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Life Rights Contracts Signed in Blood
They didn't care.
LONDON (Rixstep) — The two authors responsible for the material used by Josh Singer for his screenplay to The Fifth Estate have DreamWorks life rights contracts signed in blood. That nothing bad came of 'Cablegate2' is only thanks to the quick thinking of Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks staff. Both David Leigh and Daniel Domscheit-Berg knew what they were doing.
These two questionable individuals advised DreamWorks on their WikiLeaks movie.
No one at the Guardian wanted to treat Julian Assange and WikiLeaks staff as journalists. They saw a cash cow in the files held by WikiLeaks and they wanted those files for themselves. But Assange didn't play like that. The Afghan War Diaries were a collaboration between the Guardian, Spiegel, and the New York Times. A disturbing part of this arrangement was that the Times always traveled to Washington first before publishing anything, and in an increasingly oppressive environment under Obama, wanted to make sure they didn't become a government target.
And it shouldn't be forgot that editor in chief Keller, dropped into the paper's management from above by his rich father, was a rabid Iraqi war hawk who promoted the propaganda of his writer Judith Miller, and that even after the war, Keller criticised those who condemned it. Then Keller got a writer to do a smear piece on Assange - and wrote one himself. Assange wasn't as worried about the innuendoes as he was about the integrity of the paper, so despite WaPo's history of collaboration with the government, he reckoned they'd make a better partner stateside.
This didn't fit in with David's plans. David had done some staggering things in his career; now it was time to suck up to Bill Keller. The problem was that his brother in law, Guardian editor in chief Alan Rusbridger, signed a memorandum of understanding with Assange and WikiLeaks.
Enter Heather Brooke, walking about town with a renegade copy of Cablegate. Heather's one of two people who 'stole' from WikiLeaks for personal profit. David hired on Heather to 'secure' her copy of the cables. He never had to actually look at them; merely having them gave him the 'legal fiction' to go behind Assange's back and deliver a copy of Cablegate to Bill Keller.
Although no one had set an official date for the release of Cablegate, David had conspired with Keller to preempt Assange with a surprise release in early November. And it would have worked, but one of their media partners didn't like what was going on and alerted Assange, who then confronted David on 1 November.
Assange wrote that he'd never seen a person collapse as David did that evening when he saw Assange enter, when he intuitively understood what was going down.
David had been shown up and shamed by the renegade Assange and he wasn't going to forget it.
The original title of David's masterpiece was to be 'The Rise and Fall of WikiLeaks'. The title was later changed to save David further embarrassment.
But David did one thing in that book to 'get back' at Assange: he published the entire encryption key Assange had given him for the Cablegate files.
David's book was published in early 2011; the book was rushed out in two weeks. DreamWorks bought up the rights - and David's life rights - shortly afterward.
Daniel Domscheit-Berg is the German chap from EDS in Rüsselsheim who never could decide on a name, or whether he'd stolen anything from WikiLeaks, and his story as told in his own book didn't help matters. DreamWorks stepped in again as they'd done before with David, and could then proceed with a movie based on their books rather than real life, evading potential legal trouble.
Daniel hadn't used his book to get back at Assange; there was nothing to get back at Assange about. Daniel was mostly worried about defending his erratic actions. But his moment was to come.
It would be Herbert Snorrason who blew Cablegate2 wide open.
Snorasson was an Icelandic 'amateur anarchist' who'd aligned with WikiLeaks after Assange exposed the corruption in the country's banking system. Domscheit-Berg - then calling himself Schmitt - accompanied Assange to Iceland where the duo appeared on national television. Snorrason met Schmitt and they discovered their common interest in anarchism.
It was on a flight back home from the US that Snorrason read David's book. And on the header for chapter eight read the full Cablegate encryption key. Snorrason knew his way around the WikiLeaks network; he hadn't before realised what files were on those servers, or how to use them. The idea that David Leigh would publish an entire encryption key in the clear was staggering.
Snorrason understood the gravity of his discovery. David Leigh had intentionally published an entire encryption key to highly sensitive data. What do do? Snorrason contacted the one person he thought he could trust.
Daniel Domscheit-Berg had just come home from the summer camp of the Chaos Computer Club outside Berlin, where he was trying to introduce his new system OpenLeaks. But things hadn't gone so well - he was totally humiliated, and undoubtedly laid part of the blame on Assange. Daniel now wanted revenge too.
Daniel had been trying in vain for a year to convince people that WikiLeaks was insecure. Now he could. He'd go to the German Der Freitag and show them what he had. He could make Cablegate unravel. He could now get his revenge.
Once the scramble to find and decrypt Cablegate began, WikiLeaks had to act fast. The publishing schedule would have kept Cablegate going for years. There were several dozen media partners doing a great job. Suddenly it was a question of the 'bad guys' finding and decrypting Cablegate and exacting revenge on innocents mentioned within.
German lawyers, working on behalf of WikiLeaks, contacted Domscheit-Berg on 26 August 2011 in a final attempt to avert a catastrophe. One letter was sent in the German language; Domscheit-Berg's only response was that is was written 'in the most terrible German I have ever read'. This is the English version.
Dear Mr Domscheit-Berg,
Mr Assange asked me to write to you because of information that you published which is likely to endanger a large number of people if more of it is published.
To multiple journalists, which can/could be named, you have given operational details to connect published but encrypted data with the passphrase which can be used to decrypt it. Thus far this connection of keys and data could not have been established. With your actions you are possibly endangering the life and the lawful interests of third parties.
You are distributing this information to damage the reputation of WikiLeaks and to 'prove' your allegations that WikiLeaks is not willing to, or capable of, protecting the sources and other involved individuals. This shows a heightened level of perfidy as you knowingly accept the arising consequences to the sources. You know that WikiLeaks has only ever published the cables in a redacted form and that the cooperation with the media includes certain agreements that respect the anonymity of third parties. Even if it is true that journalists have in the past, against the agreement with WikiLeaks, published operational information, which was explicitly labelled not to be published but which they had to have access to in order to evaluate the rest of the material, even if this is true it does not justify establishing a connection between this information and thus far encrypted publications, which would enable the de-anonymisation of third parties. Until now this has, as you know, not happened, even though the information has been published, without the passphrase.
Not asking the question whether or not Mr Assange or WikiLeaks can be held responsible when journalists publish operational details in books etc against their agreement with WikiLeaks, you are definitely breaching the agreements and self-commitments that you have given during your time at WikiLeaks, when you deliberately publish the interconnection of this information in order to bring together the encrypted data and the passphrase. Your actions themselves are very capable of causing the exact dangers, which you are apparently worrying about for the sources.
Rechtsanwälte Eisenberg, Dr König, Dr Schork
Görlitzer Straße 74
WikiLeaks held a survey to find what people considered the best approach. Once it was established that people had found and decrypted Cablegate with the information provided by David and Daniel, the only conceivable approach was to publish the entire Cablegate at the WikiLeaks website, and this for two obvious reasons.
- The innocents had to be protected.
- Publishing at the WikiLeaks website guaranteed integrity.
Life Rights Contracts Signed in Blood
Thanks to Cablegate2 (the planned release by WikiLeaks) no one came to harm for what David Leigh and Daniel Domscheit-Berg did. Thankfully. But what's important as we see what DreamWorks can do with a ruddy script is to remember that David Leigh and Daniel Domscheit-Berg went into the matter fully aware of the harm they could cause, fully aware lives were at stake.