Get Ready for a Very Leaky Internet

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Photo: Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

Key defectors from the WikiLeaks camp have been working on a rival website called OpenLeaks for some time, and according to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, it's set to launch Monday. Why would Daniel Domschelt-Berg, Julian Assange's former spokesperson and right-hand man, launch his own Leak-o-pedia rather than sticking with WikiLeaks?

It sounds like Assange's domineering personality had something to do with it. In the course of questioning Assange over how he planned to proceed with releasing earlier Iraq war documents, Domschelt-Berg called Assange "some kind of emperor or slave trader." Domschelt-Berg and other ex-WikiLeakers also felt Assange was hogging the limelight and, more substantively, failed to redact critical names from the trove of 400,000 Iraq War documents. They plan to run OpenLeaks with a lower profile, focusing on disseminating information apolitically (i.e. with less focus on the U.S.). Rather than receiving and publishing leaked info directly, OpenLeaks will let other collaborating organizations access its system and publish the material, a clearinghouse firewall that may help the new group avoid espionage charges.

The U.S. continues to pursue Assange, as though shutting him down could close Pandora's Box. But the documents are out there, and more important, so is the idea of WikiLeaks itself.

Ben Laurie, a data-security expert who advised WikiLeaks before it launched in 2006, told the Sydney Morning Herald, "The concept is not going to die. It's really hard to keep things shut down if they want to stay up. Look at everything else people would like not to happen online — phishing, spam, porn. It's all still there." Same thing goes for the hackers. DDOS attacks? So old-school. (And wait a minute, who are these people who would like porn not to happen online? Because that is "un-American.")

As evidence of its staying power, WikiLeaks now has the ultimate badge of cultural ubiquity: a Rick Roll adaptation.

Nevertheless, the U.S. is zeroing in on Assange. It looks like Attorney General Eric Holder has found a way to lower the bar on the First Amendment and make the espionage charge stick. Jennifer Robinson, one of Assange's attorneys, said an indictment is looming:

"Our position of course is that we don't believe it applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he's entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of Wikileaks and any prosecution under the espionage act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S."

While the Justice Department pursues criminal investigations, the U.S. military is trying to plug up potential WikiLeaks on their end, instructing its troops to stop using any form of removable disc — including CDs, DVDs, and thumb drives — at risk of court martial.

But at least one U.S. notable is coming to Assange and his website's defense: Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle-blower who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He told Democracy Now, "If I released the Pentagon Papers today, I would be called a terrorist. Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are no more terrorists than I am, and I am not." Here's Ellsberg on Colbert last night.

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A new WikiLeaks” revolts against Assange [Dagens Nyheter]
Anger at 'slave trader' Assange: WikiLeaks loyalists decide to break away [Sydney Morning Herald]
Assange Lawyers Prepare for U.S. Spying Indictment [ABC]
Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: Julian Assange is Not a Terrorist [Democracy Now]