Former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg told German newspaper Der Spiegel that he had destroyed thousands of unpublished files formerly in WikiLeaks servers, to protect, he claims, those who made those documents available. Among the files he deleted was a “U.S. no-fly list,” the document that blacklisted persons not allowed to fly aircraft belonging to or flying to the United States.
Domscheit-Berg was an ally of the WikiLeaks founderand was the spokesman for the whistle-blowing site until the two clashed on a variety of issues. According to Domscheit-Berg, who recently published a book about his experiences inside WikiLeaks, Assange cannot be trusted with sensitive data. He says he “shredded” over 3,000 unpublished documents to prevent the sources from being compromised.
In a statement posted on Twitlonger, WikiLeaks confirmed the deletion of “U.S. no-fly list,” but also added that the documents destroyed included the Bank of America files (totaling five gigabytes of data) that Assange had planned to release to challenge the financial industry, documents on at least twenty far-right neo-Nazi groups, and “U.S. intercept arrangements for over 100 Internet companies.” The statement also rejected Domscheit-Berg’s claim that the sources were at risk of being compromised.
“The material is irreplaceable and includes substantial information on many issues of public importance, human rights abuses, mass telecommunications interception, banking and the planning of dozens of neo-nazi groups. Our sources have in some cases risked their lives or freedom attempting to convey these disclosures to WikiLeaks and to the public,” the statement said. “As a matter of policy and implementation WikiLeaks does not collect or retain source identifying information, so fortunately, source identities for this material are not significantly at risk.”
In an e-mail exchange with Wired, however, Domscheit-Berg said that WikiLeaks is exaggerating the contents of the files he destroyed. Assange “was aware of the submissions and had taken out all the stuff he deemed worthy enough,” he wrote in an email. “It is not like we did not talk to one another, so he was aware of the submissions. He just claims all kinds of stuff now that is not true.” Domscheit-Berg also said that the “U.S. no-fly list” was not of much importance since it was “one of those lists floating around on the Internet.”
As for the WikiLeaks allegation that their former spokesman also destroyed the Bank of America files and the rest of the “irreplaceable” cache of documents, Domscheit-Berg said the charges were “false and misleading.” He notes that Assange announced the planned release of Bank of America files in late 2009. Assange initially claimed that he was being blackmailed by Bank of America and now he accuses me of deleting the files, Domscheit-Berg said, pointing to an alleged inconsistency in Assange’s position.
Meanwhile, Domscheit-Berg’s credibility, who had previously claimed to have never taken away any WikiLeaks documents when he departed, is being questioned by top German hacking group Chaos Computer Club which, according to Del Spiegel, stripped Domscheit-Berg from membership. In an interview he gave to the German newspaper, the CCC’s spokesman Andy Muller-Maguhn says that he doubts “Domscheit-Berg’s integrity.”
Mullen-Maguhn alleges that the former WikiLeaks spokesman simply wanted to use CCC’s reputation to build up his newly-founded site OpenLeaks. He also rejected the Domscheit-Berg’s claim that files are not safe with Assange. “That’s nonsense,” he said. “I’ve visited Assange a number of times in England over the last 11 months. There I also saw more than 10 hard-working WikiLeaks employees from around the world. And Assange’s mobility is limited by the electronic ankle monitor in any case.”
These revelations may be good news for Bank of America but a blow to the emerging whistle-blower culture on the Internet modeled on WikiLeaks.