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Schmitt Suspended from WikiLeaks
On the second part of the Der Spiegel interview.
BERLIN (Rixstep) — Daniel Schmitt has been suspended from WikiLeaks. This happened approximately one month ago.
The Der Spiegel story published on Saturday intimated Schmitt would soon be leaving the organisation; the WikiLeaks Twitter feed explained he'd been suspended a month earlier.
No mention of this was given in the first part of the series.
Der Spiegel was to initially have published the full interview yesterday; today it's finally online. Daniel Schmitt (Daniel Domscheit-Berg) was suspended.
An Orderly Departure?
Schmitt told Der Spiegel he had only one option remaining - 'an orderly departure'. People are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how the Der Spiegel interview can be part of such an option.
Schmitt and the WikiLeaks organisation had been inaccessible by Der Spiegel for weeks. Schmitt claims there are 'technical problems and no one to take care of them'. Perhaps understandable as the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is embroiled in a nasty legal mess in Stockholm.
The WikiLeaks organisation has not always had the funding and resources needed. The website closed down briefly in the beginning of 2010. And Assange has explained how difficult it is to recruit - the vetting process has to be extreme. Schmitt claims the situation is compounded by lack of a clear chain of command.
'It is no longer clear even to me who is actually making decisions and who is answerable to them.' Paradoxical as he seems to know who to talk to about his disagreements with WikiLeaks management and presumably knows who suspended him.
But there's been a lot of pressure on the organisation after the release of the Collateral Murder video and the publication of some 77,000 Pentagon documents detailing the high level of civilian casualties in the US occupational war in Afghanistan.
'We have not been able to restructure our organisation accordingly. This has created a situation in which not all of the work is being done correctly, and that is overwhelming the project', says Schmitt.
Leaks Both Big and Small
Schmitt seems upset that smaller matters didn't get the same high priority as the big ones. 'In the past we processed and published smaller submissions that were only of local importance the same way that we did more comprehensive documents that are of national or even international importance.'
This begs the question Der Spiegel next posed: 'why not do both?'
'I have tried again and again to push for that, but Julian Assange reacted to any criticism with the allegation that I was disobedient to him and disloyal to the project. Four weeks ago, he suspended me - acting as the prosecutor, judge and hangman in one person.'
Six weeks ago WikiLeaks announced they'd release the final 15,000 Afghan documents in perhaps two weeks; six weeks ago Assange was planning a trip to Stockholm to improve the organisation image as a safe conduit for whistleblowers. Four weeks ago he'd already been accused of not knowing how to use latex prophylactics.
Schmitt also claims other WikiLeaks workers are also being blocked, although he doesn't go into detail.
'WikiLeaks has a structural problem. I no longer want to take responsibility for it, and that's why I am leaving the project', he says. Outsiders might instead wonder about the nature of this 'problem', as the propaganda war currently being waged by the Pentagon almost forces WikiLeaks to continue concentrating on the 'bigger things' - at least for now.
But Schmitt had evidently escalated his 'difference of opinion' into what Der Spiegel called a 'fight'.
'We have all experienced intense stress in recent months. Mistakes happened, which is okay, as long as people learn from them. For that to happen, though, one has to admit them. Above all, though, we seem to have lost the faith that we are all pulling together.'
Smear campaigns can do that. Good operatives are prepared for it.
Der Spiegel claim to have been told by Assange that Schmitt made a power move to take over the organisation for himself, something Schmitt denies.
'From my perspective there was no power struggle. It wasn't about personal interests, it was about our organisation and its development. Only he can say why he sees things differently.'
'In my opinion it would have been best if he had pulled back a bit so he could quietly deal with these problems. It would have been fine if he had continued his normal work out of the spotlight. But he clearly saw my internal proposal as an attack on his role.'
This is rather puzzling as the only celebrity Assange has received of late is because of the situation in Stockholm, he's been largely inaccessible to the media even there (and then only in the context of the charges against him). Assange is scheduled to speak in London on Thursday, but aside from that he's made no public appearances as WikiLeaks spokesperson whatsoever.
Schmitt tells Der Spiegel the future is 'a thousand WikiLeaks', not a single one as now - certainly quite the feat in such case, considering the work needed to meld a single such organisation together: the Tor routing and extraneous traffic, procurement of hosting agreements, developing a worldwide network of site mirrors and independent supporters, and so forth.
Schmitt also doesn't like the current propaganda war with the Pentagon.
'This one-dimensional confrontation with the USA is not what we set out to do.'
And that begs another question: what would Schmitt recommend one do if a video clip suddenly arrived - or several hundred thousand classified documents? Toss them aside in favour of exposing a criminal bratwurst manufacturing process?
But the road goes on - even if Schmitt doesn't have the foggiest what he'll do now. But he thinks one WikiLeaks is not enough.
'There needs to be a thousand WikiLeaks.'
Look Up the Number
And then, at the end of that long interview, Der Spiegel ask a final question on cue, coming out of nowhere, and for no perceptible reason at all.
SPIEGEL: In your role as WikiLeaks spokesman, you have always gone by the name 'Daniel Schmitt'. What's your real name?
SCHMITT: It is high time I also stop doing that and go public with my name and my opinions. My name is Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
The real name of Birgitta Jónsdóttir? Birgitta Jónsdóttir. The real name of Julian Assange? Julian Assange.