Ex-WikiLeaks Employee Claims He Destroyed Whistleblower Documents

The Bank of America can relax, at least for now, as it appears a former WikiLeaks employee has destroyed thousands of documents submitted by various whistleblowers to the site.

Banks and other enterprises aren't the only organizations worrying about former employees stealing or destroying data when they leave the company. A former employee for the whistleblower site WikiLeaks said he "shredded" documents when he left the company earlier this year.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a sometime spokesperson for WikiLeaks in Germany, destroyed more than 3,500 documents when he was suspended from WikiLeaks in August 2010, German newspaper Der Spiegel reported Aug. 22 The documents were destroyed in order to prevent their sources from being compromised, Domscheit-Berg told Der Spiegel.

The irony in this case is that the malicious WikiLeaks insider destroyed information that was obtained from trusted employees at various companies and government agencies who leaked corporate secrets. WikiLeaks claimed in a statement that Domscheit-Berg removed the data from the servers, sabotaged the online submission system, and stole money and internal documentation when he was suspended for violating WikiLeaks' policies. He went on to set up a rival Website, OpenLeaks, in December, but the site has remained largely inactive since its launch.

"We can confirm that DDB claimed [to have] destroyed data [that] included a copy of the entire U.S. no-fly list," WikiLeaks posted on Twitter.

WikiLeaks claimed the document trove included internal communications of around 20 neo-Nazi organizations, United States intercept arrangements for over a hundred Internet companies and 5 GB of data obtained from the Bank of America, and the entire no-fly list. The no-fly list includes the names of individuals who are banned from boarding airplanes in the U.S. or on planes bound for the U.S.

WikiLeaks had hinted in the past it had received a damaging set of documents that would expose a major financial institution. Observers had predicted the intended target was the Bank of America, but the information never materialized on the site. It now appears Domscheit-Berg took the data with him off the servers when he left the organization.

"The material is irreplaceable and includes substantial information on many issues of public importance, human-rights abuses, mass-telecommunications interception, banking and the planning of dozens of neo-Nazi groups. Our sources have, in some cases, risked their lives or freedom attempting to convey these disclosures to WikiLeaks and to the public," WikiLeaks said.

WikiLeaks denied Domscheit-Berg's claim that source identities were at risk, pointing out that WikiLeaks' policy prevented the organization from collecting or retaining source-identifying information.

"Mr. Domscheit-Berg has repeatedly attempted to blackmail WikiLeaks by threatening to make available to forces that oppose WikiLeaks" the "whistleblower communications" he had in his possession if the organization charged him with sabotage or theft, WikiLeaks said in a statement posted Aug. 21 on the organization's blog. Domscheit-Berg "refused to return the various materials he has stolen, saying he needs them, solely, to carry out this threat," WikiLeaks explained.

Domscheit-Berg violated WikiLeaks' policy for accessing source material and recording encrypted "chat" conversations after he started dating and living with an executive for Microsoft in Germany, WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange said in a statement. After he was suspended, Domscheit-Berg convinced a German WikiLeaks administrator, an "old associate," to obtain the keys and data, said Assange.

Assange said Domscheit-Berg used some of the recordings in his book, "Inside WikiLeaks" and disclosed portions of the stolen content to publications like Wired magazine and members of the intelligence community, even while supposedly negotiating with WikiLeaks for their return.