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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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Lerianis on 12/16/2010 4:14:38 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
by ABR on December 14, 2010 at 5:45 AM

Wanting sites like wikileaks to choose and filter their information is misguided. That function is already carried out by governments, mainstream media, corporate boards, and the like. The point of wikileaks is they are NOT going to play Big Brother and make their own decisions about what the common citizenry should and shouldn't know. The philosophy is, governments SHOULD be of, by, and for the people. Secrets, aside from in times of war, have no place in such a world. This attitude is NOT something that should be naively and disparagingly labeled as "anarchism". It is an extension of the very same high ideals that have led us steadily toward better governmental structures and away from totalitarian and other pure power-based arrangements since the dawn of civilization.


ABR, I agree totally. The fact is that outside of secrets for very short periods when operations are currently ongoing and would be endangered by lack of secrecy, the government should not be allowed to have any secrets.

Even then, after the operation in question is done, redact and release to the American people the information about the operation in question, and take the knocks on the noggin if the United States citizenry or the citizenry of your country X doesn't like what you are doing in their name.

To allow secrecy allows things like the Tuskegee Experiements, Bay of Pigs, and My Lai to happen or go unpunished for longer than they should.


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