Daniel Domscheit-Berg: a comparative analysis

In the light of the recent press statements by Openleaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg we decided to have a look at some older coverage, in particular his Spiegel interview from the 27th of September 2010. It appeared soon after he had left Wikileaks, and it was also translated into English.

The first question of the Spiegel reporters concerned the state of the Wikileaks IT infrastructure. Asked why the Wikileaks e mail system was down, Domscheit-Berg answered:

“Es gibt technische Probleme und niemanden, der sich darum kümmert. WikiLeaks steckt in einer Phase, in der sich das Projekt verändern müsste. Wir sind in den letzten Monaten wahnsinnig schnell gewachsen und müssten uns dringend in allen Bereichen professionalisieren und transparenter werden. Diese Entwicklung wird intern blockiert.”

“There are technical problems and no one to take care of them. WikiLeaks is stuck in a phase in which the project has to change itself. We grew insanely fast in recent months and we urgently need to become more professional and transparent in all areas. This development is being blocked internally.”

He does not mention that it was him and an associate who took the servers offline, as he now admitted. Rather, he makes it appear that this was a general structural problem.

Another very interesting fact is that he admits to having coordinated the finances of Wikileaks. Thus, he acknowledges that he knew about the funds available via the Wau Holland Foundation. This makes it very difficult to comprehend, why he would have paid servers privately, as he has now claimed.

Most revealing is, however, the following passage about pending submissions:

“Und durch unsere gestiegene Bekanntheit ist im letzten halben Jahr noch einmal sehr viel Material hinzugekommen, das dringend bearbeitet und publiziert werden müsste.”

“And through our rising recognition in the last six months, we have again received a lot of material that urgently needs to be processed and published.”

This statement is in stark contrast to a recent interview with Austrian public TV station ORF:

“Alles Interessante an dem Material war schon längst veröffentlicht, etwa das CIA Red Cell Memorandum, die Loveparade-Geschichte und einige andere Einzelfälle. Es hat sich darunter nichts mehr befunden, was den Aufwand und das Risiko einer Veröffentlichung gerechtfertigt hätten.”

“All of the interesting material had been published a long time ago, for instance the CIA Red Cell Memorandum, the Loveparade matter, and some other isolated things. Amongst it, there was nothing that would have justified the time [needed for the editorial efforts] or the risk it posed.”

With regard to the ownership of the pending Wikileaks submissions and the servers, he says:

“Aus meiner Sicht sollten Material und alle Spendengelder bei WikiLeaks bleiben, denn beides ist explizit diesem Projekt zugeflossen.”

“It is my view that material and money from donors should remain at WikiLeaks, because both were intended explicitly for this project.”

At some point, he must have changed his mind about the matter. By February, he gave another interview to German weekly magazine Stern, stating that he would only return the data if Wikileaks could guarantee security. He criticizes amongst others that they did not have an encrypted website, and gives as a reason that Assange was obviously too busy exploiting the present releases.

At around the same time, Wikileaks’ German solicitor Johannes Eisenberg sent Domscheit-Berg a letter asking for the material to be returned.

Overall, it has become clear that Domscheit-Berg changed his story. A year ago, he talked about a number of important submissions which were left aside, and uses this as a reason to criticize Wikileaks, whereas he now claims that the submissions were not worth the effort, to justify that he destroyed them.


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