2011-08-18 Daniel Domscheit-Berg and the missing WikiLeaks documents [Update]

The recent clash between Daniel Domscheit-Berg and the Chaos Computer Club brought an important matter back into the focus of the mainstream press, a larger number of leaked documents, which Domscheit-Berg took with him after he left Wikileaks almost one year ago.

Andy Müller Maguhn, a board member of the CCC had been trying to mediate between Domscheit-Berg and Wikileaks ever since. In a recent Spiegel interview, he says that Domscheit-Berg recently told him he would have to survey the documents one by one before returning them to Wikileaks, which implies he has these documents in his possession.

This is very much in accordance with what Domscheit-Berg said in his own book. When an excerpt of the English translation of his work was leaked to Cryptome, he insisted that they contained translation errors. He later posted the passage in question on a German news site in the original language.

This is the crucial sentence:

"Wir warten bis heute darauf, dass Julian die Sicherheit wiederherstellt, damit wir ihm auch das Material zurückgeben können, das auf der Submission-Plattform lag."

It translates to:

"To this day, we are waiting for Julian to restore security, so that we can return the material to him, which was on the submission platform." [Translated by icon]

Recently, however, and a few days before the launch of his own submission platform, he said exactly the opposite in an interview with Der Freitag:

"Q: Sie sind ja bei Wikileaks im Streit ausgestiegen. Haben Sie damals unveröffentlichte Dokumente mitgenommen, von denen Openleaks jetzt profitieren kann?

A: Nein, ich habe keine Dokumente von Wikileaks mitgenommen. Und wir haben auch sonst keine Schatzkiste, aus der wir uns jetzt bedienen könnten. Das würde auch unserem Test verfälschen: Wir wollen ja einen realistischen Eindruck bekommen, wieviel Material da so hereinkommt."

This interview then appeared in English translation:

"Q: You left Wikileaks in conflict. Did you at that time take unpublished documents with you from which Openleaks could now profit from?

A: No, I didn't take any documents from Wikileaks. We don't have a treasure chest we can just dip into. That would also falsify the results of our test: we want to get a realistic view of how much material comes in."

A few days later, Der Freitag asked him to comment on the matter:

"Auf Nachfrage bestätigt Domscheit-Berg, die entsprechende Formulierung im Freitag-Interview sei unpräzise und ihm bei der Autorisierung „durchgerutscht“. In der Tat hätten einige der Aktivisten theoretisch Zugriff auf die Daten, allerdings werde Openleaks die Daten nicht nutzen. Das wollten die Aktivisten auch öffentlich demonstrieren – und nun alle bei Openleaks vorhandenen elektronischen Schlüssel zu dem Datenschatz in den nächsten Tagen „endgültig vernichten“. Da solche Schlüssel allerdings beliebig oft kopiert werden können, lässt sich die Zerstörung aller Schlüssel nicht beweisen. Er überlege daher, eine eidesstattliche Versicherung abzugeben, sagte Domscheit-Berg: „Versprechen will ich das aber noch nicht. Dafür muss ich zuerst mit einem Anwalt sprechen.“"

"When we approached Domscheit-Berg, he confirmed that the way the passage in question was phrased in the Freitag interview was not precise, and that he overlooked it when he authorized the text (for publication). In fact, a few activists had in theory access to the data, but Openleaks had no intention to use it. The activists wanted to demonstrate this publicly and are going to "destroy" all electronic keys to the data, which are held at Openleaks, "once and for all". However, since such keys can be copied as many times as one wants, it cannot be proven whether all keys have been destroyed. Therefore, Domscheit-Berg says, he is considering an affidavit: "But I do not want to promise this at this point. For this, I have to talk to my lawyer first.""

By all means, the sentence "Nein, ich habe keine Dokumente von Wikileaks mitgenommen." and its (correct) translation "No, I didn't take any documents from Wikileaks." is perfectly clear and precise, and it contradicts the account given in Domscheit-Berg's book where he admits to having retained documents.

How and where the data is stored, and whether this issue also involves the code of Wikileaks' submission platform itself is unclear. According to Heise, both the CCC and Openleaks also mentioned a physical drive.

Wikileaks responded to the threat to delete the keys a short time after the new Freitag article appeared:

"DDB spits on every courageous whistleblower who leaked data if they destroy the keys and refuse to return it. This is not acceptable."

Yet, there appears to be more involved than just digital copies that reached Wikileaks through its online submission form. Renata Avila, a human rights lawyer from Guatemala, writes that she entrusted Domscheit-Berg with hard copy documents, which have insofar not appeared on Wikileaks. In her very sensible and well written open letter she also responds to other claims made by Domscheit-Berg in his book, and casts doubt on the credibility of his account.


Spiegel reporter Holger Stark tweets: "I just spoke to #Assange. The only keys 4 the unreleased #Wikileaks docs are in the hands of #DDB and his partner. Why do they destroy it?"

Something Doesn't Make Sense

If all this is true then there are some things that do not add up unless Julian Assange has been leading ppl on and/or lying.

The State Cables for starters. How did they get released if DDB had the data and keys?

How could JA promise bank releases for the same reasons?

I find this all very suspicious in many ways.

Not all data on the same server?

I don't have any inside knowledge, but it is in the public domain that cablegate had already been in the possession of the Guardian before Assange left for Sweden. He may have had a copy of key data on a different server, or a local storage medium. As far as I understand, these Wikileaks documents in DDB's possession are recent submissions that yet had to be surveyed.

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