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Foreign Correspondent -

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Wiki Whacked

Broadcast: 04/10/2011

Reporter: Andrew Fowler

Assange awaits decision on extradition to Sweden.

It's the story WikiLeaks doesn't want you to know about.

Andrew Fowler - who first reported on WikiLeaks and its Australian founder Julian Assange for
Foreign Correspondent last year and went on to write a definitive account of the cyber-phenomenon -
The Most Dangerous Man in the World - goes in search again of the truth behind WikiLeaks' dramatic,
chaotic descent into dysfunction, perhaps even collapse.

He's tracked down key figures in the launch and spectacular flight of WikiLeaks and the ascendency
of Julian Assange and found shattered relationships, bitter feuds and the future of the website
under a very dark cloud.

Holed up in his Norfolk bolthole awaiting the result of his appeal against extradition to Sweden,
where he's accused of sex crimes, Assange denies the whistleblower website he founded is in crisis.

"There is no problem in the hundreds of relationships that this organisation has signed
partnerships with, on every continent except Antarctica. None of those have failed. They are all
strong." Julian Assange, WikiLeaks

But the evidence of former friends and partners tells otherwise. Such as former WikiLeaks deputy,
Daniel Domscheit-Berg who walked out with hundreds of thousands of leaked documents, and has now
set up his own rival organisation.

"He threatened me that he would hunt me down and kill me if I ever f****d up, and the f*****g up
part was related to endangering any of our sources."

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, WikiLeaks former deputy

And prominent Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir - formerly one of Assange's biggest supporters also
accuses Assange of harassment and abuse. The human rights campaigner worked with him on the release
of Collateral Murder the video that established WikiLeaks as a bold, crusading and potent new media
force.

"It actually did feel a bit abusive to work in this environment where people were objectified, and
only thought kindly of if they were useful."

Birgitta Jonsdottir, Icelandic MP and ex WikiLeaks collaborator

Assange still has his supporters, including prominent lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC and journalist
and filmmaker Iain Overton, who watched from close quarters as Julian Assange fought with old media
forces like The Guardian and The New York Times.

"If he is sent (to Sweden and to jail) I think WikiLeaks will limp on for a while. I doubt they are
going to get any major new revelations given to them and it will probably just be in a holding
pattern until such time as Julian is released from prison."

Iain Overton, Bureau of Investigative Journalism

_____________________________________

Transcript

FOWLER: It's a two-hour train trip northeast of London, through rolling green pastures to the
English country town of Beccles. This quiet little community doesn't toss up a lot of news. The
locals still talk of media megastar Sir David Frost who moved here as a boy more than half a
century ago, but now Beccles is in the spotlight thanks to a blow in from down under by the name of
Julian Assange.

When we arrived he was completing for him the mundane daily task of signing in at the local police
station.

"How many days is this Julian?"

JULIAN ASSANGE: "Two hundred... a hundred and sixty eight yeah".

FOWLER: The man synonymous with the explosive website WikiLeaks now cuts a remote, forlorn figure
as he heads back to a supporter's country mansion where he waits as the wheels of justice turn
slowly in his sex crimes case. Julian Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden where he's accused
of molesting two women.

JULIAN ASSANGE: [WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief] "I felt that I was basically turning into Howard
Hughes. That I had a very small circle of people here, a long way away from London in rural England
and that those few people could be trusted".

FOWLER: If Assange and his legal team fail and the man dubbed 'the most dangerous man in the world'
is surrendered to Sweden, gaol time there could be the least of his worries.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: [Defence Lawyer] "Once Julian is in custody in Sweden to face domestic
prosecution under Swedish law, there is a provision in the US Sweden treaty which allows for a
defendant either facing prosecution or someone who has been prosecuted and is serving a sentence to
be lent to the US for prosecution".

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON QC: [Defence Barrister] "Sweden has been guilty of extraditing a number of
individuals by in fact handing them over without proper process to the CIA and they've been
tortured down the line and there have been findings against Sweden in human rights courts and of
course extradition is partly a political decision and with an extremely right wing Swedish
Government that owes a lot to America, you have a situation where he'd be more vulnerable than if,
for example, he were returned to his own country, namely Australia".

FOWLER: It seems like only yesterday that we first reported on the organisation threatening to
change the future of information and journalism. WikiLeaks was pumping out secret after big secret
and the people behind it forecast a new global transparency. As a people's intelligence agency, it
opened the door on a hidden world. An electronic drop box for whistle blowers whose identities
would remain secret and their secrets made public.

From number 10 Downing Street to the defence department, to MI5, corrupt governments in Africa and
multi nationals dumping toxic chemicals in third world countries - all were fair game. So too were
some of the most secretive and sensitive corners of government in the United States and the
reaction there was intense. Some very powerful figures want Assange dead. Prominent conservative
Sarah Palin demanded he be hunted down like the Taliban. Other political heavy weights joined the
chorus.

NEWT GINGRICH: Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism which leads to people
getting killed is terrorism and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism. He should be treated as an
enemy combatant.

US SENATOR MITCH McCONNELL: He's done enormous damage to our country. I think the man is a hi-tech
terrorist.

JOSEPH BIDEN (US Vice President): I would argue that it's closer to being a hi-tech terrorist.

ASSANGE: "It's a pretty big deal right if Joseph Biden says you're a hi-tech terrorist and Sarah
Palin says that you should be hunted down like Osama Bin Laden etcetera and others say that you
should be garrotted in your hotel room and a car bomb would take care of the issue and so on and
the threats against even my children, but what you do is you just take appropriate precautions".

IAIN OVERTON: [Bureau of Investigative Journalism] "I think if he's extradited the likelihood he'll
be sent down is pretty great because I think there's huge amount of political and international
pressure on the judiciary to find against you and then Swedish laws are pretty harsh when it comes
to what he's been accused of, and if he is sent down, I think WikiLeaks will limp on for a while. I
doubt they're going to get any major new revelations given to them and it will probably just be in
a holding pattern until such time as Julian is released from prison".

FOWLER: The Julian Assange we profiled a year or so ago is isolated and without many of his closest
most trusted allies and his truth machine, WikiLeaks, has serious problems. We've tracked down key
figures in the launch and spectacular flight of WikiLeaks and the ascendancy of Julian Assange and
we found broken relationships, bitter feuds and the future of the website under a very dark cloud.

ASSANGE: "There is no problem in hundreds of relationships that this organisation has - signed
partnerships with media organisations on every continent except Antarctica. None of those have
failed. They are all strong, they have all produced tremendous work".

FOWLER: "How close a relationship did you have with him?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "Do you mean if we kissed or something like that? We were just friends, but I
mothered him. I washed his clothes".

FOWLER: Birgitta Jonsdottir is an Icelandic MP, a campaigner for human rights and open government.
She was one of Assange's closest friends. Now it's over. Things got heated when she advised him to
stand aside as the WikiLeaks spokesperson while the sexual molestation allegations played out.

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: [MP, Iceland] "Yeah it was just one of these times when you sort of felt that
maybe I should have shut up because there was a lot of anger you know? "

FOWLER: "Like what?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "Well you know what sort of started to happen throughout this entire process
was that there were many threats. It actually did feel a bit you know abusive to work in this
environment where people were objectified and only thought kindly of if they were useful".

FOWLER: "In what way was he abusive towards you?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "Just you know by threatening you, you know?"

FOWLER: "In what way?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "I can't go into details about that".

FOWLER: "Why not?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: (shakes head)

FOWLER: Jonsdottir and Assange once had grand plans to make Iceland a media haven for free speech.
Now they don't even speak.

ASSANGE: "Anyone can say whatever they like but Birgitta Jonsdottir's - although she did valuable
work and I would never detract from the valuable work that she did - what she thinks is actually
not relevant to the organisation, having been excluded from the organisation she had certain
animosity towards it and towards me."

DANIEL DOMSCHEIT-BERG: "Julian is a very brilliant person, he's very intelligent and on the other
hand I think he lacks some social competence".

FOWLER: Once a part of an unbreakable WikiLeaks double act, Daniel Domscheit-Berg played the
computer nerd, Julian Assange the charismatic leader. But here again the close relationship has
turned noxious. For Assange it founded on trust.

ASSANGE: "He'd been excluded from all source material. It was viewed that he was not trustworthy.
We had concerns about his stability back in January 2010 and as a result he was phased out of the
high security part of what we were doing".

FOWLER: Domscheit-Berg believes Assange, the cyber warrior, developed an over-inflated ego from the
glut of global attention and then he turned on his own.

DANIEL DOMSCHEIT-BERG: [Former WikiLeaks Deputy] "He threatened me that he would hunt me down and
kill me if I ever f****d up and the f****ing up part was related to endangering any of our sources
and actually that statement came completely out of the blue because there was no mistake that had
happened at that point in time. He became very paranoid about the way he was dealing with me,
dealing with others as well. It was all about conspiracies, back-stabbing, alleged backstabbing,
alleged conspiracies and that's just tiresome if you want to work together".

FOWLER: Now in Berlin building his own whistle blower site, Domscheit-Berg has someone WikiLeaks
and Assange badly need. The brains behind the intricate and protective WikiLeaks anonymous drop
box. He's one of the few in this very public saga who's kept a lid on his identity. In the Wiki
fraternity he is simply called 'the Architect'.

DANIEL DOMSCHEIT-BERG: "It's all his creation. Not a single line of code ever was made by Julian.
He has no role in creating the submission system and neither have I and neither did I or he ever
have access to that system and that person who created it decided to not provide such a powerful
tool to WikiLeaks anymore and he decided to take it away".

FOWLER: "What can you tell us about the Architect?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "Nothing".

FOWLER: "Why is that?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "He wants to remain anonymous so I have nothing to say about him".

FOWLER: "But how can someone remain anonymous in such a transparent area?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "If you want to protect the people that want to be only working on the content
not the politics, you should absolutely honour that".

FOWLER: "How important is the role of the architect?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "It's very".

FOWLER: "In what way?"

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: "He's a genius". He's a genius and you know writing the stuff that you need to
write, the coding, the encryptions to make sure that people can leak documents without being
tracked".

FOWLER: The super security of the Wiki website designed and delivered by the Architect drew an
avalanche of super sensitive material. But after dalliances with self publication, Assange's
strategy shifted into alliances with some of the world's biggest and most respected newspapers. It
would not be long before these relationships would also disintegrate.

The Guardian is a bastion of British journalism, along with The New York Times, Le Monde and
Spain's El Pais it's published sensational stories courtesy of classified information provided by
WikiLeaks. Julian Assange's relationship with The New York Times has been difficult for several
months now, but his relationship with The Guardian has turned toxic.

WikiLeaks and The Guardian had collaborated on a number of big releases and they were invariably
fraught with shifting terms and conditions, but it was a treasure trove of documents dubbed
"Cablegate" a cache of 251,000 classified State Department files that would bring the biggest
arguments, accusations and recriminations.

ALAN RUSBRIDGER: [Editor, The Guardian] "Things were getting tense between us because Julian was at
best part in sort of semi-detached. It was, communication was very difficult because I think he
felt more and more paranoid about his own personal position after the accusations in Sweden so it
wasn't a sort of simple matter of just lifting the phone and speaking to him, you had to go through
encrypted technologies".

FOWLER: Assange wasn't simply worried about how The Guardian communicated with him, he was deeply
concerned about how the paper's computers were vulnerable to hackers.

ASSANGE: "They put all the cables onto internet connected computer systems, completely breaching
their security, opening them up to foreign intelligence agencies and computer hackers. The first
thing we would have known is when our people in the United States would have been rounded up and
arrested".

FOWLER: The Cablegate files spilled the beans on everything from the State Department spying on the
United Nations, to calls by Saudi Arabia for the US to bomb Iran. It was hot stuff and certainly
one of WikiLeaks biggest scoops, but Assange accused The Guardian of double dealing.

ASSANGE: "They secretly gave all the cables to the New York Times behind our backs. They secretly
set up the program to publish them without telling us".

ALAN RUSBRIDGER: "We had a sort of crisis meeting or a clear the air meeting where Julian suddenly
barged into this building unannounced with lawyers and he got very angry with us 'cause he accused
us of dealing with the New York Times where he didn't want to and the reason he didn't want to deal
with the New York Times was because the New York Times had published an unflattering piece about
him. So it was all getting very messy and we had a meeting that went on for about 8 hours. There
was lots of jabbing of fingers and shouting and accusations".

FOWLER: It wasn't just the so-called hit piece that upset Assange, he was angry that the New York
Times failed to carry some of the reports on America's illicit activities.

ASSANGE: "The New York Times had been censoring its material, attacking an alleged source and
attacking us as an organisation for its own strategic purposes".

FOWLER: WikiLeaks alliance with the old media was on the rocks but the fallout from Cablegate
wouldn't end there. More damage was on the way, courtesy of a WikiLeaks underling by the name of
Herbert Snorrason. Wide-eyed and enthusiastic when he joined, Snorrason soon found himself in the
bitter cross-fire between Assange and Domscheit-Berg.

HERBERT SNORRASON: [Former WikiLeaks volunteer] "The most specific disagreement I had with Julian
was that he alleged that Daniel acted maliciously and that Daniel was after Julian's job. I
requested evidence because I was sceptical of the claim".

FOWLER: "Can you tell me the language that he used when he spoke to you?"

HERBERT SNORRASON: "Ah (laughs) yeah there is a quote that circulated quite widely, 'I am the heart
and soul of this organisation - its founder, philosopher, original coder'. I really don't remember
the entire list..... and ending with 'if you have a problem with me you can piss off'."

ASSANGE: "I think I told him very soundly to piss off. You know we were trying to get on with
things and it wasn't useful to have an Icelandic student hectoring the CEO of an organisation
during a time of high stress".

HERBERT SNORRASON: "My immediate reply was so be it. I left and I have not spoken with Julian
since".

FOWLER: It might have paid Assange to treat Snorrason better. On a flight home to Iceland, he read
a book written by two Guardian reporters Assange had teamed up, with to produce the Cablegate
stories. Incredibly there in black and white they'd printed a password, confidentially given to
them by Assange to open the encrypted Cablegate files. The files had been placed on the internet
for safe keeping in case anything happened to Assange.

HERBERT SNORRASON: "My immediate reaction when I noticed the password was, holy crap this isn't
happening".

FOWLER: Snorrason drove to his grandparents' home close to Reykjavik Airport. If the password
opened the cables, all the names of US informants would be revealed. Snorrason fired up his
computer and carefully typed in the code. Seconds later the Cablegate internet file opened up.

HERBERT SNORRASON: "I immediately realised that this would be something that was very dangerous. My
main concern was that the release of those documents could put people's lives at risk".

FOWLER: Snorrason contacted his friend Domscheit-Berg in Germany to tell him what he'd found.

DANIEL DOMSCHEIT-BERG: "Sharing the password for the master copy was I think a big mistake and
there's not really any excuse for that other than being lazy".

FOWLER: Not far from central Berlin, Der Freitag, a radical newspaper with a tiny circulation,
splashed the story. We can now reveal the principle source was none other than Daniel
Domscheit-Berg.

"What do you say to the argument that by talking to Freitag, by pointing them in the direction of
the file and the password, the key, that you made it likely that that information would be
available, unredacted around the world?"

DANIEL DOMSCHEIT-BERG: "It's just a matter of time until somebody intelligent would have put one
and one together and anyone putting in resources into finding these cables because they had an
interest in obtaining access to the cables was probably, has known that for quite some time
already".

FOWLER: "But you helped speed it up".

DANIEL DOMSCHEIT-BERG: "No I don't.... well I don't know. You could..... you could allege that I
did. I don't know if I did".

FOWLER: That the code printed in the Guardian book was a grave error of judgement by the authors
mattered not a jot. WikiLeaks looked as if its security was slack. For Daniel Domscheit-Berg it
vindicated his stand against WikiLeaks.

DANIEL DOMSCHEIT-BERG: "It is important for the world to understand the general issue at hand
because people are potentially risking their lives trusting in the ability to handle information
properly. We were not just making this up in order to find an excuse for sabotaging WikiLeaks or
for spreading dirt you know?"

ASSANGE: "I assume it was probably not malicious the putting of the password in the book, it was
just extremely arrogant and careless. Where there may be genuine criticism levelled at me and the
decision making of the organisation, is that actually we trusted The Guardian".

FOWLER: With the names of spies and informants revealed, Assange decided to publish the full cables
on the WikiLeaks website arguing that everyone should have access and not those simply in the know,
such as corrupt dictatorships and their intelligence organisations.

ASSANGE: "Given that the material had already been published, at that stage we determined that well
actually we have to give this to the public, we have to give this to the journalists, we have to
give this to human rights workers".

FOWLER: WikiLeaks polarises opinion. It's either a force for good or a dangerous enemy of the
state. Whatever the case, with the Architect gone, it's now effectively closed for new business,
unable to take whistle blowers' electronic submissions.

"When will it be on line again?"

ASSANGE: "Some time... I don't know".

FOWLER: "When will you be open to take submissions again, electronic submissions?"

ASSANGE: "I'm not sure...".

FOWLER: "Will it be one month, two months, six months?"

ASSANGE: "I imagine before the end of the year".

FOWLER: But right now Assange has other more important concerns. Here at the High Court in London
the ruling on his extradition to Sweden is imminent.

At the same time a US Grand Jury is investigating if there's sufficient evidence to indict him on
charges of spying against the United States.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: "Under the US Espionage Act there are sections that do carry the death penalty.
For that reason I suspect he wouldn't be extradited on those charges but there are lesser charges
that carry up to ten years imprisonment and that is what he would face, ten years in a maximum
security prison".

FOWLER: No matter what the outcome in the United States, Julian Assange can expect little help from
Australia.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: "We had the Australian Prime Minister come out and accuse him of illegal conduct
which was manifestly untrue and was proven as such by an Australian Federal Police investigation in
Australia, so her comments were both prejudicial and premature. We also had the Attorney General,
Robert McClelland suggesting that they may cancel Julian's passport. Now as an Australian living
abroad myself, I found that to be a shocking statement to come from our Government, that the
Australian Government would be so quick to accuse rather than protect an Australian living abroad
and I think that's of grave concern and one that the Australian public ought to take up with our
politicians".

ASSANGE: "Well the Prime Minister and the Attorney General are US lackeys. I mean it's as simple as
that".

IAIN OVERTON: "I really admire the man. I mean he's getting a huge amount of flack from all sides
but he's actually by releasing all this information, he's created a complete hellhole for his life.
He didn't have to do it and yet what he's done is just remarkable".

FOWLER: Julian Assange set out to challenge the media and government secrecy. WikiLeaks has given a
penetrating insight into the covert world of war and politics. Now he and his organisation face
their severest test, the struggle for survival.