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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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Where's the news???
By Strunf on 12/14/2010 8:19:34 AM , Rating: 0
Seriously if they are going to filter what to publish and what not then there's no difference between openleaks and any other news website.

Anyway the governments work for the people, why should they then keep secrets from them?... the only good reason for that is that politicians think most people are too stupid to understand politics and instead on educating them they prefer to keep them in the shadows.It's well known that a chain of command only works when the people under you don't question your actions, the moment they do you have no room for "mistakes" and that's not a good thing for... politicians!




RE: Where's the news???
By bug77 on 12/14/2010 9:19:11 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
Anyway the governments work for the people, why should they then keep secrets from them?


Because people know jack about the really important issues? Providing them with the gritty details will just result in skewed opinions anyway.
It's a case of "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth."


RE: Where's the news???
By Gzus666 on 12/14/2010 11:04:02 AM , Rating: 2
So, to protect them, give them no information? Last I checked the country was founded upon transparency and a government run by the people, not the other way around. To say people don't know anything about the issues is a blanket statement and is not for any one person to decide.

It is a common human reaction to take criticism as persecution. Look at any government, religion or charlatan(bit of overlap with the previous two, I know) and you will see the scape goat of persecution used instead of actually answering for the things they have done. Of course I have to pass some of the blame to the idiot populace that dominates our society for their willingness to be led astray.

Remember that one of the leaks from Wikileaks was the video of the helicopter shooting unarmed people and them killing the wounded (against the Geneva Conventions). They lied about it and said they didn't know how they died. While I am not for the weird leaks they let out about things they said about foreign leaders and so on as they don't really constitute cover ups, maybe they shouldn't write these things down or even say them if they are so embarrassing.


RE: Where's the news???
By bug77 on 12/14/2010 11:09:27 AM , Rating: 2
Oh, but the information was there.

Afghan officials involved in drug traffic? Check.
Pakistan supporting taliban? Check.
Prisoners abuse in Iraq (mainly by Iraqi police)? Check.

And so many others. It's just people would much rather watch Oprah instead and act shocked when this info gets into their faces. And by then, it must be government wrongdoing or some conspiracy, right?


RE: Where's the news???
By Paj on 12/14/2010 11:58:43 AM , Rating: 2
No to mention the fact that a great many countries have hads their noses bloodied by the leaks, not just the US. The media just focusses on them more.


RE: Where's the news???
By Ammohunt on 12/14/2010 2:49:26 PM , Rating: 2
So you have no secrets? perhaps you should be transparent with your co-workers that you criticize or your ex-girlfirend that cheated on. I mean its just a broken nose right?


RE: Where's the news???
By Gzus666 on 12/14/2010 6:56:54 PM , Rating: 2
I see you don't understand the difference between a country and people. I have the freedom to be as secretive as I want with anything, that is unless I'm under scrutiny of a court and then guess what? I have to answer honestly and completely or risk perjury.

The government is not a person, it does not have the right to privacy or anything of that nature. It is OUR government, therefore we have every right to know what goes on at any time we wish. The key thing here is a government for the people, by the people. It is our possession to do with what we wish, not some animate creature that has rights.

You may wish for a secretive government in thoughts that they know what is good for you, but considering the populace and the people in charge I have seen, I am not very comfortable with that, how about yourself?


RE: Where's the news???
By bug77 on 12/15/2010 8:20:21 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I see you don't understand the difference between a country and people.


Which difference is that? A country is the people. By your own admission, you have your own secrets. If somehow tomorrow you'll be a member of the government, do you honestly expect me to believe you'll start broadcasting every single conversation you have at work?
A country or a government is not a different species, you know.


RE: Where's the news???
By Ammohunt on 12/15/2010 2:34:36 PM , Rating: 2
This knee jerk assumption that the only reason secrecy in government exists is to cover up wrong doing is as naïve as it is stupid. Having personally been privy to national secrets in the past; none of it was appropriate for public consumption and the release of such information would only have benefited one group of people that being the enemies of the free world. If you are an anarchist and anti-freedom then I can see your side of the argument.


RE: Where's the news???
By Solandri on 12/14/2010 1:04:22 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Seriously if they are going to filter what to publish and what not then there's no difference between openleaks and any other news website.

Anyway the governments work for the people, why should they then keep secrets from them?... the only good reason for that is that politicians think most people are too stupid to understand politics and instead on educating them they prefer to keep them in the shadows.

No, it's because free societies like Western democracies don't exist in a vacuum. They're competing with other not-so-free societies like China. Ideally, the government could reveal all its secrets to just its citizens. But the problem is that's impossible to achieve in practice. If you reveal all the government's secrets to its citizens, it's inevitable that those secrets will make their way to non-citizens.

When you spill all of a free society's secrets to the rest of the world, you're putting the free society at a disadvantage to the not-so-free society. You're also validating the reasons why the not-so-free society feels a not-so-free society is better - because they don't show their cards to everyone in the poker game of international relations. So indiscriminately revealing secrets will cause free societies to lose influence while not-so-free societies gain influence. In other words, it will result in less freedom, not more.

In this environment, for leaked secrets to be a positive for free societies, the leaks have to be limited to exposing corruption. That way the free society can clean up the corruption and become stronger. Someone needs to go through the leaks, decide which parts are rooting out real corruption, and which parts would just put the free society at a disadvantage to the not-so-free societies. Most journalistic organizations are pretty good at this. Unfortunately, Wikileaks seems to be one of those who share your misguided belief that there is no such thing as a good secret.

You're trying to argue that a society which keeps no secret is superior and (more importantly) capable of self-preservation in a universe with lots of different societies which keep varying degrees of secrets, some downright hostile to your society's existence. But just saying it's so doesn't make it so. All you've done is made a completely unsubstantiated claim. You're going to have to come up with a lot of reasoning and data to back up your hypothesis.


RE: Where's the news???
By Strunf on 12/14/2010 3:53:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If you reveal all the government's secrets to its citizens, it's inevitable that those secrets will make their way to non-citizens.

Hiding things from your citizens will not stop others from knowing them using other means, I don't have any doubt that China knows more about the US dirty secrets than anyone else.

quote:
When you spill all of a free society's secrets to the rest of the world, you're putting the free society at a disadvantage to the not-so-free society.

Then why the USSR went down?... in the end you can't keep your people in the shadow forever. China is going strong and will keep going, not cause they are somewhat more "not-so-free" but cause they have a huge population, lots of raw resources and a huge country, there's plenty of democracies that are also becoming stronger, but hey feel free to think otherwise.

quote:
Someone needs to go through the leaks, decide which parts are rooting out real corruption,

Someone like your government?... the moment you say someone it's over your system can be corrupt, your so called machine against corruption will be used and abused to fit the agenda of someone. And no, most journalistic organizations are not fit for this, the connections between the news channels and the politicians is no big news today.
I'm still laughing my ass off when I think of Jessica Lynch...

"You're trying to argue that a society which keeps no secret is superior."
I'm not trying I'm saying it secrets are the root of all evils, the single fact that there's only one non democratic country that is doing good proves me right.


RE: Where's the news???
By Lerianis on 12/16/2010 4:06:11 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, Strund, I would have to say that a government that keeps no secrets, except for very short periods when operations are ongoing that would be endangered by a lack of secrecy, IS better and the best system a country could have.

People forget that we, the United States citizenry, are supposed to be the employers of the government, with the right to know everything that they are doing except in those very few cases listed above where operations would be endangered by a lack of secrecy, and only until those operations are over.

There is no reason for secrets that last 50, 60, 100 years or more! NONE!
The only people who think there is an reason for that have been brainwashed with American Exceptionalism and don't want to have to monitor what the government is doing and think about what they are doing in our name.


RE: Where's the news???
By Lerianis on 12/16/2010 4:02:04 AM , Rating: 2
Strunf, I agree totally. I can understand government having to have secrets for VERY SHORT PERIODS when operations are ongoing, but after that? Simply declassify everything and redact to protect the identities of people and release EVERYTHING!

There is no reason why government should have secrets from us, who are supposed to be the employers of government officials and even the President of the United States and Congress.


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