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OpenLeaks Site Leaked Before Launch

The latest whistle-blowing Web site aims to avoid the most controversial aspects of Wikileaks.
Shortly before OpenLeaks opened for business on Thursday, the site design was leaked on Cryptome, an online repository for leaked documents that has been operating since 1996.

OpenLeaks doesn't yet have any significant documents to leak yet -- maybe once the beta phase begins during the second half of 2011. Right now, the goal is to rally support, build community, and refine the infrastructure necessary to enable secure, online whistle-blowing.

OpenLeaks was founded by disaffected Wikileaks participants Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German journalist, and Herbert Snorrason, an Icelandic historian. Though each has reportedly parted ways with Wikileaks as a a result of conflicts with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, they aren't bad-mouthing their former associate.

"While we fully support the stated goals of WikiLeaks, and wish them success, OpenLeaks is an independent project," the organization's Web site states.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains in the U.K. where he awaits the resolution of legal proceedings initiated by prosecutors in Sweden. U.S. authorities, angered by Wikileaks' release of military reports and diplomatic cables, have been struggling to build a case against Assange.

OpenLeaks aims to establish a more scalable whistle-blowing platform, one that separates the submission process and the distribution process. "We do not seek to publish information ourselves, but rather to enable third parties to do so," the group says on its Web site. "The public already trusts them, with their existing capabilities and experience to analyze and work on submitted material. We, in effect, simply enable them to receive information that they otherwise might not get access to in their local jurisdictional environment."

OpenLeaks does not directly edit or publish the information it receives. Its goal is to serve as much as possible as a conduit connecting whistle-blowers with trusted organizations. The site will provide participating groups with the capability to offer ostensibly secure online drop-boxes for whistle-blowers. And these sources will determine which organizations gain access to the leaked information. That's the plan at any rate. But the future of whistle-blowing looks rather cloudy.

Whistle-blowing, a controversial activity prior to the advent of Wikileaks, has become fraught with emotion, so much so that public defenders of American values have suggested execution is a suitable response to Assange's acts of publishing. The winds now blow against whistle-blowing: A longstanding attempt to provide legitimate whistle-blowers with greater legal protection, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (Bill S.372) was halted at the last minute last month by an anonymous hold placed by an unknown senator, despite apparent unanimous bipartisan support.

Assange and OpenLeaks might do well to recall the words of Clash front-man Joe Strummer: "You have the right to free speech, as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it."

This very strain of resignation can be read in a letter posted to Cryptome by site co-founder John Young.

In response to OpenLeaks' quixotic quest, Young wrote, "Let me know how best to support your absolutely hopeless endeavor as it travels from enthusiasm to embarrassment to disaster to calamity to catastrophe to harm maximization to recrimination to crocodile tears of apology to taking a well-paid job with what used to be the enemy."

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