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Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Thursday, 10 February 2011
Life inside Julian Assange's Wikileaks

Daniel Domscheit-Berg
The former Wikileaks spokesman has launched his own Openleaks website

Julian Assange's former right hand man has given an insider's view of life at Wikileaks and his relationship with its founder amid staff concerns over his leadership.

"I believed in nothing in my life as much as this ideal that we pursued and I felt it was crumbling apart mainly because he was so damn ignorant against toward the criticism," Daniel Domscheit-Berg, told BBC's Panorama.

Mr Domscheit-Berg has written a book revealing what working at Wikileaks was like during the time it came to prominence for releasing 250,000 diplomatic cables.

He joined as a full time volunteer in 2007, but left last autumn and has since set up his own whistle-blowing website, Openleaks.

Mr Domscheit-Berg, who had been a key spokesman for Wikileaks, told the programme in a wide-ranging interview that he and others expressed their concerns but Mr Assange refused to acknowledge them.

He said that he feared the organisation in which he believed passionately was being put at risk, and that there was growing dissent about the lack of transparency in Wikileaks.

'Power grab'

He complained that he was being kept in the dark about the deals that were being agreed with media organisations and individuals for the release of secret documents.

Mr Assange, who is currently fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, did not grant Panorama's request for an interview. He denies the allegations against him and his hearing resumes Friday in London.

What do you do, do you stage a mutiny?
Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former Wikileaks spokesman

Mr Domscheit-Berg said he wanted Mr Assange to take a less public role after the allegations in Sweden became public and began to dominate the Wikileaks agenda.

"I was very worried on how we reacted to this as an organisation just because... if a spokesperson for an organisation is accused of such a grave thing, then you have to make sure that until... his name is cleared, the organisation and its reputation does not suffer."

But he said the suggestion was not well-received.

"That was not negotiable. He took this as an attack, he said it was a power grab that I was allegedly seeing this as my chance, as he put, to get out of middle management."

Mr Domscheit-Berg said he felt Wikileaks was rash to use the Twitter social network to tweet that it had been told to expect dirty tricks amid a barrage of criticism.

"So rather than crying foul game by crying conspiracy immediately, if you do that immediately you put these women automatically in a position where they are not credible anymore," he said.

"And I'm not sure if that is the way to do justice to such grave accusations."


Mr Domscheit-Berg decided to leave Wikileaks last autumn several weeks after he was first suspended by Mr Assange for insubordination.

The Wikileaks founder had also accused him of leaking a story about internal rows to the press, which Mr Domscheit-Berg denied.

Wikileaks website
The Wikileaks website shot to international prominence in 2010

A small handful of key players left around the same time as him.

"What do you do, do you stage a mutiny?

"We tried to resolve all these issues...when we realised that he was behaving like a child clutching on his toy, we just decided to go play in a different sand box."

But Mr Domscheit-Berg said it was not always acrimonious within the company and described a very successful working relationship and true sense of being "on a mission" as Wikileaks progressed from a start-up idealistic operation to a household name at the centre of international scrutiny.

In his volunteer role with Wikileaks, he said he first found Mr Assange to be "inspired and inspiring" and in no way motivated by financial gain.

"I was a volunteer in the same way that he was, we worked on a common goal, I was not paid, I had no contract or anything like this, we were partners from my perspective."

He described Mr Assange as a man who lived a nomadic life with few possessions.

"He was one of the few people that I knew that were willing to do something without thinking first of all about how they could maybe profit from it, how they could sustain their living from it."

Mr Domscheit-Berg said despite setting up his own competing whistle-blowing site, he hoped that Wikileaks continued to flourish.

He said he believed having more players in the field would be more effective in holding governments, corporations and powerful individuals to account.

Panorama's WikiLeaks: The Secret Story , BBC One, Monday, 14 February at 2030 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.


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