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Daniel Domscheit-Berg aka “Daniel Schmitt” on WikiLeaks

COMMENT: Daniel Domscheit-Berg aka “Daniel Schmitt” has had some interesting things to say about WikiLeaks. (Domscheit-Berg was a close associate of Julian Assange, up until his recent break with him.)

In addition to comments about the organization itself, Domscheit-Berg has revealed more about Joran Jermas (aka “Israel Shamir”) and Johannes Wahlstrom, the anti-Semitic and Nazi-linked father and son team that has handled WikiLeaks’ operations in Scandinavia and Russia.

Is This Julian Assange?

Note that the Assange/Shamir relationship apparently goes back for years. Might Shamir have been the one who helped WikiLeaks hook up with the Pirate Bay milieu and Nazi financier Carl Lundstrom?

EXCERPT: ” . . . What’s more, people are now apparently traveling the world offering unreleased dispatches to other media outlets. One of these people is Johannes Wahlstrom from Sweden. Wahlstrom is the son of Israel Shamir, a notorious anti-Semite and Holocaust denier of Russian-Israeli extraction. Kristinn Hrafnsson, WL’s new official spokesman, has described both Wahlstrom and Shamir as belonging to WL.  Once, he described to me things Shamir had written as ‘very clever really.’ . . .I think Julian is aware of the sort of people he’s associating himself with–there’s been contact with Shamir, at least, for years. When Julian first learned about Shamir’s political background, he considered whether he might be able to work for WikiLeaks under a pseudonym. [Italics mine–D.E.]

. . . From the outside, it looks as though Wahlstrom has passed on the cables to various media outlets in Scandinavia while his father has assumed responsibility for the Russian market. Although WL’s five chosen media partners have repeatedly denied buying access to the leaks, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten outright admitted to paying for a look at the cables. All the other newspapers, including some Russian ones, have refused to provide any information about possible deals with WL. . . .”

Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website by Daniel Domscheit-Berg; English translation copyright 2011 by Crown Publishers [Random House imprint]; ISBN 978-0-307-95191-5; pp. 267-268.

COMMENT: Domscheit-Berg concludes the main part of his text with some key questions to be resolved about WikiLeaks. Check these items against the  considerations raised in the For The Record Programs–there is considerable overlap.

EXCERPT:

  • What is WikiLeaks’s financial situation? What have donations been used for? and who decides ho money is allocated?
  • What is the current organizational and decision-making structure? How are responsibilities divided up?
  • What did Julian mean when he reportedly told the Guardian that he had a financial interest in how and when the diplomatic cables were published?
  • What roles do WL’s representatives in Russia and Scnadinavia, Israel Shamir and Johannes Wahlstrom, a father and son with a record of anti-Semitism, play at WikiLeaks?
  • What kind of deals have Wahlstrom and Shamir arranged with media outlets?
  • Are there other WL brokers who have provided media outlets with material, and if so, on what terms?
  • Do Julian Assange, other people involved with WikiLeaks, or their companies profit from any such deals?

Ibid.; pp. 277-278.


Discussion

4 comments for “Daniel Domscheit-Berg aka “Daniel Schmitt” on WikiLeaks”

  1. Here’s a interesting bit of Wikileaks’s history that comes via James Ball (who has worked on the Snowden documents from early on) and Julian Assange’s ghost autobiographer Andrew O’Hagan.

    Both recount negotiations between Wikileaks and Al Jazeera over a $1.3 million deal to give Al Jazeera access to their data. While the deal didn’t go through – Al Jazeera was insistent on full, direct access which Wikileaks wasn’t going to provide – it sounds like Assange was very intent on reaching a deal and getting those revenues.

    It’s a story that highlights the delicate issues involved in decided how much to charged for access to a giant treasure trove of leaked documents and under what terms might that access be sold:

    BuzzFeed
    Al Jazeera Offered WikiLeaks Money In Exchange For Cables

    An ex-WikiLeaks employee said the organization offered other things too: “I remember a remark along the lines of noting the women there were very lovely, and very friendly.” A WikiLeaks spokesman said a deal never materialized.
    posted on February 24, 2014 at 8:48am EST

    Rosie Gray BuzzFeed Staff

    WASHINGTON — Al Jazeera offered WikiLeaks money in exchange for access to the diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks amassed in 2010, according to the accounts of Julian Assange’s former ghostwriter and of a former WikiLeaks employee.

    In “Ghosted,” a story by Andrew O’Hagan in the London Review of Books about his experience ghostwriting an autobiography of Assange that was never published, he alleges that Al Jazeera offered Assange $1.3 million in exchange for WikiLeaks data.

    “That night, a guy from al-Jazeera was talking to the group,” O’Hagan wrote of a night in January 2011. “The group was usually just Sarah, who lived there, and Joseph Farrell, a pleasant twenty-something whizz kid who came and went. Another guy, an activist and academic from Canberra University, was drinking wine and talking about how to mobilise the world. It turned out that the guy from al-Jazeera was hoping to strike a deal with WikiLeaks – that’s to say, with Julian. He was offering $1.3 million to get access (via encryption keys) to the data. He also wanted to organise a conference in Qatar on press freedom.”

    According to James Ball, a former WikiLeaks employee, another meeting with Al Jazeera executives took place in December 2010 in the office of Mark Stephens, then Assange’s lawyer. Ball and WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson represented Assange’s side, while two high-level Al Jazeera employees, one described as the “third-in-charge” and one introduced as the head of investigations, represented Al Jazeera, according to Ball.

    “It was a strange and uneasy meeting: we’d read in the cables a lot on political interference with Al Jazeera at the high levels, and Kristinn and I had talks wondering whether it was Al Jazeera or Qatar trying to get the cables,” Ball said. “Julian was, however, very keen to close a deal and get some revenue.”

    “Kristinn and I were trying to suggest a journalistic collaboration which gave Al Jazeera only limited access to cables. They were adamant they needed direct access to the cables This could, of course, have been for reasons of editorial independence,” Ball said.

    According to Ball, the Al Jazeera executives offered to fly the pair to Doha and “make us comfortable.” They offered other things too: “I remember a remark along the lines of noting the women there were very lovely, and very friendly,” Ball said.

    At the end, one of the executives asked the men, “What would it take to make you happy?” Ball said.

    Hrafnsson said that Al Jazeera and WikiLeaks were planning on collaborating on a series of news programs.

    “We expanded our media collaboration to broadcast in the Iraq War Log
    release. In co-operation with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
    (TBIJ) news programs where produced, based on the war logs, for Channel 4
    and Al-Jazeera (English and Arabic),” said Hrafnsson. “The meetings you are referring to where an exploration into creating a series of news programs for Al-Jazeera as part of Cablegate. I believe we discussed 10 half-hour programs.”

    Hrafnsson said the $1.3 million number cited by O’Hagan “does not seem far off, considering the scope of the production,” but said he could not confirm the amount and said that the deal was not signed. “This did not materialize and I believe it would be a fair description to say we never entered into formal negotiations.”

    Of course, the entire unredacted Cablegate treasure trove Al Jazeera was trying to buy access to was released in September 2011.

    Why did they release these cables? Well, it’s a bit of a messy story, but it started with a secret deal to allow full access to those cables:

    Der Spiegel
    Leak at WikiLeaks: A Dispatch Disaster in Six Acts

    Some 250,000 diplomatic dispatches from the US State Department have accidentally been made completely public. The files include the names of informants who now must fear for their lives. It is the result of a series of blunders by WikiLeaks and its supporters.
    September 01, 2011 – 01:00 PM

    By Christian Stöcker

    In the end, all the efforts at confidentiality came to naught. Everyone who knows a bit about computers can now have a look into the 250,000 US diplomatic dispatches that WikiLeaks made available to select news outlets late last year. All of them. What’s more, they are the unedited, unredacted versions complete with the names of US diplomats’ informants — sensitive names from Iran, China, Afghanistan, the Arab world and elsewhere.

    SPIEGEL reported on the secrecy slip-up last weekend, but declined to go into detail. Now, however, the story has blown up. And is one that comes as a result of a series of mistakes made by several different people. Together, they add up to a catastrophe. And the series of events reads like the script for a B movie.

    Act One: The Whistleblower and the Journalist

    The story began with a secret deal. When David Leigh of the Guardian finally found himself sitting across from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as the British journalist recounts in his book “Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”, the two agreed that Assange would provide Leigh with a file including all of the diplomatic dispatches received by WikiLeaks.

    Assange placed the file on a server and wrote down the password on a slip of paper — but not the entire password. To make it work, one had to complete the list of characters with a certain word. Can you remember it? Assange asked. Of course, responded Leigh.

    It was the first step in a disclosure that became a worldwide sensation. As a result of Leigh’s meeting with Assange, not only the Guardian, but also the New York Times, SPIEGEL and other media outlets published carefully chosen — and redacted — dispatches. Editors were at pains to black out the names of informants who could be endangered by the publication of the documents.

    Act Two: The German Spokesman Takes the Dispatch File when Leaving WikiLeaks

    At the time, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who later founded the site OpenLeaks, was the German spokesman for WikiLeaks. When he and others undertook repairs on the WikiLeaks server, he took a dataset off the server which contained all manner of files and information that had been provided to WikiLeaks. What he apparently didn’t know at the time, however, was that the dataset included the complete collection of diplomatic dispatches hidden in a difficult-to-find sub-folder.

    After making the data in this hidden sub-folder available to Leigh, Assange apparently simply left it there. After all, it seemed unlikely that anyone would ever find it.

    But now, the dataset was in the hands of Domscheit-Berg. And the password was easy to find if one knew where to look. In his book Leigh didn’t just describe his meeting with Assange, but he also printed the password Assange wrote down on the slip of paper complete with the portion he had to remember.

    Act Three: Well-Meaning Helpers Accidentally Put the Cables into Circulation

    Immediately after the first diplomatic dispatches were made public, WikiLeaks became the target of several denial-of-service attacks and several US companies, including Mastercard, PayPal and Amazon, withdrew their support. Quickly, several mirror servers were set up to prevent WikiLeaks from disappearing completely from the Internet. Well-meaning WikiLeaks supporters also put online a compressed version of all data that had been published by WikiLeaks until that time via the filesharing protocol BitTorrent.

    BitTorrent is decentralized. Data which ends up on several other computers via the site can essentially no longer be recalled. As a result, WikiLeaks supporters had in their possession the entire dataset that Domscheit-Berg took off the WikiLeaks server, including the hidden data file. Presumably thousands of WikiLeaks sympathizers — and, one supposes, numerous secret service agents — now had copies of all previous WikiLeaks publications on their hard drives.

    And, what they didn’t know, a password-protected copy of all the diplomatic dispatches from the US State Department.

    Act Four: Mudslinging between Assange and Domscheit-Berg

    To make matters worse, Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg then had a falling out. The German spokesman wrote a vengeful book after being thrown out of WikiLeaks in which he portrayed the WikiLeaks founder as an unreliable egomaniac who tended toward latent megalomania.

    Predictably, Assange was furious and made several statements that were intended to besmirch Domscheit-Berg. But when he repaired the WikiLeaks server, Domscheit-Berg apparently didn’t just take all of the collected WikiLeaks documents, but he also took the secure submission system designed to allow whistleblowers to anonymously submit data. As a result, WikiLeaks was temporarily out of action.

    Domscheit-Berg also repeatedly accused Assange of not being sufficiently vigilant about protecting his sources. And he launched a competing platform called OpenLeaks which he is now developing with other former WikiLeaks employees and other supporters.

    Act Five : Exposed Disclosures

    The conflict between Domscheit-Berg and Assange has become increasingly aggressive. Germany’s Chaos Computer Club recently made the surprising decision to revoke Domscheit-Berg’s membership because he allegedly misused their name to hype his OpenLeaks project. While that was their official reason, unofficially the tension stems from the data that Domscheit-Berg took with him from Wikileaks.

    In an effort to prove that Assange couldn’t be trusted, people associated with the OpenLeaks project recently began talking about the hidden diplomatic cables — and the dataset which has been coursing through the Internet for months, though no one knew about it.

    Then someone betrayed the location of the password — Leigh’s book — to a journalist for German weekly Der Freitag, which is also an OpenLeaks partner. The weekly published a cautiously formulated version of the story, that without naming the exact location of the password, still revealed it was “out in the open and identifiable to those familiar with the material.” Speculation on Twitter and elsewhere ran wild, and hobby investigators began to edge closer to which password it could be.

    Meanwhile the mudslinging continued unabated between Assange and Domscheit-Berg.

    Act Six: Cablegate-Gate

    An account of the story of Leigh, the hidden data and the password then cropped up on a platform normally used by open-source developers to exchange programming codes. A link to the entry spread quickly through Twitter. Suddenly, anyone could access the entire “Cablegate” file with a bit of effort.

    On Wednesday afternoon the Wikileaks Twitter account announced “important news,” and a few hours later character sequences and links were distributed to download an encoded, 550-megabyte file via a BitTorrent client. The password was to be delivered later.

    The distribution apparently didn’t work at first, and complaints appeared on Twitter. But later the problem was fixed, and the data began to circulate.

    It remains unclear whether this was the Cablegate data set. Meanwhile Wikileaks’ Twitter account has called on users to vote on whether they agree with the publication of the unredacted cables. They can register their vote with the hashtag “WLVoteYes” or “WLVoteNo” on Twitter.

    A Wikileaks statement on Twitter blames the Guardian and Leigh for the fact that the cables are now freely available online. “We have already spoken to the (US) State Department and commenced pre-litigation action,” it said, adding that their targets were the Guardian and a person in Germany who gave out the paper’s password. Leigh breached a confidentiality agreement between Wikileaks and the Guardian, it added. The US Embassy in London and the US State Department had been notified of the possible publication already on August 25 so that officials could warn informants.

    In a statement the Guardian rejected the accusations from Wikileaks, explaining that the paper had been told the password was temporary and would be deleted within hours. “No concerns were expressed when the book was published and if anyone at WikiLeaks had thought this compromised security they have had seven months to remove the files,” the statement said. “That they didn’t do so clearly shows the problem was not caused by the Guardian’s book.”

    So yeah, secret agreements to share your giant stash of secret cables can get complicated. Especially if…
    1. You make that data available secretly available to journalists by putting it all in a password-protected encrypted file on a server for the journalists to download. Tell the journalists the the password was temporary and the file would would deleted in a few hours.
    2. You then make the file “hidden” to the public by putting it in a hard to find subfolder to let the journalists download it. Then just sort of leave it there indefinitely for others to potentially find.
    3. Your fans set up mirror sites of your website and grab ALL the available data, including the encrypted file in the hard to find subfolders. Your fans then then throw it on BitTorrent.
    4. A key colleague leaves your organization.
    5. This colleague starts talking about the fact that there is an encrypted file of all your secret cables floating around the internet. Then the journalist you made the secret deal with in the first place publishes a book about you that includes the temporary password you gave him for decrypting the file of unredacted cables. Then, somehow, someone points out to a newspaper (that happens to be affiliated with the new leak organization set up by the key colleague that just left) that the password in the book happens to work with those copies that are floating around BitTorrent
    6. Then, somehow an account of this story shows up on a forum normally used by open-source developers for swapping code. The story starts going viral and word spreads that the data set and password are both publicly available. So then your organization just publishes everything anyways because, hey, why not at that point.

    As the saying goes, “information wants to be free“.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 12, 2014, 6:11 pm
  2. Ok; this is tough to admit on this forum;
    Aljeerza seems to be the best international news source I have watched lately.

    I know there were issues that were reported about the Muslim Bros having too much influence, etc.

    But when I sit there and look at the TV device, Fox is out of the question due to obvious propaganda.
    CNN is stale.
    MSNBC centers on celebrety BS.

    I have only watched Aljeezera for a week or so, but it has the best international news I have seen yet.

    It also seems like they are employing every great news guy that has been fired from mainstream TV, like David Shuster, Mike Vickera and Ray Suraez (sorry if I spelled them worng).

    There is one thing I noticed however: they are totally non-critical about the Russia/Ukraine scene.
    It took me a while to think about it, but perhaps following Dave’s scenario, The Muslim Bros (Al Jeezera) will stick with Germany against the Russians and that may be why they (Al Jazeerza) have no negative commentary against the coup in Kiev.

    Just wondering about this and curious what others think,

    Posted by Swamp | March 13, 2014, 7:00 pm
  3. @Swamp
    When it first launched I watched an hour show on that network featuring Native Hawaiian Activists working to end the American Occupation of their country, and they were being given a lot of of love and credibility by the hosts as I recall. My impression was the network would be great for my garden. It was very NPO-ish. To be fair, the show I watched may very well not be representative of their overall programming, but I remain a skeptic.

    Posted by GK | March 13, 2014, 8:43 pm
  4. @SWAMP–

    I wouldn’t underestimate the Brotherhood. They run Al Jazeera lock, stock and barrel.

    Just do a key word search for the network and the Brotherhood on this website.

    You are right about the ideological reasons for their coverage of the Ukraine.

    Personally, I not only don’t watch TV news, I don’t watch TV period.

    I don’t own one.

    Watching TV is like drinking alcohol or taking drugs. It feels good but–literally–is bad for the brain.

    I’d spend more time reading things like the latest post on this website about the Ukraine.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | March 13, 2014, 8:46 pm

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