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Unleaked: Former WikiLeaks Spokesperson Destroys Over 3,500 Unpublished Documents

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Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German technology activist and former spokesperson for whistleblower organization WikiLeaks, announced today that he has destroyed over 3,500 unpublished documents that used to sit on WikiLeaks servers until he and others left the organization and took the data with them in late 2010. According to a report by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel (Google Translate), which interviewed Domscheit-Berg, this data includes, among many others, a copy of the no fly list kept by the U.S. government, five gigabytes from the Bank of America and US intercept arrangements for over 100 internet companies.

Domscheit berg portrait

Daniel Domscheit Berg (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

According to Der Spiegel, Domscheit-Berg – who was the effective No. 2 at WikiLeaks after its founder Julian Assange – deleted the data and shredded any paper evidence to protect the sources who gave the data to WikiLeaks in the first place. Domscheit-Berg argues that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who had been asking Domscheit-Berg to return the data, couldn’t guarantee that the data would stay safe.

Wikileaks’ Reaction

In a statement, WikiLeaks argues that it tried to negotiate with Domscheit-Berg and that he has “repeatedly attempted to blackmail WikiLeaks by threatening to make available, to forces that oppose WikiLeaks, these private communications [the unpublished documents] and to which Mr. Domscheit-Berg is not a party.”

WikiLeaks is also trying to distance itself from Domscheit-Berg and argues that his “roles within WikiLeaks were limited and started to diminish almost a year ago as his integrity and stability were questioned. […] He is not a founder or co-founder and nor was there any contact with him during the founding years. He did not even have an email address with the organization until 2008 (we launched in December 2006). He cannot program and wrote not a single program for the organization, at any time.”

The relationship between Domscheit-Berg and Assange has been rather contemptuous for a while now. After leaving the organization, the German activist also wrote a book about his experience with WikiLeaks and Assange in particular. In it, he does not paint a very favorable picture of Assange. In addition, he also founded a competing whistleblower platform OpenLeaks, which went public last week. OpenLeaks, which plans to make its platform available to newspaper and other organizations, however, did not have a very smooth launch and was heavily criticized by a number of Wikileaks activists.



4:41 am


News Organizations Want You To Read Sarah Palin’s Emails For Them

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Tomorrow, the State of Alaska will release 24,000 emails that Sarah Palin sent during her tenure as governor of Alaska. A number of media organizations and individuals made record requests for these documents in September 2008. Even though these are emails, though, the State of Alaska will only make them available on paper. In total, there will be six heavy boxes of paper that will contain emails Palin wrote from the beginning of her tenure in 2007 through September 2008. A massive amount of information like this is something even the largest news organizations can only handle when they get the documents ahead of time and under embargo (as was the case with Wikileaks). Because of this, a number of organizations, including the New York Times and the Washington Post are crowdsourcing their efforts to cover these documents. (more…)



6:43 pm


WSJ Launches Its Own Wikileaks-Inspired Whistleblower Service

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The Wall Street Journal today launched the WSJ SafeHouse, a new site that allows potential whistleblowers to safely submit documents to the Journal. It’s hard not to assume that this effort was not inspired by WikiLeaks and the success other papers have had with reporting about these leaked documents. The Journal, it’s worth noting, was never on the list of WikiLeaks’ partner organizations and hence never received these documents before they were published. Indeed, in an editorial in 2010, the WSJ called WikiLeaks “bastards” who endangered the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. As the WJS acknowledges, though, documents and databases are “key to modern journalism.” Submitted documents will be vetted by a WSJ editor.

Ensuring Anonymity

To ensure the anonymity of potential whistleblowers (though users can also submit their names, email addresses and phone numbers if they choose to do so), the WSJ encourages submitter to encrypt their documents with the Journal’s public PGP encryption key and to obscure their IP address with the help of the Tor project’s software. The SafeHouse site itself also uses https:// to ensure the data users send over the open Internet can’t be read by third-parties who intercept it.

There is obviously nothing new about the fact that news organizations accept documents from whistleblowers. By making it easier and safer to do so, though, organizations like the WSJ will likely increase the number of interesting documents they receive and – hopefully – be able to follow up on.



9:05 am


WikiLeaks: Got Secret Money in a Swiss Bank Account? Start Worrying

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Earlier this morning, a disgruntled employee of the private Swiss bank Julius Baer handed over two CDs with the data of “2000 prominent people” to Wikileaks, which is currently vetting this information and will likely post it online within the next few weeks. The disks contain information about the financial transactions of “financial firms and wealthy individuals” from countries including the UK, U.S., and Germany.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told the press earlier today that the group will likely hand the data over to other groups like the Tax Justice Network and financial media outlets to help WikiLeaks vet the information before it is posted online.

According to Reuters, the whistleblower, Rudolf Elmer (55), used to be the head of Julius Baer’s office in the Cayman Islands until he was fired in 2002. Elmer was one of the first whistleblowers to use WikiLeaks when he handed over the first batch of his data to the then-obscure site in 2007.



11:07 am