- Associated Press - Thursday, February 10, 2011

BERLIN (AP) — A tell-all book by a former WikiLeaks insider casts founder Julian Assange as an “emperor” who has become just the kind of public figure he is trying to expose.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the former WikiLeaks spokesman who left the secret-spilling website after a bitter dispute with Mr. Assange, writes about his euphoria at the website’s spectacular rise as well as his disillusionment with a leader he describes as delusional and power-crazed.

He said one of his motives for writing the book was that he wanted to clarify the events that led to the falling-out.

“We need to set the record straight before Assange turns into a cult, a pop phenomenon,” Mr. Domscheit-Berg told reporters in Berlin on Thursday at the launch of his book.

The Associated Press reviewed a German-language copy of “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website” ahead of its release Friday in 16 countries.

“WikiLeaks turned pale computer geeks, whose cleverness otherwise would not have been noticed by anybody, into public figures, who put fear into politicians, CEOS and military chiefs around the world,” he writes in the book.

But Mr. Domscheit-Berg, who last month launched a rival website called OpenLeaks, also traces the arc of an increasingly fraught relationship that eventually erupts into conflict.

WikiLeaks’ original mission to “control the power executed behind closed doors and to create transparency, where it was being denied” deteriorated into a situation in which the group was “gradually corrupted by power and secrecy itself,” he writes.

Disputes sprang up over money, lack of transparency and Mr. Assange’s belief in conspiracy theories, he claims. Mr. Assange was certain “we wouldn’t be safe walking down the street, that our mail and suitcases were being X-rayed, that we had to go underground … and needed bulletproof vests,” the book says.

The breakup came in September after Mr. Domscheit-Berg challenged Mr. Assange’s leadership qualities. The former spokesman — who then went by the alias Daniel Schmitt — claims his rebellion got him kicked out of WikiLeaks, something Mr. Assange has publicly denied.

“A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader,” Mr. Domscheit-Berg recounts telling Mr. Assange in their final computer chat.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said he had no immediate comment.

Mr. Domscheit-Berg, a 32-year-old German computer scientist, told the AP in an interview that “Assange became exactly the kind of person he despised and wanted to fight.”

“It is therefore very important that it is made clear how everything went down and why, in the end, we decided to leave the project — and that is something that Mr. Assange has described the wrong way,” Mr. Domscheit-Berg said.

Mr. Domscheit-Berg’s book will be released in Germany, Australia, South Korea, Britain and 12 other European countries on Friday. In the United States, it will be published four days later, on Feb. 15. Other countries including Japan, Brazil and Russia plan publication soon.

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