaks.”

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