Former WikiLeaks staff to set up rival site

Former WikiLeaks supporters who left in protest at the organisation's direction are to start up their own rival whistleblowing site.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, sources close to the group - which includes ex-WikiLeakers who left after having disagreements with founder Julian Assange - are in the process of creating their own document-leaking site.

A number of voices in the organisation had been critical of Assange's leadership, many citing the distraction of his legal battle over rape charges in Sweden. But it appears that a more pivotal difference over the aims of the organisation lies behind the schism.

A growing number of WikiLeaks rebels have reportedly expressed dissatisfaction at the site's concentration on pursuing the US military, releasing dossiers of secret documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I don't want to take away from the importance of the Iraq dossiers," former WikiLeaks worker and Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir said recently. "But I have been saying for some time that before all these big scoops came along, Wikileaks was very much about creating small hubs in different countries where people could leak important information to. It shouldn't just be about the international scoops."

Now that criticism appears to have come to a head. Disaffected WikiLeakers are said to be working on a rival site, with Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German former WikiLeaks insider who has been critical of the site's record, touted as its head.

After quitting in September, Domscheit-Berg claimed WikiLeaks had neglected to publish a stack of lower-profile documents it had received from other parts of the world.

The German activist hasn't been shy of criticising his former boss, either.

"Julian Assange reacted to any criticism with the allegation that I was disobedient to him and disloyal to the project," Domscheit-Berg was quoted as saying by German news magazine Der Spiegel.

Rumours that Domscheit-Berg is looking to launch a new site were given weight by WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson in a recent interview.

"There is some indication that Daniel and some others are setting up a similar venue, and we wish them luck," said Hrafnsson. "It would be good to have more organisations like WikiLeaks."

Hrafnsson said that reports of disagreements within WikiLeaks were "quite overblown", but admitted that another senior figure from WikiLeaks, described as a "technician", had left, as well as "two or three volunteers".

Insiders say that the site's encrypted SSL submission system has been unavailable for weeks because a number of key personnel have fallen out with Assange. WikiLeaks' anonymous Tor hidden submissions system has been down since February.

Assange admitted in a speech in London last week that WikiLeaks has temporarily stopped accepting new documents because it currently has too large a backlog.

"I think it is not right to be receiving documents that people may wish to get out urgently if you're not in a position to publish them within a reasonable period of time," Mr. Assange said.

In another development, press reports suggest that Assange's legal battle in Sweden may be taking its toll. In an interview with a Swiss newspaper this week, the WikiLeaks founder said he was considering seeking asylum in Switzerland, but gave no further details.