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Ex-WikiLeaker: Assange couldn't keep secrets safe

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange couldn't be trusted with the security of secrets submitted to the whistle-blowing site, according to a former activist who ran off with a stash of the site's confidential data.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, an ex-WikiLeaker from Germany who was known by the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt during the three years he spent with the organisation, is currently developing a competing whistle-blowing network called along with other former WikiLeaks activists.

Domscheit-berg says he used to regard Julian Assange as his best friend, and that when he joined in 2007 the organisation was essentially a two-man band.

But in a book due to be published on February 15th, Domscheit-Berg states: "Sometimes I hate him so much that I'm afraid I'd resort to physical violence if our paths ever cross again."

Inside WikiLeaks recounts the internal power struggles that let to a very public falling out after Domscheit-Berg and a number of other activists defected from the organisation last September.

The splinter group took with them control of the site's secure submissions system - and Domscheit-Berg claims Assange has never regained it.

Alarmed at Assange's erratic and dictatorial behaviour, Domscheit-Berg says he and others disabled the WikiLeaks submissions system and changed the passwords to the site's Twitter and e-mail accounts.

Assange responded by shutting down the whole system, causing the mutineers to back down. But soon after, Domscheit-Berg and one of the programmers quit WikiLeaks, taking its submission system with them.

Assange has claimed that Wikileaks' submission system has been taken down because of a backlog of documents that it doesn't have the resources to process. But Domscheit-Berg says the platform was seized because he and others had doubts that Assange would handle the documents securely, due to the careless way in which he had allegedly dealt with submissions in the past.

"Children shouldn't play with guns," Domscheit-Berg says in his book. "That was our argument for removing the submission platform from Julian's control... We will only return the material to Julian if and when he can prove that he can store the material securely and handle it carefully and responsibly."

In a statement released on Wednesday, WikiLeaks effectively confirmed Domscheit-Berg's explanation as to why the site's submission system is down.

The whistle-blowing site said that Domscheit-Berg's "acts of sabotage" had forced the organisation to "overhaul the entire submission system". The statement didn't, however, go into why Assange had previously offered a very different account of the situation

Domscheit-Berg claims he has no plans to release the data, and will return it to WikiLeaks as soon as the organisation builds a secure system. Without SSL encryption, he says that anyone browsing the site's current submission instructions risks being monitored.

"The current system has become a security risk for everyone involved," he says.