2011-08-25 Daniel Domscheit-Berg explains deletion of documents

In the first extensive media interview with Austrian public broadcaster ORF Daniel Domscheit-Berg appears as contradictory as ever. He admits to having deleted the keys to the documents -- which according to him were deleted by an unnamed other person or persons -- out of concern for source protection, even though he had offers from "10 to 15 individuals or organizations" who offered to take care of the data. When challenged, he added that he wanted to be on the safe side, as he could not be sure whether these potential recipients would make mistakes and expose a source.

At the same time, he reiterated that the documents he destroyed did not contain any significant information, while maintaining that only 80 to 90% of said documents were junk -- presumably. He also stated that he had not had the documents themselves in his possession, but only the keys.

Even though he does not specify who offered him assistance in handling the documents, it is safe to assume that for instance his media partners would have had an interest in surveying the material, as would have other news outlets who are perfectly capable of handling sensitive content. It would not have been difficult to make contact and find responsible journalists for this task.

Simultaneously, he promotes his own submission platform Openleaks, which would, once established, pass leaked documents on to media partners. Here, Domscheit-Berg does not seem to have any concerns about source protection and potential mistakes.

He also clarified how he came into the possession of the data. He said that he personally paid for four servers, as did other Wikileaks staff. Once he left the organization, he did not know what to do with the material, and having fruitlessly tried to contact Assange, who was at the time fighting allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden, he decided to copy the data onto a hard drive after three and a half weeks. He does not specify what happened to the servers, nor does he state who kept the hard drive.

These claims appear bizarre, given that Wikileaks had collected sufficient funds via the Wau Holland Foundation, which could be used for these purposes. There is no reason why he should have funded the servers himself.

To emphasize how careless Wikileaks had been Domscheit-Berg states that the entire Cablegate archive was available for download without any redactions. This claim had also surfaced on the website of his media partner Der Freitag earlier today.

There, it was stated that an unnamed person had published a password that had been given to him by Assange, on the internet, because he thought it was no longer in use, without having any knowledge of a file being published on the internet, which could be decrypted with said password. At time of publication, Freitag was unable to confirm whether the file did in fact contain Cablegate in its entirety.

Freitag interprets this alleged file find as a security vulnerability at Wikileaks. This is most likely true, albeit only by proxy. But who could be at fault? Guardian journalist James Ball, a former Wikileaks employee who himself has a complete copy of Cablegate in his possession, has hinted at Openleaks.

Upon a closer look, it is indeed the Wikileaks defectors who would have had a motive, and the means to leak the material, if this in fact happened. Alternatively, it could be caused by a disgruntled or careless employee at any of the media partners, who obtained the complete archive.

In the end, the only resolution for such a scenario is not, as Domscheit-Berg practiced, the destruction of source material, to prevent leaks, but an old method to prevent such developments, namely adding hidden information to copies handed out to specific news outlets, similar to nihil articles in academic lexica.

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