WikiLeaks rival operational soon, says founder

The founder of OpenLeaks, a rival project to WikiLeaks, said Friday the new service would begin soon and vowed to make it easier for whistleblowers to expose secrets in complete anonymity.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former WikiLeaks spokesman, said an initial test phase would begin "in the next few weeks."

"A beta test phase will begin in the summer ... and we are looking at a full release towards the end of the year," he added.

Unlike WikiLeaks, which publishes secret documents on its website and makes them available in advance to selected media, OpenLeaks will let whistleblowers choose which media outlet or organisation they leak the documents to.

OpenLeaks will build website forums for partner organisations where people can submit secrets they have obtained. OpenLeaks itself acts only as a medium and ensures the identity of the source remains under wraps, he explained.

"We are just a mechanism to accept documents from sources and these sources decide whom they want to give it to ... we are actually a very neutral mechanism," said Domscheit-Berg.

"All we are doing is providing the conduit and protecting the anonymity of the source. That's what we're good at, we're technology experts," he told AFP.

It would be a not-for-profit organisation with all the services free, he added.

Domscheit-Berg, who fell out with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said OpenLeaks was more democratic than his former whistleblowing operation.

"With the WikiLeaks model, you have to choose whom you are partnering with and by doing that, you become a political institution because you control the information," said the technology expert.

"We do not want to shut anyone out."

He said he believed his new brainchild would be at least as successful as WikiLeaks. "I think we're going to be way more efficient," he said.

However, the aim is to be less high-profile, he added. Since OpenLeaks will not be publishing any documents of its own, "we are unlikely to come under the same scrutiny as WikiLeaks," he said.

Founded in 2006, WikiLeaks emerged into the media spotlight last year with major document leaks on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It then unleashed a major diplomatic storm by releasing thousands of secret US embassy cables.

The OpenLeaks website went live on January 26 earlier than scheduled after its design was exposed on Cryptome, another website that publishes leaks.

The aim of OpenLeaks is to make it possible for would-be whistleblowers to leak information to "the organisations that matter," whether that be a non governmental organisation (NGO) or a media outlet, Domscheit-Berg told AFP.

"In the future, someone that knows about local corruption in a particular region ... can contact a news outlet, an NGO, or whoever ... that is dealing with that specific area and contact them directly," he said.

He said he had already established contact with Greenpeace and Transparency International, but the full list of media partners would be revealed in the coming weeks.

"We're starting small and slow," he said.

He revealed he had not spoken to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has been staying at a supporter's house since being released on bail after his arrest by British police on a Swedish warrant.

Swedish authorities want to question Assange about charges brought by two women that say he sexually assaulted them, but the 39-year-old insists the extradition attempt is politically motivated and linked to WikiLeaks' activities.

"I haven't spoken to him since September," said Domscheit-Berg, adding that he had no particular desire to resume contact.

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