Wikileaks har mistet mange av den indre kjernen de siste ukene, og grunnen er Julian Assanges autoritære og lunefulle lederstil, skriver John Burns i en profil. Mannen som snakker om Sannhet med stor S står ikke til ansvar for noen, og blir irritert over spørsmål om intern uro. – Mannen er blitt nuts, sier en som har fått nok. Det kan være livet på rømmen som gjør sin virkning.
Burns har gjort opp status og det begynner å bli mange faktorer som til sammen bidrar til å svekke Assanges renommé: både faglige og personlige. Det var han personlig som bestemte at de 70.000 Afghanistan-dokumentene skulle frigis uten at navnene på afghanske samarbeidspartnere var strøket, forteller en på innsiden. Taliban har nedsatt en komite på ni som saumfarer papirene for å se om noen av navnene stemmer med deres egen liste over 1.800 forrædere.
Assange betrakter visst dette som «collateral damage», en nødvendig omkostning, det er ellers en tankegang han kritiserer USA for. Fra å ha hatt et vidt spekter har wikileaks den senere tid fokusert utelukkende på USA. Medarbeidere sier han er drevet av et ønske om hevn mot USA.
Over lunsj med Burns sier han at USA i økende grad er et militarisert samfunn.
Men wikileaks er mest truet av intern uenighet, og den er blitt synlig siden i sommer, da Daniel Schmitt, talsmann for wikileaks i Tyskland, åpent meldte at han hoppet av.
Several WikiLeaks colleagues say he alone decided to release the Afghan documents without removing the names of Afghan intelligence sources for NATO troops. “We were very, very upset with that, and with the way he spoke about it afterwards,” said Birgitta Jonsdottir, a core WikiLeaks volunteer and a member of Iceland’s Parliament. “If he could just focus on the important things he does, it would be better.”
After the Sweden scandal, strains within WikiLeaks reached a breaking point, with some of Mr. Assange’s closest collaborators publicly defecting. The New York Times spoke with dozens of people who have worked with and supported him in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States. What emerged was a picture of the founder of WikiLeaks as its prime innovator and charismatic force but as someone whose growing celebrity has been matched by an increasingly dictatorial, eccentric and capricious style.
Effectively, as Mr. Assange pursues his fugitive’s life, his leadership is enforced over the Internet. Even remotely, his style is imperious. In an online exchange with one volunteer, a transcript of which was obtained by The Times, he warned that WikiLeaks would disintegrate without him. “We’ve been in a Unity or Death situation for a few months now,” he said.
When Herbert Snorrason, a 25-year-old political activist in Iceland, questioned Mr. Assange’s judgment over a number of issues in an online exchange last month, Mr. Assange was uncompromising. “I don’t like your tone,” he said, according to a transcript. “If it continues, you’re out.”
Mr. Assange cast himself as indispensable. “I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier, and all the rest,” he said. “If you have a problem with me,” he told Mr. Snorrason, using an expletive, he should quit.
In an interview about the exchange, Mr. Snorrason’s conclusion was stark. “He is not in his right mind,” he said. In London, Mr. Assange was dismissive of all those who have criticized him. “These are not consequential people,” he said.
“About a dozen” disillusioned volunteers have left recently, said Smari McCarthy, an Icelandic volunteer who has distanced himself in the recent turmoil. In late summer, Mr. Assange suspended Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German who had been the WikiLeaks spokesman under the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt, accusing him of unspecified “bad behavior.” Many more activists, Mr. McCarthy said, are likely to follow.
Mr. Assange denied that any important volunteers had quit, apart from Mr. Domscheit-Berg. But further defections could paralyze an organization that Mr. Assange says has 40 core volunteers and about 800 mostly unpaid followers to maintain a diffuse web of computer servers and to secure the system against attack — to guard against the kind of infiltration that WikiLeaks itself has used to generate its revelations.
Mr. Assange’s detractors also accuse him of pursuing a vendetta against the United States. In London, Mr. Assange said America was an increasingly militarized society and a threat to democracy. Moreover, he said, “we have been attacked by the United States, so we are forced into a position where we must defend ourselves.”
Even among those challenging Mr. Assange’s leadership style, there is recognition that the intricate computer and financial architecture WikiLeaks uses to shield it against its enemies has depended on its founder. “He’s very unique and extremely capable,” said Ms. Jonsdottir, the Icelandic lawmaker.
Men selv begavelse kan bli en trussel hvis man ikke sørger for å beholde støttespilleres lojalitet, og den ser Assange ut til å ha forspilt. Ellers ville ikke så mange snakket med pressen.
Irak-dossieret kan ha vært Assanges største og siste kupp. Han har stadig færre steder å oppholde seg.
En australsk regjeringskilde skal ha sagt til ham: – Den som spiller utenfor reglene risikerer også å bli felt utenom reglene.