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WikiLeaks Crippled By Programmer

February 10, 2011

Would-be leakers, activists and journalists who have worked with the site say that WikiLeak’s ability to receive new leaks has been crippled after a disaffected programmer unplugged a component which guaranteed anonymity.

A source familiar with the contents of a new book told Reuters that the details of the breakdown are contained in the book, penned by estranged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange collaborator Daniel Domscheit-Berg which is due to be published on Friday.

The source familiar with the contents of “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange At the World’s Most Dangerous,” Domscheit-Berg took a backlog of leaks sent to the WikiLeaks website with him when he left.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesman, said in a statement issued to the Forbes website on Wednesday that the website was suing Domscheit-Berg, who served with Assange until late last year as one of WikiLeak’s two principal spokesmen.

“In (his) book Domscheit-Berg confesses to various acts of sabotage against the organization. The former WikiLeaks staffer admits to having damaged the site’s primary submission system and stolen material,” Hrafnsson’s statement said.

“The sabotage and concern over motives led to an overhaul of the entire submission system, an ongoing project that is not being expedited due to its complex nature and the organizations need to focus its resources on publication and defense,” Hrafnsson added.

The activists and journalists who have worked with WikiLeaks and Assange say the website’s ability to receive new leaks of data has been crippled, if not totally disabled, for months.

Domscheit-Berg recently announced he was creating a WikiLeaks spinoff or rival called OpenLeaks.org with support from a former WikiLeaks programmer, believed to be a German, whose programming skills are more dazzling than Assange’s.

Precisely how much material is sent to WikiLeaks is now under the control of Domscheit-Berg and the programmer is unclear.

Domschiet-Berg has not publicly characterized the subject matter or volume of material he has stashed away, though he has indicated that at some point, he might be willing to give control of it back to Assange.

Domscheit-Berg said in an email to Reuters that he planned to offer a public clarification of what happened at a news conference scheduled for Thursday.

He said to avoid what he has condemned as Assange’s dictorial leadership of WikiLeaks, OpenLeaks will be a more decentralized organization.

The new website will not publish or analyze leaks itself that it receives, but instead with serve as a conduit to relay the information to partners in the website, who could include media outlets, NGO groups, and labor unions.

WikiLeaks insiders say the founder still has control over substantial quantities of data leaked to the site.  He has said in the past this includes a huge cache of data from the hard-drive of a Bank of America executive.

Domscheit-Berg said in an interview with the German weekly magazine Stern that Assange’s cache of bank data is old and “completely unspectacular.”

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