Wiki war: 3500 unpublished leaks destroyed forever

(Asher Moses)   WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s former right-hand man has irrevocably destroyed 3500 unpublished files leaked to the whistleblower site including the complete US no-fly list, five gigabytes of Bank of America documents and detailed information about 20 neo-Nazi groups.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who left WikiLeaks last year after a falling out with Assange, revealed the document destruction in an interview with Der Spiegel.

Former WikiLeaks staffer and one of the founders of OpenLeaks, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, holds his book Inside WikiLeaks. Photo: AP

WikiLeaks has hit back, accusing Domscheit-Berg of being in bed with US intelligence agencies and of jeopardising the leaking of “many issues of public importance, human rights abuses, mass telecommunications interception, banking and the planning of dozens of neo-nazi groups”.

Along with the thousands of files, Domscheit-Berg also took the entire Wikileaks encrypted submission system with him on his way out to start a rival site, OpenLeaks. It has resulted in WikiLeaks being unable to receive leaked documents online for a year, with the site instead resorting to snail mail via an Australian P.O. Box at the University of Melbourne.

In a translation of the Der Spiegel interview, Domscheit-Berg said he had the files “shredded to ensure that the sources are not compromised”.

A large factor in Assange and Domscheit-Berg falling out was the fear that Assange released the 400,000 classified US documents about the Iraq war too early without taking the time to properly redact names of US collaborators and informants in Iraq.

In his book released this year, Inside WikiLeaks (review), Domscheit-Berg accused Assange of being autocratic and said the reason he took the submission system and unpublished documents was because “children shouldn’t play with guns”.

“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 writes.

WikiLeaks has confirmed the breadth of documents that were destroyed in several tweets over the weekend. The organisation labels Domscheit-Berg’s actions as “theft” and “sabotage”.

“DDB spits on every courageous whistblower who leaked data if they destroy the keys and refuse to return it. This is not acceptable,” WikiLeaks tweeted.

“Leak organisations don’t destroy information whistleblowers risked their lives to leak.”

One Guatemalan human rights lawyer, Renata Avila, published an open letter earlier this month asking what happened to the material she submitted to WikiLeaks.

In a lengthy further statement, WikiLeaks reveals how it spent the past 11 months unsuccessfully trying to negotiate the return of the unpublished leaks and internal communications taken by Domscheit-Berg.

“Mr. Domscheit-Berg has repeatedly attempted to blackmail WikiLeaks by threatening to make available, to forces that oppose WikiLeaks, these private communications and to which Mr. Domscheit-Berg is not a party,” the statement reads.

“He has stated he will commit this action, should WikiLeaks move to charge him with sabotage or theft.”

The statement claims the negotiations were terminated by the mediator who had “doubts” about Domscheit-Berg’s “integrity and claimed willingness to return the material”.

In response Domscheit-Berg threatened to destroy the files, WikiLeaks claimed. He now appears to have followed through on that threat.

“The material is irreplaceable and includes substantial information on many issues of public importance, human rights abuses, mass telecommunications interception, banking and the planning of dozens of neo-nazi groups. Our sources have in some cases risked their lives or freedom attempting to convey these disclosures to WikiLeaks and to the public,” the statement reads.

WikiLeaks says that because it does not collect or retain source identifying information, sources are not significantly at risk.

In a separate statement, Assange accuses Domscheit-Berg of being in contact with the FBI, implying that he is helping out the US investigation into WikiLeaks and Assange. He also links Domscheit-Berg’s wife, Anke, to the CIA.

In addition to the US no-fly list, neo-Nazi material and Bank of America data, which was tipped to reveal serious corrupt practices at the bank, Domscheit-Berg also destroyed information on US intercept arrangements for over 100 internet companies, WikiLeaks said.

The no-fly list, maintained by the US government’s Terrorist Screen Center, is a list of people forbidden from travelling in or out of the US on commercial aircraft.

The falling out between Domscheit-Berg and Assange was played out in full public view after a private instant messaging conversation between the pair was leaked.

“You are not anyone’s king or god,” Domscheit-Berg told Assange in the chat.

“And you’re not even fulfilling your role as a leader right now. A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader.”

Assange’s statement at the weekend references Domscheit-Berg leaking the chat logs “in clear violation of WikiLeaks internal security directives”. The Inside WikiLeaks book, Assange said, “contains many proven malicious libels”.

Domscheit-Berg’s WikiLeaks rival, OpenLeaks, promises to be more transparent than WikiLeaks and route information to media organisations and interest groups instead of publishing material itself. The site still appears to be starting up and there has yet to be any high-profile leaks.

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