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