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Nobody can keep a secret, least of all WikiLeaks

A tell-all book by his once-trusted No. 2 reveals the strange life of Julian Assange


 
Nobody can keep a secret

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As a polarizing figure, Julian Assange, the Australian founder and public face of WikiLeaks, makes Sarah Palin look like everyone’s favourite grandmother. A hero of the digital age for millions after posting thousands of government and corporate secrets online, for others—including government officials worldwide—Assange is a reckless endangerer of lives. Now in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sex crimes—intentionally damaging a condom during sex with one woman and forcing sex on another while she was asleep—the 39-year-old Australian is also variously viewed as the victim of a CIA plot, a rapist or simply a cad.

But for his former No. 2 at WikiLeaks, once a hero-worshipping acolyte, Assange is pretty much all these things. As Daniel Domscheit-Berg, known (after his cat) as Daniel Schmitt in his days as WikiLeaks’ chief spokesman, writes in his just-released book, Inside WikiLeaks, never before or since has he met anyone like Assange: “So imaginative, so energetic, so brilliant, so paranoid, so power-hungry, so megalomaniac.”

Daniel met Julian in WikiLeaks’ early days, and worked with him long distance for over a year, before the Australian came to stay in the German’s Wiesbaden apartment for two eye-opening months in 2009. His peculiar guest had clearly been “raised by wolves,” Daniel writes. When he cooked—Julian never did—dividing the food was a matter of who could eat the fastest; Assange generally got three-quarters. After Daniel came back from Switzerland with Ovaltine powder he never had a chance to make a drink—Julian ate all the powder straight from the packages. Assange eats everything with his hands, Domscheit-Berg records, and a reader can feel the fastidious German’s concern for his couch when he adds, “and he always wipes his fingers on his pants.” In between constant attacks on Daniel’s cat Mr. Schmitt—a matter of “training vigilance,” Julian explained to Domscheit-Berg—Assange kept “reinventing himself every day,” providing his host with no fewer than three different versions of his past.

Domscheit-Berg is muted on Assange and women, writing elliptically about the time Julian brought a woman into a hotel bed the two men were sharing: “I buried my head in my pillow and tried to sleep.” Assange liked his women young, 22 or less, and subservient, something that leads Daniel to guess what happened in Sweden: “A sexist guy came together with a pair of emancipated women in a country with stricter standards concerning sexual conduct than most other nations.”

In the end, it wasn’t Assange’s manners or morals that drove Domscheit-Berg from WikiLeaks. By mid-2010, arguments over what to do with new secrets, monetary donations—Daniel wanted new servers, Julian wanted to hoard money—and how WikiLeaks should respond to the Swedish allegations, had turned personally rancid. In the German’s view, Assange had become secretive, controlling and paranoid—a caricature of what he was battling. When he acted to toss Domscheit-Berg overboard, Assange expressed himself in words that read like a bad satire of 1984: “You are suspended for disloyalty, insubordination and destabilization in a time of crisis.”


 

Nobody can keep a secret, least of all WikiLeaks

  1. whiner.

  2. Doesn't surprise me at all that Assange is one "strange cookie." He strikes me as the type of kid bullies would beat up for his lunch money at school…and now he's out for revenge!

    A rather odd hero for so many people to embrace. The movement supporting more open government and public input is so much bigger than the ego and celebrity status of one little man.

    • who cares

      • Really?…I thought they would have been too busy organizing the next influenza panic.

        • No, they're busy performing a benefit concert.

      • i care

    • Why are people swallowing all these ad hominin fallacies? Are people really that stupid? Regardless of Assange's personality, WikiLeaks has done good and Assange did come up with the idea for WikiLeaks, and he did spark that movement. Even DDB has nothing but praises for the idea behind WikiLeaks.

      • This cuts both ways though….

        Some people use ad hominem attacks on Assange in an attempt to discredit Wikileaks. But there are just as many people out there who are using Wikileak's positive aspects to defend Assange the man. People shouldn't "swallow" either argument.

        It's rather ludicrous to claim that Assange can not do (or couldn't have done) anything wrong just because he's the Wikileaks guy. (Mind you…similar celebrity status seems to have worked out alright for O.J…for a while at least.) Both rely heavily on conspiracy theories in their own defense…which is a sure-fire sign of desperation and the quickest way to lose your credibility IMO.

        Wikileaks can be and has been good…and bad. Same can be said for Assange the man.

        • Assange is a narcissist and he needed and audience, wikileaks is just an easy way to find one without a lot of work involved, there is a lot of of pissed people around this world who wants to get even with the bosses, governments, leaders, etc.

          Could be a very noble concept done the right way, he could of done it without revealing himself but he just loved the camara and attention!

          Not relevant to this tread I couldn't reply to your post about Ignatieff, intensedebate is going a little crazy, got your reply on my inbox but can't go to the message, but I agree with what you said : )

  3. By all accounts it sounds like Assange is more than a bit of a whack-job. But judging his personality faults must be discounted when thinking about the importance and (il)legality of what wikileaks does.

    • Mr. Assange reminds me of one of those creepy, weasely, Evil guys off of a James Bond movie…you know, the take over the world type ……….

  4. This is just irrelevant whining. During my studies I was sharing quarters with many personalities and they did much more strange things than Assange. And this did not matter much to me – we are all just human animals. How is that related to his work at Wiki Leaks I wonder? This Daniel Smitt is just plainly silly dragging out this stuff unless someone asked him to do this.

  5. Daniel, trying frantically for his 15 minutes off the work of someone else…..has lost track of the goal.

  6. Wikileaks Illegal?
    By whose acolyte's reckong?

    The vehical is odd.
    Truth will out

  7. Yes, lets talk about Assange and not Wikileaks. After all, Wikileaks only uncovered information from public officials, information that should be open to those who payed for it: the taxpayers. But no, if we focus on Assange, we might find the secrets to achieving world peace and solving human hunger and that is all that really matters. Who cares what our governments do on our behalf worldwide when we can just point fingers at the Grand Master of the world, Assange.

    • But the Topic of this Article is a '' book about Assange'' …not Wikileaks…yes ?

      • The point is that DDB shouldn't be writing a book about Assange in the first place. Think, will you?

        • @ justwantanaccount…Why not ? Assange is the poster boy for freedom of speech..This book should be a real ego boost for Mr. Assange..(if anybody buys it )

    • Who he is speaks to his motivation – and thus his credibility.

      And no, not ALL information from public officials should be accessible. Just as we as individuals have a certain right to privacy, there are things the government does which require a degree of privacy for the good of the individuals named, and for the good of the nation as a whole. If all the Wikileaks posts were exposing genuine wrongdoing, that would be a good thing – but it isn't, so while they do turn up the occasional genuine gem, most of what they post is banal and intended only to cause embarrassment.

      • "not ALL information from public officials should be accessible."

        True, but who determines what information should be accessible? As of today, the same people who would be affected by the release of these documents can denied or approved their release. Talk about conflict of interests.

        "Who he is speaks to his motivation – and thus his credibility"

        Assange credibility? Are you saying Assange made up the Wikileaks documents? For all the media coverage about Wikileaks, there hasn't been a single article from the media or the government that dispute the veracity of these "leaks". As for his motivations, they are irrelevant. Even if he wanted world peace or world domination, he won't achieve either by posting "top secret" information on the internet.

        • Assange / Wikileaks don't make up the documents, but they select which get posted. A careful selection without providing context can lead to a deliberate wrong impression, if the motivation is to bring someone down. Assange seems motivated by media attention and the desire to cause trouble for any he perceives to be "establishment". So yes, there is a potential credibility gap. Because expressed or not, there is an agenda.

          "who determines what information should be accessible?" Not an easy question to answer. But would you want me deciding what information about you should be made public?

          • "they select which get posted"

            The documents release so far have been reviewed by people who have handle sensitive material in the past, e.g The Guardian. I can understand why would anyone fear the "establishment" from being undermine, no one wants what is happening in the middle east to happened here, but those revolutions happened for a reason, and could easily happen here if governments around the world remain unaccountable to the people.

            "not an easy question to answer", if you think about the process then it is hard to answer, but you shouldn't have any problems deciding who should be the one responsible to make the decision of releasing government information. What's better, an impartial body with the clearance to make those decisions or government officials who are clearly bias to releasing information that may involved them? You don't ask the fox to guard the hen house.

          • And only a small fraction have been released so far…and yet look at the effect on the world!

            This is going to be a remarkable ride.

      • The government already has violated everyone's right to privacy, they can get private info of anyone they'd like. Why not turn the table on the government? They're the ones messing up their jobs, not us.

        Uh, supporting Mubarak, Ben Ali, and all the other dictators for a third of a century isn't just embarassing, it shows serious flaws in diplomacy. All those protests happening in North Africa / Middle East is happening in US ally countries (except for Iran).

        Where have you been? Have you not heard about Hillary Clinton ordering her diplomats to get credit card numbers, bank account numbers, fingerprints, DNA of top UN officials (Hence why Assange and some others called on Clinton to resign)? Or about US tax dollars funding a contractor who used some of it to fund child sex slavery in Afghanistan? Or Shell Nigeria representative telling a diplomat about how the company infiltrated into the Nigerian government? A recent one showed US and Red Cross lying about the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan (Red Cross says ~80, Afghanistan says ~120, US says ~20).

        How are those 'embarrassing'? Serious crimes are being committed here.

  8. I find the juxtaposition of Assange and Gadhafi as headline topics in Macleans intriguing. Both are megalomaniac anarchists who have been remarkably successful in their respective endeavors. (I hope Gadhafi's horrible run comes to an end soon, but as dictators go he has been highly successful. He is older than Keith Richards, and looks it. Moreover, he took power just shortly after Sympathy for the Devil came out and is still there.)

    The way people latch on to such revolutionaries as personal heroes is both amazing and scary.

    • Ummm it has to do with accomplishments not looks.

      • Oh please Emily, he is a narcissist that needed and audience and found it, he is a looser who wanted a lot of recognition and money, fast and easy, he is scary and I agree with Srewart_Smith 100%

        • We don't know anything about him, so don't judge him personally by a jealous rival. And if you examine the private life of anyone…from Ghandi to Einstein you'll find things that will upset some people

          Assange has changed the world and will go down in history.

          • Hmmm, sounds like you have judged him based on a common dislike of US foreign policy. I understand that his remarkable effectiveness in making the US admin uncomfortable makes him a sort of hero to you, and my comment was associated with how you therefore overlook Assange's personal attributes. As you have pointed out on this thread, Wikileaks is about more that Assange. It has a board and a structure and believers who fund its activities. Yet for you and others, Assange & Wikileaks seem to have merged and you see any negative comment about one reflecting on the other.

            I have not met Assange, but frankly I know more about him than many that you or I judge all the time. His hacking days have been well documented, he has spoken in public or issued press releases on many occasions. People who have interviewed him, negotiated with him (NYTimes) or as above worked for him have also given insights. The picture that emerges is completely coherent and speaks to a reckless, narcissist who is very good with computers and happens to be working on your side. Frankly reading some of his own words http://cryptome.org/0002/ja-conspiracies.pdf
            I would say he qualifies as a full-blown whack-job.

          • I think it's incredibly nervy for a middle-class Canadian to judge a public figure on our view of a 'proper' lifestyle. He's not a politician, nor is he Canadian, so we have nothing to say to the matter.

            I certainly don't like US foreign policy, and think it well past time for it to be questioned, but the fact remains that providing an outlet for whistle-blowers has done much more than bring that under scrutiny. He's changing the world.

            And for the first time it's being done with 'information-bombs' rather than physical ones….the world has moved into a new phase.

            Since I'm not looking for a room-mate, I don't care what his personal habits are. You seem to think one should blame the messenger rather than paying attention to the message. That's a waste of time.

            I would say Glenn Beck qualifies as a full-blown whack job, but there is no condemnation of him on here. And Beck is on TV everyday convincing the weak-minded of no end of conspiracies.

  9. At the end it is all about money and ego!

    • Everybody has an ego. Lots of people have money.

      Neither are sins.

    • 'Assange had threatened to immediately publish all of the cables online if the two publications went ahead with their plans.' http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,…

      Why do people think that Assange is financially motivated? He could have sold all those documents to foreign intelligence agencies for millions of dollars. Even DDB says thas Assange's goal is world peace through government transparency.

      • Assange is like a little neglected puppy, he is so starving for attention that he is going bark and yap and do bad things unti he gets the attention he craves….the one big difference between Assange and the puppy is that a puppy won"t crap in his own bed…….

        • Way to come back with facts. You're such a rational person.

          • Going by the amount of ''thumbs up'' I have, compared to how many '' thumbs down '' you have…. one would have to say I am on the right track….you??…Not so much….Just my humble opinion.

  10. The main argument that Assange is making against a trial in Sweden is the "secretive" nature of the trial, including the non-publication of victims names. However, their names are already in the public realm thanks in part to his own supporters. He reminds me more of a cyber version of Jim Jones in which his followers readily drink the kool-aid offered to them. Given that his own behavior in Sweden is out of line inwhat his former No.2 suggested, one wonders if he was drunk with power or was temporarily crazy. This would be important given the way Swedes feel about women's rights and sexual assault.

    One knows that his mystique is losing its luster when former employees begin writing books about their times with him. Unlike in some dictatorships, who can easily eliminate such critics, Assange doesn't have that luxury. The more that we hear about his own life, the more bizzare it seems that this guy could even be considered a major factor in international media and politics.

    • Even more interesting and ironic is that Assange is likely to end up being destroyed by the very application of totally unedited leaks he championed through Wikileaks.

      Faustian drama at its best.

  11. Assange has not been convicted of a thing. A book about him seems opportunistic and since it is a personal attack one can suspect that it is part of the effort to destroy him and hurt Wikeleaks for whose revelations we all should be grateful. To call him a dictator, a rapist, a megalomaniac is to take at face value what the powers-that-be which control so much of the media want the public to believe about him. Give the man a chance to defend himself before jumping to conclusions crafted by others.

    • Assange is all about free speech…I suppose this is the price you pay for fame, Oh well !

  12. Lots of kool aid in this thread. Hilarious how the everyday uberskeptic who bashes The Man doesn't have enough spare skepticism left over to apply any to The Men Bashing The Man as well.

    So this guy is venal because he inked a book deal instead of focusing on his cause – but Assange, who's still supposed to be representing the cause, is a hero for doing the same thing first? Please. If Assange was anything other than a lunatic egomaniac, he'd have resigned the moment he became a liability to wikileaks and passed his job on to someone without any risks of notoriety. Tellingly, he didn't.

    • I couldn't care less about this guy, I already knew Assange was a lunatic and creepy before that.

  13. So Assange can leak other people's secrets, but as soon as you leak his, he goes berserk. Hypocrisy much?

  14. Assange has just begun.

    • You are right Emily1…His Journey has begun …to Sweden to face his sex charges there….ahhhh, Karma….

      • It's nice to know you approve of treating journalists like terrorists, and going after them with the full force of the state.

        So much for freedom of the press.

        • Assange is a journalist ? Besides Assange is going to Sweden to face charges that are not even related to Wikileaks…

          • Yes he is, and a publisher.

            He's going to Sweden for questioning, he hasn't been charged with anything.

            Of course they're after Wikileaks….this whole thing with Assange wouldn't have happened if the US wasn't trying to shut it down

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