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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.


  • 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.


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:

    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.



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

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