Global Politics

Former associates criticize Wikileaks founder

The World's Gerry Hadden reports that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is under fire from former associates for focusing too much on embarrassing the United States instead of staying true to the group's original global whistle-blower mission.

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Europe's police agency Interpol issued on Tuesday what amounts to an arrest warrant for the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. This follows a request from authorities in Sweden where Assange has been charged him with rape.

Assange denies the charges and has said they are part of a smear campaign designed to stop Wikileaks from disclosing sensitive documents such as the U.S. diplomatic cables it released Sunday. Assange is currently in hiding.

Meanwhile the diplomatic aftershocks from the trove of secret US missives continue. Yesterday in Madrid US Ambassador to Spain Alan D. Solomont, offered a denial before TV cameras regarding US efforts to pressure Spain into derailing a judicial inquiry into torture at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. That alleged pressure came to light in one of the cables published this week by several newspapers.

The incident underscored how each document put out there by Wikileaks is finding an interested audience somewhere in the world. Wikileaks has never received so much attention, even as Asssange's whereabouts remain unknown. It's assumed he's trying to avoid Interpol.

The arrest warrant couldn't come at a worse time. For starters, Wikileaks has a long backlog of material still to publish. But its problems go beyond having too much work.

Supporters and some staff have been steadily turning on Assange himself in recent weeks. Assange's right-hand man, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, quit Wikileaks in September. He, along with several volunteers, had complained about what has been characterized as Assange's secretive and authoritarian management style. But worse, Domscheit-Berg said, is the direction Wikileak's work has taken of late.

Domscheit-Berg told German TV that the group's focus has been almost entirely on mega-disclosures from the US, like the Afghanistan and Iraq war documents and now the US diplomatic cables. �It's a misguided strategy that has only increased the political pressure coming from Washington,� he said.

Assange's focus on American foreign policy has lost him support outside Wikileaks as well. Including in Iceland where he'd hoped to set up shop, protected by tough new freedom of speech laws.

Some former supporters say the original Wikileaks idea was to set up regional hubs, as it were, where local journalists and activists could publish sensitive information relating to their own regions. That hasn't happened, they say, because of the focus on the massive, time consuming US projects.

At least one of those projects has generated criticism from a leading journalism organization, Reporters Without Border � and not because the US has been singled out.

In October RWB Director Clothilde Le Coz expressed frustration on Fox New Television that the names of Afghani's collaborating with the US led coalition had not been redacted before Wikileaks released US military documents detailing the day to day war effort.

That decision came from Assange himself, and Le Coz said it was a mistake.

�If you want to release documents because you promote transparency good for you and do it. � Put them out there. But please, don't release the names.�

Wikileaks appears to have taken such appeals to heart. It did redact sensitive information from Iraq war documents released subsequently, and from the US diplomatic cables. But analysts say Wikileaks' change in policy isn't likely to stop the US from trying to charge Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act.

Assange once told an employee that Wikileaks would flounder without him. That remains to be seen. But either way, other organizations may now take up the torch says former co-worker Domscheit-Berg.

�There's is definitely a future for the idea that Wikileaks was based on,� he told a German television program. But he said it shouldn't be linked to just one organization. �Wikileaks has opened a Pandora's box that can never be closed.�

Domscheit-Berg is rumored to be setting up a Wikileaks competitor site already. As for Wikileaks itself, the group's next disclosure of documents will allegedly involve a big bank, an American bank.