Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 12, 2011

WikiLeaks versus OpenLeaks

Filed under: Wikileaks — louisproyect @ 10:48 pm

Julian Assange

Daniel Domscheidt-Berg

In the very week in which Julian Assange is in court to block being extradited to Sweden to stand trial for sex crimes, a tell-all book titled “Inside WikiLeaks” by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former associate who grew estranged from the WikiLeaks founder, will be released in Germany and in the USA. As might be expected, the author has been given ample coverage in the bourgeois press. His charges against Assange are obviously intended to accelerate the process of destroying WikiLeaks. In addition to his accusations against Assange, which jibe with NY Times editor Bill Keller (paranoid, etc.), Daniel Domscheit-Berg has launched his own website called OpenLeaks that promises to be more “responsible”. I, for one, am in favor of irresponsibility—at least as defined by people like Keller and Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

Given the steady drumbeat of bad publicity, it is not surprising that even the left has piled on. In Truthdig.com, a ‘zine that has written favorably about Assange in the past, you can find a review of Domscheit-Berg’s book that I find credulous. The author is one Laurel Maury, who is described as having written for the LA Times and NPR in the past—something that sets off an alarm for me right off the bat.

The review takes Domscheit-Berg’s accusations at face value:

The litany of lies, low-level abuse and social transgressions that the author attributes to Assange is disturbing. He claims that this notoriously peripatetic soul has always been deeply paranoid. His accusation is probably true; in reacting to an article on WikiLeaks that ran in Wired, Assange accused the article writer of calling for his assassination. And if Domscheit-Berg’s retelling of facts is correct, the WikiLeaks founder has a “free and easy relationship to the truth,” and is cagey and secretive concerning money. He’s also sexually profligate, and turns vicious toward anyone who criticizes him, even when that criticism is well-meaning and constructive, and he seems to have difficulty relinquishing control.

To Truthdig’s credit, they have a rather lively commenting community—far better than anything I have seen on the leftwing of the Internet by far. I have put in my own two cents from time to time, especially after I read some particularly annoying pro-Obama piece by E.J. Dionne. Here is a representative comment on Maury’s article:

The article states that the author of this book himself claims to have sabotaged Wikileaks’ ability to receive documents. If true, then the author has sabotaged one of the world’s most vital journalistic enterprises. If false, then the author is a liar who is trying to undermine the credibility of…one of the world’s most vital journalistic enterprises. Yet the author of this review fails to point this out, and in fact seems to promote the book as some kind of credible “insider’s view.” How distressing that such a review should appear on a site called “TruthDig.” Does the author think that this name means “dig a hole for the truth and bury it there?”

At least one website has failed to be as impressed by Domscheit-Berg’s accusations as Ms. Maury. The Raw Story reports:

Daniel Domscheit-Berg accuses WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of many things in his book presented Thursday, but perhaps the oddest allegation is that he abused the former insider’s cat.

“Julian was constantly battling for dominance, even with my tomcat Herr Schmitt,” Domscheit-Berg says in his book “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website.”

“Ever since Julian lived with me in Wiesbaden he (the cat) has suffered from psychosis. Julian would constantly attack the animal. He would spread out his fingers like a fork and grab the cat’s throat.”

Well, who knows. Maybe the cat reminded him of Paul Wolfowitz.

With respect to the charge of espionage above, Ms. Maury reported:

Also, WikiLeaks was turned into a strong, secure system not by Assange, the book alleges, but by the mysterious architect, whom Domscheit-Berg described as the real “in-house genius.” It was the architect who locked up the submissions platform and left at the same time as Domscheit-Berg. A perceptive reader might suspect that, if these two men used high-end encryption protocols and locked up documents as well, it may be that the WikiLeaks system must be rebuilt from the ground up, and that some leaked data will be forever lost to the site.

No wonder Domscheit-Berg is getting such favorable attention in the bourgeois press. What the CIA and its friends worldwide could not accomplish, these creeps managed to pull off: a locked-up submissions platform.

For the best report on how Domscheit-Berg seeks a housebroken version of WikiLeaks, I refer you to a blog entry by Andy Greenberg on Forbes Magazine, a publication that obviously has a vested interest as a “capitalist tool” in shutting down WikiLeaks. Greenberg writes:

The German Domscheit-Berg, along with several other former Wikileaks staffers, plans to launch a website they’re calling OpenLeaks as early as next week, Domscheit-Berg told Forbes in an interview. Like WikiLeaks, the new site will allow leakers to anonymously submit information to a secure online dropbox. But unlike its parent site, it won’t publish that information itself. Instead, it will allow the source to designate any media or non-governmental organizations he or she chooses and have that information passed on for fact-checking, redaction and publication. That difference, argues Domscheit-Berg, will allow OpenLeaks to accomplish much of the transparency achieved by WikiLeaks, without drawing the same political fury and legal pressure.

Without drawing the same political fury and legal pressure? Right. Just what we need now. Why put up with all the street demonstrations in Tunisia that were triggered in part by Wikileak revelations on the profligacy of the country’s rulers. The revolt in Tunisia only served to provoke “political fury” in Egypt and we can’t have that, can we. I can just imagine OpenLeaks turning over a bunch of leaked documents to the New York Times about, for example, the CIA operating secretly in Venezuela and saying, “Here, Mr. Keller, please considering publishing this if it passes muster. I am sure your readers would be vitally interested in finding out the truth.”

Make no mistake about it. The powers that be do not want anything like WikiLeaks operating out there. Not only does the CIA want to put it out of business, so do major corporations who worry about their dirty linen ending up on WikiLeaks. So desperate they are to keep things secret that they have effectively organized their own private CIA to subvert the whistle-blowers, as today’s New York Times reports:

A fight between a group of pro-WikiLeaks hackers and a California-based Internet security business has opened a window onto the secretive world of private companies that offer to help corporations investigate and discredit their critics.

This week, hackers said they had penetrated the computers of HBGary Federal, a security company that sells investigative services to corporations, and posted tens of thousands of what appear to be its internal company e-mails on the Internet.

The documents appear to include pitches for unseemly ways to undermine adversaries of Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, like doing background research on their critics and then distributing fake documents to embarrass them.

The bank and the chamber do not appear to have directly solicited the spylike services of HBGary Federal. Rather, HBGary Federal offered to do the work for Hunton & Williams, a corporate law firm that has represented them.

Considering the impact that Wikileaks has had on world affairs in the past few months, there is little question that something like it is needed. Whatever Julian Assange’s sins, he had the foresight to launch a whistle-blowing outlet that has had a role in massive social change. The left has a responsibility to support him in his ongoing efforts until someone more credible and more mature comes along. Considering the willingness of OpenLeaks to accommodate itself to the status quo, it is urgent that people with technical skills step forward and help overcome the temporary damage that Domscheit-Berg and his co-conspirators have wrought. We are at a moment in history when the ruling class has shown how vulnerable it is to the truth. With the failure of the bourgeois press to fulfill its responsibility to its readers, we need an alternative media with WikiLeaks in the vanguard.

19 Comments »

  1. Thanks for pointing out the reactionary character of Openleaks. Of course it is not unheard of for contributors to small projects to rip out their code when there is a falling out, but the effect in a case like this is that of a political act of a deeply reactionary nature. The reaction of some of those close to Wikileaks also reveals some of the weaknesses of the typical libertarian politics of many hackers. On the one side are those who have accused Wikileaks for dealing with the media at all and not just dumping everything unfiltered onto their site – that is for not adhering to a strict all-information-is-free sort of anarchism. On the other are those who want to accommodate it to the status quo like Openleaks. Both essentially want to strip the political character from the act, want to avoid taking political responsibility. Assange had a political analysis of the power structures he was up against and that informed everything he did and is why he organized the project the way he did. It is also clear that some of his collaborators lacked such an analysis (only having basic hacker-style libertarianism) and when the pressure came, they cracked. It is a well known truism in hacking that your systems are only as secure as your people. One lesson of this is probably that a project like this requires explicit political commitment on the part of its participants, generic libertarianism won’t do. On the other hand it is fascinating to see the way hacking has become politicized in the wake of Wikileaks with groups like Anonymous having developed a long way from where they were a few years ago in political terms.

    Comment by dave x — February 12, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

  2. “will be released”? – it’s saturday, 12th, it is releasted already (and even leaked already)

    it seriously won’t help to reply to every critisizm with the single answer: “this follows exactly the CIA gameplay…” – no world consists of more than assange supporters and CIA members and there are reasons, various, heavy and many of them, to treet this critisizm seriously and to rething the advise birgitta gave a few months ago. WL definitely needs a restructuring of their power structures, the current vertical one is the last that will help the network.

    the book contains more than just the cat anecdote, high time to finally start to treat serious parts seriously.

    a) sb repeats he wants to be called a journalist but needs a ghostwriter for his texts as now with “his” autobiography? we learn from the book this is not the first time.
    b) after letting the manning network wait ages for the (previously loudly announced) donation, we learn from the book that even such expenses like research flights to iraq were not paid. instead now assange pays an antisemite, a quite disgusting holocaust denier.

    and and and and.

    not high, it’s highest time to rethink birgittas proposal.

    Comment by teeater — February 12, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

  3. typo correction
    “no world consists of more than …”
    -> “the world consists of more than assange supporters and CIA members”

    and dave: it was the work of a programmer who left the organization. sry, but this was exactly what you do in such a moment. of course you take your work with you. if this in effect means jeopardize the material, indeed taking data with you is what you have to do in such a moment.

    remember this sentence: “I am the heart and soul… if you don’t like it, piss off…” – with such an attitude I can understand if somebody may be a bit surprized when learning a bit later than the rest of the world around him that it’s a bit more complex. yes, the echo of this sentence will keep rolling through the net. there is a reason for this, the reasons’s name is not CIA.

    Comment by teeater — February 13, 2011 @ 12:04 am

  4. teeater says:
    “and dave: it was the work of a programmer who left the organization. sry, but this was exactly what you do in such a moment. of course you take your work with you. if this in effect means jeopardize the material, indeed taking data with you is what you have to do in such a moment.

    remember this sentence: “I am the heart and soul… if you don’t like it, piss off…” – with such an attitude I can understand if somebody may be a bit surprized when learning a bit later than the rest of the world around him that it’s a bit more complex”

    Yes it is what you might normally do. However this was far from a normal situation. It was an action that put personal spite above some very high political stakes. It reveals a smallness of character and and a naivity about the way the world works, about the way power works. Saying that sentence about ‘heart and soul’ might not have been diplomatic or the best way to approach that situation, but it was the truth. Assange has made mistakes but they are not the mistakes that Birgitta or that Daniel Domscheit-Berg have accused him of. They have accused Assange of personal failings but the real personal failings are on their side.

    Comment by dave x — February 13, 2011 @ 12:33 am

  5. “Yes it is what you might normally do. However this was far from a normal situation.”

    erm dave, this is exactly what JA was supposed to think about before starting to treat people whose work made the former success possible like that.

    “Saying that sentence about ‘heart and soul’ might not have been diplomatic or the best way to approach that situation, but it was the truth.”

    simply just your own suprise about the effect of the programmers’ action is one of the proofs how wrong you’re here.

    Comment by teeater — February 13, 2011 @ 12:40 am

  6. teeater:
    My critique was that everyone, not just Assange, needed to be politically committed from the start, that generic hacker libertarianism was not enough, that this can be seen with the way core pieces of the Wikileaks team cracked under pressure. Wikileaks was always a political project but this was articulated technically and methodologically, not in terms of group composition. Your comments have done nothing to disconfirm this thesis. I am in fact not surprised by any of this, though I think it is unfortunate and reflects very badly on the Openleaks people.

    Comment by dave x — February 13, 2011 @ 1:07 am

  7. The leaked campaign to attack WikiLeaks and its supporters –
    Glenn Greenwald –

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/?source=newsletter&utm_source=contactology&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Salon_Daily%20Newsletter%20%28Not%20Premium%29_7_30_110

    Comment by Dennis Brasky — February 13, 2011 @ 2:10 am

  8. That is a great and damning article. Greenwald just keeps getting better.

    Comment by dave x — February 13, 2011 @ 3:40 am

  9. “group composition”, dave?

    again: wikileaks is not a one-man-company, at least not in terms the spokesperson JA keeps presenting it to the public.

    the project works as a network and needs, it d.e.p.e.n.d.s on help of a lot of people. indeed what you call projects like this is – networks.
    if you then still keep asking for help and keep needing it there is a point you simply have to realize you are to stop to behave like a CEO with a boss complex.

    JA failed with that, he fails with that for a longer time now. his job as a spokesperson was well done for a long time. but since we learn more and more about his personal inability to deal with other responsibilities, I have actually doubts if WL has a future as long the team (the rest of it as much as possible new team members) does not start a sincere internal debate about the power structures inside.

    JA is – we learn this from DDB’S book – well aware that other ppl involved would not accept a holocaust denier in the team. it’s himself alone to deeply jeopardize WL with his very own autocratic decision to igore this fact. yes, the fastest way to discredit wikileaks in the eyes of many supporters is to work with such people. obviously this is another fact that seems not to reach this stubborn person.

    Comment by teeater — February 13, 2011 @ 9:50 am

  10. Louis,
    Awesome read. Sorry to get off topic but I have to ask you an unrelated question. I read an article of yours about Jared Diamond. I just finished reading Collapse as part of my Global Issues course and I was surfing the web for criticisms to include in my paper. In your article, “Jared Diamond; Greenwasher” posted on Counterpunch, did you perceive Diamond as ignorant or a shill? Further, do you see any benefits at all having big business getting involved in climate change? Again, I read your article and observed the manipulation that transpired. Hope to hear from you, thanks!

    Comment by Pat — February 13, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

  11. I am not sure ignorant or shill captures what Diamond is about. He is much more a product of capitalist ideology overall. He simply cannot think outside the box. So he writes on behalf of Chevron’s “green” credentials because the thought of challenging the military-economic power of corporate behemoths is something that would never occur to him. The other problem is that his celebrity reinforces these tendencies. There would have to be some major disaster that would force him to rethink things, like Chevron being involved in a BP type disaster. But even then, he’d probably rationalize what happened.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 13, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  12. […] WikiLeaks versus OpenLeaks “ Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist By louisproyect The article states that the author of this book himself claims to have sabotaged Wikileaks’ ability to receive documents. If true, then the author has sabotaged one of the world’s most vital journalistic enterprises. … louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/wikileaks-versus-openleaks/ […]

    Pingback by Creative-i : Wikileaks Newslinks for 13 February, 2011 — February 13, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

  13. Louis, what about Diamonds credentials as an Academic? I know you could probably provide a list supporting your view, however I’m thinking that Diamond has the ability to rationalize and think outside the box. For instance, he went back and forth between Harvard, Cambridge, and UCLA during the late 50’s through the 60’s, don’t you think he’s received enough training to exercise independent thought? UCLA in the late 60’s? Perhaps he’s rationalizing at this juncture. Any value in that? I think structural Marxists views may be better applied to fools like myself, and that view is quite valid, I see it in effect everyday in class. Also, he does note living in Indonesia during the Suharto regime and mentions almost dying during the revolts….thoughts?

    Comment by Pat — February 13, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  14. For instance, he went back and forth between Harvard, Cambridge, and UCLA during the late 50′s through the 60′s, don’t you think he’s received enough training to exercise independent thought?

    Actually, these are exactly the places where you are trained to think inside the box.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 13, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

  15. […] WikiLeaks versus OpenLeaks « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist […]

    Pingback by Weblog News Wikileaks : Julian Assange-Terrorist or Christ? — February 13, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

  16. “Actually, these are exactly the places where you are trained to think inside the box.” – louis

    exactly – these are the places that define and theorize the box, for the box owners.

    Comment by jp — February 14, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  17. louis, I think you got this one totally wrong. Assange has conducted himself in a stupid manner. He is obviosuly incapable of accepting critiscism – and wikileaks stopped working for the most part in 2010 because of that. apart from the helicopter video, the cables & the iraq files, wikileaks did publish almost nothing else in 2010 – that’s rather bad for a website that wants to be central to whistleblowing, if you only publish info by a single source for a whole year.

    then, Assange wrote an email to Domscheidt-Berg to have the antisemite & Holocaust denier Israel Shamir on the team under a nick name in order not to worry other people

    there is other stuff as well: for example, Domscheidt-Berg wanted to support Bradley Manning financially, which Assange kept on “forgetting”.

    you also seem to misunderstand what Domscheidt-Berg means by “responsible”. he wants the website to be safe for people who provide the sources

    Comment by PfromGermany — February 14, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

  18. So what is your position on Assange making Domscheidt-Berg’s pussy cat psychotic? That for me is the burning issue. I once tried to drive my cat Lucille crazy by wiggling my fingers under the blanket but she handled my provocation with great aplomb.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 14, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

  19. I am writing a thesis with the hope that it will be applied to better the world we live in. This thesis is on Public Trust in the Media, WikiLeaks, and the Government and need to know what your opinions are. The online survey is anonymous, multiple choice and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Please follow the link: http://www.kwiksurveys.com/?s=​ILLLML_9669e09d. Would be great if you would encourage others to do the survey also.

    Comment by mediatriage — July 27, 2011 @ 8:14 am


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