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Daniel Domscheit-Berg [right] used to be Wikileaks second-in-command. Disillusioned he left the site. Now he's founded OpenLeaks and is calling out Wikileaks' recent questionable behavior.  (Source: AFP)

OpenLeaks, Wikileaks' new rival, promises greater transparency and discretion.
Who's watching the watchmen?

Most would agree that there is a need for whistleblowing outlets in the media.  Without the scrutiny of exposé reporting, there are serious questions concerning whether the civilian government, military, and corporate businesses would exchange integrity for potential foul gains. 

With media shifting online, the web seems a natural home for a whistleblowing endeavor.  But the real question is -- who should be entrusted with such a vital mantle 

Criticism From Within 

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, like Wikileaks' notorious founder, Julian Assange, was a member of a high-profile early hacking community.  Whereas Mr. Assange frequented the Zen/Pacific Island servers in Australia, Mr. Domscheit-Berg was a member of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) in Germany.  

When Mr. Assange looked to open Wikileaks, Mr. Domscheit-Berg was already familiar with famous Australian who had committed cyber-crimes under the named "Mendax".  He agreed to participate in the project, and for a time assumed the position of both spokesperson for the site and its number-two commander behind Mr. Assange. 

But in recent months, the German technology expert became troubled with Mr. Assange's leadership and Wikileaks’ lack of transparency.  He also indicates that recent leaks were badly botched and questionable. 

In response he has created a new site, with firm ethics guidelines, dubbed OpenLeaks. 

Leaks:  Who to Trust? 

When it comes to whistle blowing, the question of who to trust is a critical one.  After all, it's far too easy for international cyberespionage to masquerade under the guise of "whistle blowing" as some have accused Wikileaks of intentionally or unintentionally doing. 

Ideally a whistleblower must have a certain degree of respect for the government or institution he's exposing.  Or perhaps more aptly, they should desire to improve it through their actions, rather than destroy it. 

Mr. Assange in recent interviews espouses such morals, but his writings from the 1990s reveal a man who's firmly anti-government, to the point of advocating anarchy.  In a 1997 book, Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier, which Mr. Assange did research for, he voices such opinions. 

In the book, he and the author Suelette Dreyfus write:

As he quietly backed out of the system, wiping away his footprints as he tip-toed away, Mendax [Assange] thought about what he had seen. He was deeply disturbed that any hacker would work for the US military.

Hackers, he thought, should be anarchists, not hawks.

Such a statement could be construed as off-the-cuff, but at least one source who was a member of Mr. Assange's Australian hacking circle, who did not want to be named, confirmed that Mr. Assange had advocated such anarchic ideals.

And the recent leaks from Wikileaks certainly seemed more of a bid to destabilize U.S. foreign policy, rather than merely call it out for wrongdoing.  While the blame for the publication of recent leaks like a list of top targets for terrorists to harm U.S. national security rests partly on cooperating publishing organizations, such as The New York Times, one has to question why Wikileaks published them in the first place. 

If its goal was merely to report wrongdoing, why was it releasing loads of cables, many of which contained embarrassing or dangerous secrets (vulnerable locations, undisclosed illnesses of world leaders, or political tensions) but seemingly had little to do with wrongdoing? 

OpenLeaks: New Leaks Site, New Perspective

Mr. Domscheit-Berg left Wikileaks some time ago -- and he is not alone.  In the last year or two, particularly after the recent round of leaks, many of the site's top volunteers have abandoned it, questioning whether the site is abandoning its morals for a darker agenda. 

Mr. Domscheit-Berg sums up the sentiments of these former volunteers, stating, "In these last months, the organization [Wikileaks] has not been open any more, it lost its open-source promise." 

When asked about Mr. Assange's leadership in a recent interview, he comments, "It has weakened the organization.  [T]oo much focused on one person, and one person is always much weaker than an organization." 

He and his fellow volunteers have launched a new site OpenLeaks website, which is now live (www.openleaks.org).  The site has not yet published any leaked information, but plans to begin by writing short essays analyzing information it has obtained. 

For his part, Mr. Domscheit-Berg promises more transparency and discretion.  Whereas Wikileaks does not disclose details on its leadership structure or finances, OpenLeaks plans on publishing reports detailing its procedures.  

Similarly, Mr. Domscheit-Berg says that if he happens upon a treasure trove of information, like the illegally obtained U.S. State Department cables that were recently published by Wikileaks, that he would be more selective about what is passed to the media. 

He says that by carefully reviewing the material, you kill two birds with one stone.  First, you ensure that each leaked document really necessitates publication under whistle-blowing grounds, allowing extraneous documents to be eliminated.  And secondly, by taking a slower, more considered approach, OpenLeaks hopes to not burn through its supply of leaked info as Wikileaks is thought to have.



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By Taft12 on 12/13/2010 5:36:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Do you honestly think a self-proclaimed anarchist is the best person to be "whistleblowing" on the government?


Maybe, maybe not, but be careful with your terminology: It's not Domscheit-Berg or Assange blowing the whistle - it's those who provide the info to the outlet (think Manning).


By JasonMick (blog) on 12/13/2010 7:04:18 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Maybe, maybe not, but be careful with your terminology: It's not Domscheit-Berg or Assange blowing the whistle - it's those who provide the info to the outlet (think Manning).


Yes, but it is Assange/Domscheit-Berg that are GIVING them the whistle . Without this platform, this info never would have been released in mass for better or worse.

The responsibility of publication rests largely with publisher. If DailyTech published that carpets caused autism, we would be responsible for the effects of this misinformation, even if a certain doctor had passed it on to us. After all, we approved it.

Having a discerning and objective organization is fundamental to operating any respectable whistleblowing operation (or news organization in general, for that matter).

That's objectivity arguably has been compromised by Wikileaks.

Manning, for his part, like many whistleblowers wasn't the most unbiased source. He was upset about his sexual identity and a recent demotion. Hardly the type of person to make a level-headed decision.

Thus the responsibility of what/how much to publish fell on the receiver (Assange), who I believe abused this position due to his own personal animosity towards government authority.

Some of the leaked info arguably should have been published, but not all of it. That is the key issue here.

Further, the publication of extraneous and damaging information was arguably not accidental. If someone hits you with their car and you're injured that's reckless, but not necessarily premeditated assault. But if you just fired them, now there's a motive.

Likewise, Assange was a self-proclaimed anarchist (motive) which would explain why he published certain documents that transcended the respectable profession of whistleblowing, taking it into the unsavory realm of trying to injure a foreign government (the act).


By adiposity on 12/13/2010 7:08:17 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Yes, but it is Assange/Domscheit-Berg that are GIVING them the whistle . Without this platform, this info never would have been released in mass for better or worse.


If Wikileaks is a whistle, then Dailytech is a megaphone, and you can buy a whistle at the grocery store. I never would have heard of anything on Wikileaks without Dailytech, and you can publish on the internet pretty easily these days.

It's a bit silly to think that without Wikileaks, Manning could not have leaked those documents. Heck, he could have put the stuff on Wikipedia.


By nolisi on 12/13/2010 7:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Heck, he could have put the stuff on Wikipedia.


Technically, he couldn't have. Wikipedia is not a primary source of information- they merely collect information from primary sources into comprehensive articles on their site. It would have had to be posted elsewhere first, then linked back from Wiki.


By tastyratz on 12/14/2010 10:31:25 AM , Rating: 2
With that rational you would not have known who was elected if it wasn't for CNN.

Wikileaks has caused quite the stir and become the largest most well known "whistleblowing" (and I use that loosely) site on the web. Dailytech just happens to be the venue for which you learned of them.

DT did not discover a hidden shady section of the web and I am sure many more people know about wikileaks than dailytech at this point in that respect.

And Jason I have to say I agree with your posts in response to the article as well. +1!


By adiposity on 12/14/2010 6:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
DT did not discover a hidden shady section of the web and I am sure many more people know about wikileaks than dailytech at this point in that respect.


I do not fault dailytech, they are just reporting the news. But they help to disseminate the information that was leaked by doing so. The point is, the leaker is the problem, not the website. If there were no Wikileaks, Manning could still easily have leaked info. So realistically, who cares about Wikileaks?


By tastyratz on 12/15/2010 7:27:59 AM , Rating: 2
Its a 2 party argument. The information was released twice: once to the press and once FROM the press. The person leaking should not be doing so but we should no be providing or encouraging a media outlet for him either. Whistleblowers need an outlet, but this was an integrity failure for both parties which cost lives. Clearly there was none at either checkpoint.

Sadly this could be used by politicians to leverage more rules and regulation of the internet (aka "safeguards") that will ruin the liberties of the many for the actions of the few.


By Lerianis on 12/17/2010 1:46:21 PM , Rating: 2
Bullplop. There has not been ONE CONFIRMED DEATH from these leaks directly, to be blunt.


By superPC on 12/13/2010 8:04:25 PM , Rating: 2
this is the best that could happened with this whole wikileaks situation. more and more secure outlet for everyone to upload information anonymously. i wish all news organization in the world have a system that allows everyone to upload anything securely and anonymously (if bradley manning didn't blab about what he did no one would know that he leaked all that data. wikileaks really do keep their promise of anonimity and security in data upload).

how about dailytech started it? you guys can build a secure system so that everyone can upload anything anonymously. maybe you can get a pre alpha build of windows 8 uploaded by a proud microsoft engineer. or a game that hasn't yet released or honeycomb android (or maybe even the next version after that). who knows. that would make you guys really cutting edge. let's see what you do with that kind of power in your hands.


By angryplayer on 12/14/2010 12:41:02 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
carpets caused autism, we [are] responsible for the effects of this ...information, ...a certain doctor had passed it on to us. we approved it.


*Quoted and taken out of context* </foxnews>

Seriously though, this analogy made my day.


By Paj on 12/14/2010 12:11:31 PM , Rating: 2
Your publishing analogy is flawed. Wikileaks didnt publish them. It gave its documents to the Guardian, Der Spiegel, the NY Times, etc, who did.

Following the reasoning of your analogy, wouldnt the publisher be the newspapers, and Wikileaks the doctor supplying information to the publisher? According to your argument, wouldnt the resulting fallout be the responsibility of the news organisations that received the leaks, and their 'lack of objectivity' in publishing them?


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