|Home » Rants
The Life and Times of the Leberkäse Kid
Inside Daniel Domscheit-Berg - the dark tragedy, the comedy gold.
Someone came round with a copy of DDB's book in English. No one here would have bought a copy of it. The content is of no practical value and the money would go to a suspect source and to a publisher owned by the insidious Bonnier Group known for vicious attacks on The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks.
But this was a 'free' copy and reading it generated no further revenues for anyone. And now that we've all read it, it's time to reflect on the bizarre journey we've all been through.
Keeping to an impartial plane as much as possible, we can only say the book is a sad experience. It's not so much hatred or disgust with Daniel Domscheit-Berg that one feels as it's outright pity.
We also took the time to lift out key passages of the book and send them to someone in our German network who'd already read the book in its original language. Had the translator at Crown Publishing applied a layer of unrequested Leberkäse grease to the narrative? No. The translation was close to 'word for word'. So the actual tone of the original is intact in the translation.
The book is so creepy and funny in that regard that we're now working on a special article citing 'the worst of the worst' - sound bites that will absolutely stagger you. It's really a puzzler how Dreamworks could ever consider using the book as source material - even if all they want to make is a low budget soap opera or a slapstick cartoon.
And it's the tone of the narrative - a bit like the testimony of Sofia Wilén - that sticks with you the longest. After all the cautious admissions of unethical behaviour and outright theft, this is what will stay in your mind.
DDB says already in his 'author's note' that he joined WikiLeaks in 2007. DDB met Julian Assange at the CCC convention in Berlin in December 2007 but it was only afterwards he became a member of the WikiLeaks 'team'. DDB writes about how he visited the WikiLeaks chat forums, repeatedly expressed a desire to contribute, but got no joy. Not until December 2007.
So if DDB sneaks himself in there as a member of WikiLeaks in 2007, it's within the final week of the year.
For he really started when Julian returned with him to Wiesbaden on 1 January 2008 when they both were down with the flu and stayed under the covers for the first few days.
DDB's prologue reads like a Sofia Wilén testimony. Already here the reader gets a taste of what's to come.
'I read for hours. At some point I fell asleep, still in my jeans and sweater, with woolen slippers from my grandmother on my feet.'
And right away you get the impression DDB was always a pretender to the throne.
'You're suspended, Julian had written me weeks ago. As if he alone were the only one who could decide!'
Whoa. And it's clear the separation from his loved one caused DDB considerable pain. Yet if the alert reader steps back from the narrative and looks at what transpired and asks how else WikiLeaks could have reacted, said reader comes up with nothing. No organisation would ever have permitted what DDB has done.
3. The First Meeting
Daniel Domscheit-Berg first hears about WikiLeaks in September 2007. He'd already been a regular visitor to Cryptome. DDB thinks people initially thought WikiLeaks was connected to a clandestine service offering unwitting whistleblowers a 'honeypot' trap to catch them.
But then in November 2007 WikiLeaks published the 'Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures'. That blew away all DDB's misgivings - he writes that he's immediately impressed with WikiLeaks, thinks it's a great idea, and that it has the potential to become 'much, much bigger than Cryptome'.
DDB got a question in the WikiLeaks chat room after this. He believes it was Julian Assange himself asking the question.
'Still interested in a job?'
DDB was eager and took the job - low grade stuff like clean up the site, 'make HTML formats consistent', revise content. No top clearance. DDB still had a regular job working for the US data storage giant EDS with its big military clients. DDB insists he had a tacit agreement with EDS management that he'd not be asked to help weapons companies and so worked for the most part with General Motors, Opel, and a few airlines. With a daft move of his keyboard, the self-aggrandising DDB then adds:
'Anyone who books an overseas flight these days will probably use the technology that I developed.'
Quite the mouthful for someone who's studied for two peripheral degrees in IT but readily admits otherwise he's never written a line of code in his life. This in particular is something bound to inflame the programmer and hacker communities.
Suddenly full of himself, DDB then goes on to tell his readers how much money he was making and to point out that it was 'too little for what I was doing'. But does he protest his pathetic salary with management or get a better job? No.
'But I didn't care. I was active in the open source community.'
Wait just a second. DDB will eventually admit he's never written a line of code in his life. So what's this business about being active in a programming community? He was active in that he visited their websites?
Julian and DDB were scheduled to first meet in December 2007 in the final week of the year when the CCC had their annual convention. DDB describes the actual meet with cringeworthy romantic zeal.
'We met for the first time face to face by the spiral staircase on the second floor.'
Sounds like stage direction for Days of Our Lives. DDB waxes mushy immediately.
'We talked for hours. Then we would simply sit side by side, saying nothing, Julian absently working away at his computer.'
So much in love! What did you do all those hours when he sat beside you, DDB?
DDB also describes Julian as having a 'friendly' Australian accent - one wonders what a 'friendly' accent sounds like but one would most likely have to consult DDB in that matter.
DDB also talks about - Julian's shirt?
'The gleaming white shirt that had so impressed me when we first met lost some of its shine as time went on.'
Sorry but who the F gets impressed by a shirt? Something's not right - and possibly not 'hetero' here either. How did you keep him off you all those months, Jules?
DDB is also impressed with Julian's mind (in his own way).
'He was also well read and had strong opinions about a number of topics.'
And DDB lets on already now that he's going to have a problem with being uncompromising towards the Man.
'Even back then I thought that his uncompromising personality and extreme opinions, which he would simply spit out undiplomatically, would put him at odds with a lot of people.'
Too right, DDB. You tell him! (You did tell him, didn't you?)
DDB seems quite the methodical person. As if the lift never quite makes it to the ground floor either. Much less the cellar. And that lift seems to have a difficulty deciding what floors to stop on.
'There was so much to plan and discuss that I didn't have the time to keep analysing the character of my new acquaintance. I didn't ask myself back then whether his behaviour was normal or not.'
Actually DDB already has questioned the 'normality' of Julian. But whatever - he's clearly smitten.
'I was somewhat flattered that he was interested in working with me.'
Did you blush, DDB? And look now - they're starting to bond!
'WikiLeaks quickly established a bond between us. We believed in the same ideals. We were equals - at least that's the way I felt. Julian may have founded WikiLeaks and he may have had more experience than I did, but right from the start I had the feeling that we were a pretty awesome team.'
WikiLeaks released the Bär documents on 14 January 2008. DDB was now on board but only on part time basis as he still had his job with EDS.
'Tuesday was staff meeting day for me at my job. That entailed sitting with fifteen to twenty others in a claustrophobic conference room, breathing in stale air, and staring at Excel charts.'
That pretty much gives it away as far as DDB's programming experience goes: no real programmer would ever get close to a boardroom or Excel.
DDB ran out of the building when his meeting was over and on his way home bought the classic 'meat, potatoes, and cauliflower in the organic grocery around the corner'. What a shame others weren't invited to share in that culinary brio.
DDB tosses his food ungraciously on the kitchen counter and starts up his two laptops. Not a mere single laptop for this wizard. He gets online with JA right away as reactions to the bank exposé start to come in. DDB's narrative is full of exciting detail.
'While I peeled the potatoes, boiled the cauliflower, and braised the meat, Julian and I brainstormed about how to proceed.'
Julian, DDB, and an unspecified number of additional unspecified coworkers of course. But that's never mentioned. Of course.
DDB sees his role as a prankster.
'We were out to stir up trouble.'
Something others in the WikiLeaks organisation might find an offensive and even a dangerous attitude.
It's now that DDB's fake name starts to take hold and DDB finds himself wandering out the door of EDS.
'Since the Julius Bär leak, I've been stuck with my pseudonym. The press knew me only as Daniel Schmitt. In the next couple of days, I tried to work as much as possible from home. Around noon I'd grab an old laptop, hastily wave to the boss, and mutter something about trial runs before heading back to my apartment. Whenever my cell phone would ring at work, I'd flee to the storeroom on the ninth floor.'
[The ninth floor - remember that, dear reader.]
It's now that DDB hints that it might be mostly only him and Julian working on things - and that Julian might be using funny names to reply to inquiries much like Messrs Hewlett and Packard once did when they were starting up. But the seed is planted - for despite WikiLeaks being a thriving organisation already before DDB even heard of them, he's the only one doing anything of importance. Aside from JA of course.
JA and DDB go separate ways shortly after the Bär affair is over (with a victory for WikiLeaks). They meet again a half year later in Berlin, a meeting DDB relates with considerable poignancy.
'In the summer of 2008, after we hadn't seen each other in a long while, I picked him up at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz subway station in Berlin. He approached me and we hugged.'
'It's nice to see you', he said.
'I think so too', I answered.
'I rarely meant those words more.'
Oh how the same words can mean such different things to different people! But it's now Julian will start to spread his server power across the continent - something that would unravel in a pathetic way at the end of DDB's journey.
'We rented a car, a silver Mercedes C-Class station wagon, and packed the trunk full of small servers we had purchased with our first donations. Then we went on a whirlwind tour of Europe. I had pieced together a map of locations both within and outside Germany - inconspicuous places that were nonetheless safe. The locations had to be kept top secret because we didn't want people who rented space for our servers to be put in danger.'
Good work, DDB! DDB was also the driver. And he absolutely loves his time with his 'hero' - who's a terrible back seat driver! Sitting in the front to boot! One has to start wondering how much DDB is peppering up actual events.
'Julian sat beside me, bitching. He was a terrible backseat driver. He complained the entire time that I was driving too fast, and to him as an Australian, the German roads seemed far too narrow and full of traffic. What's more, he never quite got over the feeling that I was driving on the wrong side of the road.'
So you drive like a moron and scare the shit out of people. Anyway: here comes the famous Ovaltine part.
'When we reached Switzerland, I spent all my remaining money on Ovaltine. I love the Swiss chocolate drink, and for the rest of our tour, I couldn't wait to get back home and make myself a huge cup of cocoa. But when we arrived back in Wiesbaden, the cocoa powder would be all gone. Julian had at some point torn open the packages and poured the contents straight into his mouth.'
Time for a little unabashed DDB hubris. And there's one thing that impresses in the book from front to back: the Heisenberg Principle doesn't exist. DDB really doesn't see how his own personality and actions can in any way influence events. Watch.
'It would be an exaggeration to say that this inflated my ego. I didn't exactly suffer from an inferiority complex to begin with. But if you've just shot down and killed a horde of bears, you do walk through the world with a bit broader shoulders.'
Ask Julian about inferiority complexes or killing hordes of bears or broad shoulders and he'll either smile or laugh.
Time for DDB to pay a visit to Hazelnut and dwell on how famous and powerful he really is - as long as he's close to Julian. There are incomparable gems in this short passage. Enjoy.
'The shop was called Hazelnut and it was only two streets away. I didn't have much contact anymore with the nondigital world and the shop was one of the few places I still interacted with people face to face. Whenever I entered the shop after our adventure with Julius Bär, I felt like saying 'if you knew who we just fucked over, you'd laugh'.'
And then they'd offer to kiss DDB's hand.
'There were always newspapers lying about at Hazelnut - small publications that wrote about the world from a queer and/or Marxist perspective, not the big mainstream newspapers. A couple of them had run articles about the Julius Bär story. Sometimes I would glance over at the pile and laugh to myself. The employees at Hazelnut had no idea that one of those WikiLeaks people described in those articles was none other than the haggard, poorly shaven guy in printed t-shirts who bought his breakfast cream from them every day.'
Cheers for breakfast cream.
5. L Ron
Anonymous and WikiLeaks both took on Scientology. DDB spends considerable time in his next chapter explaining what Scientology is and why it's evil. And no argument there. DDB tells of how he used to be a 'samaritan' for Scientology refugees and used to advise and console them from a call box not far from his dark cellar flat.
'I was always running to call shops in the middle of the night to phone American or British numbers. I would stand in a call box, leaning against the wood chip wall, surrounded by the comforting chatter in German of Arab, Indian, or African exiles.'
He's good with the accents, that DDB. He'd already determined Julian's accent is friendly; now he's able to determine geographical origin with a wide variety of suspicious voices.
'To stay awake, I'd buy a bottle of Club-Mate, a soft drink containing stimulants. I kept it beside the phone as I tried to calm down the unknown individual on the other end of the line. At least with me they had the impression that contacting someone wasn't going to put them at risk. I was a pro when it came to questions of security.'
Selfless to a fault. And a pro when it came to security. Good to know.
DDB now delves into the intricacies of secure document transfer.
'Transferring documents was also secure. We took care that controversial documents were sent through so many detours, encryptions, and anonymising procedures and were accompanied by such a large amount of white noise as a diversion that no one could trace where they came from. We were likewise unable to contact our sources even in cases when clarifications were urgently necessary. The sender left no traces on the web, not even the smallest fingerprint or data fragment. Nothing.'
Good to know too. But of course this was a system Julian and WikiLeaks had built up.
Anonymous helped WikiLeaks with publishing the documents. This is of historical importance but has little to do with DDB's book or DDB himself. But L Ron is giving DDB some serious inspiration.
'An all-consuming religion would have simplified a lot of things.'
Then after espousing such a sentiment, DDB typically turns around and projects his own obsession on the others he's working with.
'Looking back, I ask myself whether WikiLeaks itself has developed into a kind of religious cult.'
And for someone who considers himself a 'security pro', the following simply doesn't fit in.
'WL participants were only allowed to know as much as was absolutely necessary for them to carry out their appointed tasks.'
Obviously there are different definitions of 'pro' for different people. DDB's already claimed to be a 'pro' IT guy and a 'pro' security guy. And the reader gets more and more perplexed.
6. DDB & The Media
A lot of DDB's book is meant to work like a spy novel. A thriller. The tone of the narrative changes continually. Yet enough is spiked in there at regular intervals to convince the reader these are highly secret operations - this in a chapter devoted to DDB's own travails and disappointments with the German media.
DDB jumps quickly to the Sydsvenskan article that first pointed out WikiLeaks didn't have formal source protection in Sweden as the website didn't have an 'ansvarig utgivare'. DDB remembers the tweet that responded to that.
'The article currently being spun about WikiLeaks source protection is false.'
And the article was false - in the most basic sense. For as DDB himself bragged in the preceding chapter, WikiLeaks didn't know about their sources anyway. Ordinary publications didn't have a WikiLeaks submissions system; their reporters met with and knew their sources by name. And it's true that in Sweden it's illegal to even try to find the sources of a media scoop.
But that's missing the point: you have to know your sources for the law to have any protection to offer you. And WikiLeaks cannot, as DDB so astutely explained, ever know who the sources are.
DDB now tries to make dirt out of even this and once again ascribe his own inner thoughts and schemes to others.
'To create the impression of unassailability to the outside world, you only had to make the context as complicated and confusing as possible. To that end, I would make my explanations of technical issues to journalists as complex as I could. It was the same principle used by terrorists and bureaucrats.'
DDB expounds on PR.
'For us the important thing was not how something really was but how one sold it.'
7. 2009: Julian Assange
DDB's next chapter is all about Julian Assange. For Julian came to live with DDB at the end of 2008 after the CCC conference.
'This was typical of him. He didn't have a fixed address, crashing instead at other people's places.'
But both he and Julian were under the weather with the flu they'd picked up at the CCC event.
'Ashen-faced, silent and sick, we sped back to Wiesbaden in an overcrowded high speed train on 1 January 2009.'
So much discomfort in DDB's life.
'No sooner had we gotten back to my flat, than the flu forced us to take to our beds. Or to be more precise, since I was feeling a bit better, I let Julian have my bed and withdrew to a mattress.'
It's good you clarified that, DDB.
Julian applied a bit of good old German home cooked medicine.
'Julian pulled on all the clothes he could find and even fished some ski pants out of his backpack. Dressed like this, he went to bed, wrapped himself in two more woolen blankets of mine, and sweated out his fever. He was healthy again when he got up two days later.'
It usually only takes one night but whatever. Lots of fluids, hot baths, and long walks can also help.
DDB lived in a bad part of town. To wit:
'I lived in the Westend district of Wiesbaden. It's quite a rough part of the city, an area where it's wise to chain up your bike with an extra-heavy lock.'
Those blasted bicycle thieves. The scourge of Germany. In the really bad neighbourhoods. Worse than Italy.
Back to some chummy work side by side.
'After getting over our bout of flu, we worked alongside each other peacefully and diligently. We would sit in my living room, typing away at our laptops. I worked at the desk in the corner by the window, while Julian was ensconced in front of me on the sofa with his computer on his lap.'
But what was Julian wearing, DDB? What was he wearing?
'He usually wore his olive green down jacket with the hood pulled up and a blanket wrapped around his legs.'
DDB was worried about his sofa. That terror known as Julian Assange was about to destroy a family heirloom planned for the trash heap.
'I was a bit worried about my sofa. He had turned the lovely brown velour Rolf Benz couch, which my parents had been intending to throw out and I had rescued from ending up on the trash heap, into his preserve. Julian ate everything with his hands, and he always wiped his fingers on his pants. I have never seen pants as greasy as his in my whole life. The sofa had survived the last thirty years. It was older than I was. I was afraid that it would take Julian just a few weeks to ruin it completely.'
No word however on what happened to that beautiful sofa.
Julian types without looking at the computer screen. He did this back then because their connections were so slow. All Unix gurus do this of course but DDB wouldn't have known. This is when the infamous circular was sent out with all addressees exposed - something Julian discovered in the same second he hit the Enter key. This of course is when the tragic Adrian Lamo sent them their own mailing list back as a whistleblower leak. Now there are two of the same caliber in this narrative. And Julian's reaction?
'Look at that. What an idiot!'
Concise and to the point.
Those two precious unforgettable months together with Assange in those close dark quarters left an indelible impression on DDB.
'Julian often behaved as though he had been raised by wolves rather than by other human beings.'
Why is that, DDB?
'Whenever I cooked, the food would not, for instance, end up being shared equally between us. What mattered was who was quicker off the mark. If there were four slices of Leberkäse, he would eat three and leave one for me if I was too slow.'
DDB talks about his palate.
'We both liked raw meat - steak tartare with onions. The fact that I took longer to eat my share was because I ate it with whole grain bread and butter while Julian preferred to eat his food without any side dishes.'
Julian knew how to be polite but often wasn't.
'It was not that he had never learned any manners. Julian could be very polite when he wanted to. For example, he frequently accompanied my visitors - even when he didn't know them - out the door, into the lobby, and onto the street. It was as if he wanted to make sure that they were safe.'
Yet it's curiously never revealed how Julian wasn't polite - all that's dropped in the reader's lap is the hint he wasn't. Top drawer journalism.
Julian was also extremely paranoid. This is of course a character flaw but it's not something DDB will himself admit to until much much later in his narrative.
'Julian was very paranoid. He was convinced that someone was watching my house, so he decided we should avoid ever being seen leaving or returning to the apartment together. I used to wonder what difference that made. If someone had gone to the trouble of shadowing my apartment, he would have seen us together anyway.'
Julian had no sense of direction. He came from Australia, spent considerable time around Europe, managed to get to two CCC conferences on his own and met up with DDB at both, yet he couldn't find his own shoes in broad daylight according to DDB.
'I have never met anyone with such a bad sense of direction. Julian could walk into a telephone booth and forget which direction he had come from when he came out again. He regularly managed to walk past the door to my apartment building. You couldn't have behaved more conspicuously than Julian did. He used to walk up and down the street, looking left and right, trying to identify my front door, until at some point I came and collected him.'
Obviously Julian Assange is a ridiculous person.
Julian had a 'free and easy relationship with the truth'. And it must be so. As the only possible alternative is that DDB is denser than a black hole and was being played as the useful idiot - and that simply cannot be.
'For example, he had served me up a story about how his hair had gone white. He told me that when he was fourteen, he had built a reactor at home in his basement and got the poles reversed. From that day on, his hair had grown in white as a result of the gamma radiation.'
'I believe he wanted to see what he could get away with...'
You think, DDB? But why would he do that with you?
Julian could pull all-weekers.
'Julian could work for days on end and then suddenly fall asleep. He would lie down in all his pants, socks, and sweatshirts, pull the blanket over his head, and drop off.'
Sounds like Daryl Zero.
'When he woke up, he snapped back into the world just as instantaneously.'
Sounds like Daryl Zero.
Sometimes DDB is funny in spite of himself.
'Daniel, I need a jacket, do you have one? he would say. I have to write a very important statement today.'
But enough with the casual amusement. No cabin fever here - DDB is adamant he never suffers from such lowly human frailties himself - so this is clearly something very terrible about Julian again. The whole thing plays out like a honeymoon that goes all wrong.
'Even though he usually sat at the kitchen table in hooded sweatshirt and cap, I suddenly had to lend him a jacket so that he could write a press release. He wouldn't take off the jacket the whole day, wearing a serious face the whole time he composed his text. Afterward, he would also go to bed in the jacket.'
'In the two months he lived with me, I got to know someone utterly unlike the guys I usually spent my time with.'
And who where they? Don't ask, don't tell. But it's a tortuous relationship, that's for sure.
'On the one hand, I found Julian unbearable and, on the other, unbelievably special and lovable. I had the feeling that something must have gone very wrong in his life.'
Could that something have been the trip to Wiesbaden?
Whatever: someone has a dark side. DDB knows this. He's just an innocent bystander, removed from the influence of Heisenberg. Cabin fever affects only mere mortals.
'He could have been a great person... he also had a dark side, and this increasingly gained the upper hand in the months to come.'
But the two months DDB spent with his hero were about to come to an end. No one's ever asked Julian Assange about those two months, and this out of consideration. It can't have been easy.
'That's why I put up with Julian for so long - probably longer than anyone else.'
And what a great sacrifice you made, DDB. Caring for him more than staff in the UK or even his own mother. Good show.
DDB is even better though.
'I can't think of any serious mistakes for which I alone was responsible.'
Quite. To err is human; to not err is DDB. To cast glances back down memory lane and to make the reader understand the author assumes his own flawlessness and at the same time expects the reader to unequivocally take the author's side in all this petty writing - that's definitely only DDB. Already this far in the book most readers will be regretting buying it.
8. The Money
DDB now brings up the mysterious 'nanny' that no one else in the WikiLeaks organisation seems to know anything about. Perhaps not even Jules himself. But how does DDB know this when he's no longer on location with Julian? Ah the mysteries abound.
'The nanny was brought in whenever there was a job that Julian couldn't be bothered with or couldn't do himself.'
Sorry - but how does DDB claim to know this?
'She sometimes arrived just before conferences to write his speeches.'
Julian speaks ex tempore. There are probably no instances whatsoever of him ever reading a speech. Or using Barack's teleprompter. So what's DDB's going on about?
'After other people and I left WikiLeaks, she was also the one who ended up traveling the world mediating between Julian and us and asking us not to damage the project by publicly criticising it.'
Ah. So DDB's actually met this mysterious woman! Anything else you can tell us about her, DDB?
'The nanny was an old friend of Julian's and was around forty - a pleasant but very resolute sort of person. For personal reasons I don't want to go into here, she would never want to talk about her contact with WL. That was likely a particular advantage she offered from Julian's perspective.'
The 'nanny' was involved at this point because of a cock-up with PayPal. Suddenly WikiLeaks had access to the money again. Here comes DDB right out of the woodwork.
'Things really turned nasty at that point. All of a sudden we had a bundle of money. But Julian and I had very different ideas about what to do with it.'
What did you want to do with it, DDB?
'I wanted to buy hardware - and not just because I really knew my way around that area. I wanted to get our infrastructure up to speed. This was desperately needed. As a result, breakdowns and security risks were inevitable. It made it far too easy for our adversaries. As long as everything was run on a single server, it would have been easy to break into WikiLeaks. That wouldn't have been so bad, but our documents were also on the server.'
But didn't you just tell us you spent several months - and a fortune on Ovaltime - motoring around Germany, Switzerland, wherever to set servers up all over the place?
DDB knows organisations like WikiLeaks also need secure telephony. DDB has his own useful idiot.
'My girlfriend at the time had bought us secure cell phones, or Cryptophones, as they're called. She shelled out an awful lot of money in one fell swoop. And I still feel bad now, when I think about how I slowly let our relationship die.'
Too bad about the relationship. But why exactly did it die?
Time for toxic bile.
'Months later, when we were in Iceland, I accidentally found out that Julian was trying to sell one of those astronomically expensive cell phones to one of our acquaintances - for €1,200. Not only didn't the cell phones belong to him, but he wanted to sell one off at a hugely inflated price to someone who had no money for that kind of thing. Afterward, Julian gave away the cell phone to some seventeen year old guy he wanted to become more involved. Julian could be unselfconsciously generous one minute, then really miserly a minute later.'
So in other words DDB got his girlfriend (whom he was going to dump shortly afterward) to buy expensive Cryptophones for the WikiLeaks crew which DDB again had physical contact with in some mysterious way. And these phones were not then the property of WikiLeaks but of - who exactly? The girl? So she bought all the phones as an investment she'd reclaim at a later time? Or has ownership passed to DDB himself as he's now tossed the girl under the bus?
'Julian didn't give a hoot about status symbols. He may be different today, but back then, when we traveled together, he didn't own a watch, a car, or any designer clothing.'
No designer clothing? WTF? And why would Julian be different today? And what planet are you from anyway, DDB?
Now comes the application for the $500,000 Knight grant. DDB tells it adequately enough all by his lonesome.
'Later Julian would complain that I had tried to smuggle my name onto the application. That was a brazen reversal of the facts. Back in 2008, I had sat on the last day with the completed forms on my desk, wondering what to do about the signature. It was a real headache...'
It surely was.
'We had to supply a real address, a real name, a permanent abode, and so on...'
And have it signed by a real people. Difficult.
'Time was running out so I thought, who cares about the United States? It really doesn't matter if I use my real name. I signed the application and sent it off. And in 2009 I did the same thing. I spent the next few days dreaming that WikiLeaks had been awarded the half million dollars and dreaming about all the things that we could afford with it.'
Sweet dreams indeed.
'Just before going to sleep I thought about how we could set up the most sophisticated security equipment - only the best: half a rack in a properly air-conditioned data center, with an electric generator and a network as well as a terminal server for accessing other servers if there was a problem. And the servers would be from the most recent generation, not from two generations past.'
Wonderful dreams. The hardware was all German of course?
'I carried on dreaming. Of renting an office and entrusting people with specific tasks. Of paying ourselves salaries. I would have preferred never to return to the company I worked for, with its Excel sheets, Tuesday meetings, and my secret telephone conferences in the storeroom on the eighth floor.'
[Wasn't that the ninth floor previously? Why have you come down in the world, DDB?]
So in other words - and as late as 2009 - DDB was still not full time at WikiLeaks, still at military contractor EDS. Cozy.
'The foundation must have thought that we were either completely arrogant or extremely disorganised. Both were true. That's why I put myself at their disposal.'
Good of you to preempt that decision, DDB.
'Julian wrote me an angry email afterward: you're not the applicant.'
So true again.
'Later he told the others that I had tried to force my way onto the application. Migod! We could have put our energy to better use by combining forces to put together a great presentation.'
As long as DDB got his name - his real name - on it. The pretender to the throne is scheming his palace revolt.
9. Bye to EDS
Things were a long way from DDB being able to subsist on income from WikiLeaks. He had a job with EDS - where he was grossly underpaid as he says himself - and there was only one paid WikiLeaks employee: a technician who remains with the organisation to this day. But DDB's got a problem with his nerves again (yet) and so something has to be done. And it's this condition that continually colours everything DDB comes into contact with.
'Increasingly, my job was getting on my nerves. Investing my energies on behalf of my clients was leading me nowhere. What was the point of Opel producing more cars, or another of my customers boosting his turnover? That didn't make the world a better place.'
DDB began working remote for his employer. He describes the heroic way he'd handle two jobs at once. Don't miss the highlighted parts.
'Sometimes the telephone would wake me at 11:00 with an important customer on the line. I had invariably forgotten I had an appointment for a telephone conference.
Wearing just my underwear and old socks and having just been torn from a deep sleep, I would stumble over a package of secret military documents spread out over the floor and plop down onto my beanbag chair. And then I would explain to top managers of leading international companies what a brilliant job we could do optimising their data centres. Afterward I would return to the documents, the secret service papers and the corruption cases due to be published next on the website.
The quality of my work remained impeccable. My parents had raised me to be conscientious, and that's something that sticks with you.'
'Sofia Wilén' all over again. And coincidentally 'just like Wilén' rhymes perfectly with 'bat shit insane'.
DDB explains what he's like as a back seat driver when he's in Moscow.
'I'm not usually a nervous passenger. But I clung to the handle above the window as Vladimir jerked his car into the right turn lane at a hundred kilometers per hour, or when he created a lane of his own, firmly convinced that everyone else would make way for him and knowing that he would win the traffic case if it ever came to court.'
DDB will ultimately leave EDS not out of altruism but over fights he had with management about planned layoffs.
'The first wave of firings at my employer started taking place at that time. Our labor advisory committee sent around an email, offering staff the chance to get some advice. A short time later, we received an email from management, warning us not to count the quarter of an hour we spent with the committee as part of our official working day. We were constantly being bombarded with petty-minded nonsense and preachy bullshit - for example, reminders that Christmas Eve was also half a working day, or that pens and erasers were company property. I was furious.'
'I was working sixteen to eighteen hours a day, and the company was insinuating that we were trying to cheat them out of fifteen minutes of paid work.'
But you weren't getting paid for 16-18 hours. And how many employees in the company? Times 0.25 hours? For a company in dire straits forced to lay people off? You're no good at math, DDB?
DDB plots revenge. He's a wee troublemaker alright!
'So I wrote an email and sent it to all the company's German staff. As sender I entered the address of the management and I cc'd all our bosses. In the email I asked the managing director not to assume that others shared his own work ethic. I added that it would also be nice if the advisory committee could show a bit of backbone. I sent the email via a network printer. I knew its IP address because it was the printer in the hall outside my office in Rüsselsheim.'
How long is the statute of limitations in Germany?
DDB was asked to investigate the incident and of course never let on he'd done it himself. But now everyone in Germany knows, thanks to his book. And how would the people at EDS react today?
'Some of my colleagues back home soon developed a blind hatred toward whoever had sent that email. They were worried that they might be fingered for it and were sure they would get fired any day. In particular, people who were always complaining about management were suddenly shitting their pants.'
So in other words the prank was a success?
Everybody's a fuckup in the world of DDB.
'It was very amusing to see just how amateurishly the subsequent police investigation about my email proceeded.'
But the time had come to move on.
'In early 2009 I decided to resign once and for all. Normally, I wouldn't have been a candidate for layoffs, but because I had come forward of my own free will and I was young and single, the company could hardly say no. I managed to negotiate a year's pay as a severance package. On 31 January 2009 I left for good. Finally I could devote my entire energy round the clock to WikiLeaks.'
And he had a year's salary to live on. Not as much as he was entitled to of course. But he had enough for Leberkäse, cauliflower, and breakfast cream. And at the weekends the occasional cup of a wonderful Swiss hot chocolate drink.
DDB now talks about fighting censorship and in particular how war cries about child pornography are used to kick a wedge into the debate so Big Brother can make a triumphant return.
It's now that DDB reveals he's not born to be a speaker and in fact had phobias about appearing before an audience. Those who've seen him on stage with Julian may otherwise suspect he's hogging the podium and prepared to fight for it to keep the limelight on himself.
'Ever since we started holding joint lectures, I've lost my fear that something will go wrong, that the projector will catch fire or the stage will collapse.'
This is also when DDB makes his incredible t-shirt blooper. Read on.
'Along with trying to found a global anticensorship movement, I had assigned myself another job, perhaps the toughest of my life. I had gotten t-shirts printed with the WL logo. Because I thought our logo stood out best that way and because I wanted to save two cents per t-shirt, I'd ordered them in white. That was idiotic. Who buys white t-shirts? Especially in a social clique where black t-shirts are something of a dress code. I myself had never worn a white t-shirt in my entire life!'
Wiesbaden? We have a problem!
'Now I was sitting on 250 shirts, the equivalent of almost four moving boxes full. Unpacked and piled up, they measured a frightening three meters. And I had to get rid of the pile. I literally had to stop people in their tracks as they were passing our stand and beg them to trade €5 from their wallets for a t-shirt.'
Surely the toughest job anyone's ever had.
'My girlfriend was far too honest to convince someone that he absolutely had to have such an ugly article of clothing...'
Please don't rush out to buy the book now!
'Julian preferred to engage potential customers in deep conversations about the state of the world. He stood there talking and talking, occasionally getting into an argument, until no one was thinking about t-shirts anymore.'
No one except DDB. Who still hasn't managed to forget.
'I narrowly avoided losing money on the shirts.'
Oh good. You avoided your own loss? Who were the profits going to? Just curious.
Now they're on their way to Linz Austria. They'd won an art award. Things get cozy.
'Only one hotel room was provided, so Julian and I had to sleep in a double bed.'
Don't ask, don't tell.
'But we did our best to get dressed up for the art scene. I had a pair of black leather shoes on that were in pretty good shape. Julian wore a tailored cotton overcoat. It was a bit too small and was probably meant for a woman, but it did lend him a sophisticated touch.'
Be careful there, DDB.
DDB doesn't think much of the others in Linz.
'... the projects that were given awards were completely senseless... The accompanying exhibit also struck me as being completely over the top... people just ran around, pompously talking about their banal works and praising themselves to the skies.'
DDB has a good point in not being too straightforward and undiplomatic. But Julian can do the same thing and not come off as the complete jackass. How is this possible?
'Are there any representatives from the media in the room? Julian asked. A few people - roughly half of the audience - raised their hands. What luck, Julian said. I was afraid I was going to get stuck with a bunch of art wankers again.'
It's about now that all that hard work pays off for DDB. About now he visibly starts to unravel. About now the others start to worry about him. About now he too understands there's something gravely wrong with DDB. Not that Iceland in the middle of the winter with at best 4 hours of good sunlight is easy even on Icelanders, but still and all. Some people break a lot easier and a lot faster than others.
'We flew to Iceland in November 2009. I took a plane from Berlin; Julian arrived from somewhere else. I had booked us into the Baldursbra, a cozy, completely untrendy guesthouse in downtown Reykjavík that was run by a Frenchwoman. Julian and I shared a corner room on the third floor.'
Where was Julian coming from, DDB? What does he do when he's not with you?
'After my arrival, I immediately went out into the streets and found a restaurant. Herbert joined me, together with a friend of his named Smári. I don't recall the name of the restaurant, but the fish soup was excellent. I also learned you can get a malt beer, and a tasty one at that, wherever you go in Iceland.'
DDB always working on his sense of direction. Those two acquaintances will of course prove crucial in the next year.
'I knew Herbert through the chat room. He appeared there shortly after the Kaupthing leak and had soon taken over the task of answering questions from newcomers. Herbert is a thoughtful, pleasant guy with a fine sense of humour.'
Of course he is. Herbert is also an anarchist, something DDB keeps claiming he is as well with little noticeable effect on his audience.
'I think Proudhon's What Is Property? is the most important book ever written, and I'd brought a new edition of the author's works, containing previously unpublished letters, with me to Iceland.'
So that new edition was your property?
'I was hoping to find a bit of time to make a dent in them.'
So good luck!
'I could philosophise for hours with Herbert. As a historian, he knew a lot of things that I as a computer scientist didn't have a clue about and he was mightily impressed when I showed him my new Proudhon edition.'
Sounds like a great relationship.
'We talked until the owner of the restaurant came up to our table and said he wanted to close. Julian arrived on the last plane in and joined us in the guesthouse. It was on this evening that the idea of making Iceland into a free-press haven was born.'
This would of course be the IMMI. But as DDB and Julian meet with the media and hatch their plan for the IMMI and confront the powers that be, DDB starts to feel the arctic strain.
'Something was wrong with my eyes. My eyelids felt far too heavy. I scanned people's faces for signs that my face looked strange.'
DDB thinks it might be a lack of vitamin C?
'I was also constantly running to the supermarket to buy fresh orange juice. I think it was my way of combating light deprivation.'
But there's also the spiritual side of things.
'Pictured on the bottles of orange juice I bought every day was a friendly, glowing orange ball that looked a bit like the absent sun. It made me feel as though even if I couldn't see the sun, I could still drink it.'
Scandinavians never get over the lack of sunlight. They're amongst the most frenetic holiday travelers with destinations in Spain dominating. Things are at their worst near the arctic circle and Icelanders are amongst the worst hit.
DDB of course enjoyed his fame.
'It was crazy. We were stars. I was almost ashamed at how much I enjoyed it.'
Almost as in horseshoes.
'To play the hero for once felt good - I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel that way.'
Never lie, DDB. How did Julian react? The same as you?
'I didn't notice any change in Julian.'
So he was his usual humble self?
'He assumed he would be treated like royalty, and took extreme care that he was the recipient of a few additional hymns whenever people sang our praises.'
Oh! Did you guys ever go out partying? Iceland is famous for its nightclubs.
'I remember one evening at a club in a former slaughterhouse in Wiesbaden.'
No - on Iceland, DDB. Did you ever go out partying there? No?
'During the day, we mostly hung around on the sofas in Café Rot, a cozy little restaurant run by squatters in a house that had been scheduled for demolition. On Sunday, people danced to swing music, and the coffee only cost one euro. Refills were free, and you could work there the whole day.'
Oh. That's almost the same thing - no?
Time to meet Birgitta.
'Three days after our club outing was the FSFI conference, and that's where we met Birgitta Jónsdóttir. She was a member of the Icelandic parliament and wanted to become informed about the data-haven idea.'
What was Birgitta like?
'Julian could turn very polite whenever he thought he was in the presence of someone important. He shook Birgitta's hand, bent forward slightly to ask her name again, and tried to pronounce it correctly after she had repeated it.'
It's that hard to pronounce? Surely not for you!
'Icelandic names were a nightmare for someone like him. He turned Birgitta into Brigitta, and that was the way it stayed, even though she accompanied us for months and soon became one of our closest confidantes.'
Shame. Anything else exciting happened on Iceland? Don't be shy.
'In Iceland I also got a tattoo. I liked tattoos, and I was always in search of images with a special personal connection. New tattoos for me were mementos of special places that I could take back home. Iceland was one such special place.'
Yeah. Lack of sunlight and talking to cartoons on a box of orange juice - sounds very special. But how about the tattoo?
'I mulled over for a long time what I wanted for an image. The idea to have the WL hourglass tattooed on my back was one I'd been carrying around with me for a while.'
Oh goodness. You didn't tell Julian, did you?
'I remember that I told Julian about it and he thought it was great. Later he always made fun of me, saying he found the idea pathetic.'
Made fun of you? Pathetic? Why? But OK - tell your story. Please.
'The tattoo studio was concealed behind a milk-glass window on a main road, and as I pushed open the door, causing a bell to ring, there was a young man in the place who spoke German.'
Ah. Spoke German. How nice.
'I was about to turn around and go, when a second tattoo artist stuck his head out of a back room and recognised me.'
WikiLeaks FTW! So how did the tattoo turn out? You wanted the entire WikiLeaks hourglass covering your entire back, right?
'Unfortunately, the tattoo only got half finished. Both the tattoo artist and I were too exhausted after four hours to press on. I needed two Tylenol with water and was constantly asking Fjölnir which country of the logo he was on. 'Now doing Iceland.' I sighed. 'Morocco.' OMG. By the time we got to Cape Hope, hope was something I no longer had. To this day I run around with half of a WL logo tattooed on my back.'
No more public beaches for you?
Things start to go wrong. DDB's been in one of the darkest climates for one of its darkest times of year. Things aren't right and he knows it. He wants to take a walk with Julian.
'I wanted to find out what was wrong between us. I could only guess what was bothering him. Recently, he had become very concerned that he get at least 52 percent of the attention and me only 48 percent. Maybe he felt as though someone was now there with whom he would have to share. Someone who was grabbing his laurels, someone who also wanted to be praised and who was developing his own ideas about how to proceed with WL in the future. It was easy sharing a lack of success. But he was unwilling to allow our success to be credited to both of us.'
Did you tell him this was your impression?
'I tried to take account of and pacify his feelings. For me it was clear that he had founded WikiLeaks, and that no one was going to take away his baby.'
'On the other hand, I was part of our success. I did my work well, and there was no reason for me not to say that.'
Of course not. So you were a spokesperson for WikiLeaks now - and a cofounder?
'I returned to the guesthouse feeling as though our conversation had done us good. As I brushed the snow from my clothes in the entrance, I thought that maybe we'd just been under too much stress the past few weeks. Everything, I thought, would now go back to the way it had been before.'
You never explain what Julian's answers were. Why not? What conversation did you actually have? As for too much stress - there certainly is enough stress on the part of DDB. How about Julian? Did he seem stressed as well? You don't want to touch on that, DDB?
Julian and DDB were the sole representatives of WikiLeaks to the outside world. So says DDB. Julian used Germany as a springboard and DDB accompanied Julian to Iceland. But so did many others. And Iceland would be the centre only a few months later of a project that's since gone into history. And DDB was neither present nor invited.
WikiLeaks went offline at this time to spur on a new round of donations. It worked. DDB and Julian were back in Berlin for the annual CCC conference.
'I suddenly knew what it must feel like to get endorphins injected directly into your brain.'
Orange juice no longer needed. The WikiLeaks presentation at CCC 2009 got a standing ovation.
'It was the greatest moment of my entire life. We hadn't given a pop concert or promised to hand out a thousand free drinks. All we'd done was give a lecture about international media law. But people clapped like crazy. First one member of the audience, then two, then three stood up, and suddenly they were giving us a standing ovation. The noise was deafening. I felt waves of enthusiasm floating up to us like a cloud from the masses down below. That was an awesome feeling. Truly awesome.'
Spoken like a true poet. And it was all your doing too! With a little help from Julian of course. But now the WikiLeaks site was offline and they all waited for the money.
'Slowly but surely money started coming in. We had announced that we needed $200,000 for operating costs and ideally $400,000 more for salaries.'
Salaries? You've squandered your severance package?
'By February or March 2010, we had gotten the first $200,000 together and that was just in our account with the Wau Holland Foundation.'
'Anyone in Germany who wanted to give us money could deduct it from his taxes. The lion's share of our donations came from Germany.'
'The last time I was able to check, the foundation had collected as much as a million dollars for us.'
Awesome! When was it you last checked, DDB? Anyway: going back online now?
'With the submission system sorted out, we went back online in January 2010 so that people could upload new documents. The background system was, technically speaking, far more advanced than it had been before our break, but the wiki-the user interface with the start page, the explanations of all the leaks, and the links to the documents-remained offline for another six months. For half a year, we could receive new material but were otherwise unreachable via the Internet. That was because our repair operations had proved a bit trickier than we originally imagined.'
Ah. But you had all that money!
'Suddenly there was plenty of money available, and unlike Julian, I was in favour of spending it.'
Ah. Good idea.
'Transactions with the foundation were relatively simple. The foundation advanced me money, and I bought things and submitted the receipts. Once I received €10,000 and later on another occasion €20,000 which went to buy hardware and pay for transportation and travel costs.'
Ouch! That was a lot! Where was Julian at the time?
'We had Cryptophones, satellite pagers, and state of the art servers - everything we needed. We were on solid footing, and our architecture was exemplary.'
Cryptophones? You mean the ones your former girlfriend bought?
DDB wants to have permanent offices with permanent staff, possibly in Berlin where everyone still speaks German and the sun doesn't go down at 14:00. Either that or somewhere in the Alps as DDB loves the fresh air up there and believes Julian does as well.
DDB also mentions talk of moving into an air raid shelter and even speaks with the German military about leasing or purchasing such a building. He wanted to have a big WikiLeaks flag hoisted on the roof - something that 'would have underscored our reputation as an unassailable fortress'. For in DDB's mind, WikiLeaks was to become 'the most aggressive press organisation in the world'.
But Julian wasn't keen on DDB's ideas.
'Julian changed his mind. He thought we should become an insurgent operation.'
'Insurgents? Insurgents don't have offices. They work underground. To my mind, he was casting doubt upon the basic idea of everything we'd worked toward for years.'
He's obviously gone rogue with his own organisation, DDB. He's been there at least three times as long as you, it's his baby, and he founded it. But no matter. Best step in and save him. Is he getting paranoid again?
'Increasingly, he would talk about how we were being shadowed and how we needed to make ourselves 'untouchable'. He was convinced we were no longer safe on the streets, that our mail and belongings were being searched, and that we had to disappear and live underground. He fantasized about bulletproof vests and international secret services always on our heels.'
Haha. You of course would never go off the deep end like that, right?
'Now, I'm a big critic of the German government, but I still believe we live under a government that respects the law. I didn't think we needed to fear being kidnapped on our trips to Iceland, Italy, or Hungary. And before we started complaining about people breaking into and searching our office, it would have been nice to have one.'
'Our first truly serious fights were about the money.'
That's always the way it is. The chief cause of divorce. After marriage itself. And you were wanting to spend spend spend (and sometimes seem to have just gone ahead and done it) and Julian was saying 'why why why' and 'no no no'. He obviously lacked your vision, DDB.
'I explained to Julian that he wouldn't be the only one to have access to the funds from the Wau Holland Foundation.'
O RLY? So you jumped in there and hijacked WikiLeaks funding?
'I wasn't interested in paying them out to myself. I just wanted to be able to make decisions. To be able to get money when it was acutely necessary and when Julian, as was often the case, couldn't be contacted for a couple of days.'
'Our two technicians and the close circle of assistants that had coalesced within WL shared my view.'
Did they now!
'They even suggested splitting the money into two halves so that no one could squander it all individually.'
They did or you did? Which is it, DDB?
'Even if one of us made an awful decision, our war chest as a whole would have been safe.'
Maths, DDB. If you split the coffers in two and half gets wasted, you don't have things still 'safe' as a whole. But you have a right to take some money, DDB! All that money! Geez!
'We all worked full time for WikiLeaks. We had talked about the need to pay salaries for quite some time. I would have been content with €2,500 a month gross. I didn't need anything. What's more, the foundation had told us that any salaries shouldn't be too nominal, to avoid running afoul of German labor laws concerning who was a freelancer and who a permanent employee. That was fine by me. We had talked about modeling what we did on the practices of other charitable organizations such as Greenpeace or Worldwatch.'
Fair is fair!
'But Julian blocked any and all changes.'
Wa? How were you otherwise able to get money out of Wau?
'There was more money around than ever before...'
'... but precisely at this juncture arguments broke out about every cent.'
'Such quarrels were unworthy of the project.'
Absolutely! Agreed! Give the money to DDB and let him manage things!
'The future direction of WikiLeaks was at stake.'
Oh undoubtedly! You gave it your best, DDB!
13. Back into Darkness
Julian and DDB flew back to Reykjavík in January 2010. Things would really pick up now but DDB would no longer be a part of things. DDB doesn't seem to have been frightened off enough from his first visit to the dark capital.
Reykjavík gets 8 hours daylight (if it's clear skies) at the end of October, three hours less (5 hours) a month later, and they're down to four hours at the winter solstice.
'We rented an apartment in the Fosshotel, a half-decent chain hotel that would normally have been far beyond our means. But Julian, using various obscure connections, had gotten us an obscenely cheap deal. In the end we would only pay a nominal sum for a whole month. Julian paid the bill, which allowed him to play the generous host toward the rest of us.'
So Julian was helpful after all!
'So there we were, in a somewhat spartanly furnished apartment for four on the third floor, with a kitchen, purple curtains, and imitation wood floors. The hotel with its massive, ugly, gray exterior was located on a quiet side street near the harbor promenade.'
Cozy! Are you and Julian still together? What did you think?
'The room I shared with Julian had only a single small window at about the height of my navel.'
'I used to lie in bed and look out at the clean lines of the mountain panorama across the water when the close confines and permanent mess of our quarters got to be too much for me.'
That sounds terrible! How did the others cope? Did you ever think of taking a walk?
'But there was no window in our bathroom. In the morning, after the three other guys had taken their showers, the air was full of sulfuric water that bit at my lungs.'
'Julian and I shared the room in succession with Rop Gonggrijp; the American hacker and net activist Jacob Appelbaum; and Folkert, a hacker from Hong Kong who was a good friend of mine. They had all come to Iceland to support the IMMI, bringing their experience and expertise and helping us work out the details of the idea.'
Must have been a big room! So there were chaperones at all times.
'We rented a workspace in the Ministry of Ideas - an old warehouse complex in Reykjavík that is home to a number of grassroots movements. Space was cheap there.'
Julian funded that as he had the hotel? What did you do there?
'When I wasn't sitting at my computer, I was meeting potential business partners. The idea was to convince the service providers, regulatory government offices, computer centers, and the companies who owned the transatlantic cables that it was in their interest to support our initiative. If they could guarantee people legal protection for all Internet business, I argued, they would attract customers from all over the world.'
And eventually you met with the Icelandic parliament to present IMMI?
'Our appearance before Iceland's parliament - the Althingi - in Reykjavík was an extremely unhappy experience. On our way to the conference room at the Althingi, I was astonished at how quiet things were in the hallways. I was accustomed to far more activity in the German Bundestag. We got a slap in the face when we entered the presentation room. There were only two parliamentarians seated in the ten rows of chairs.'
Ah. Not good! You were of course upset. How about Julian?
'If Julian was upset, he didn't show it.'
But you did, right?
'I was a bit depressed. How were we supposed to make the IMMI into Icelandic law if only two people attended the preliminary hearing?'
Yes of course.
'The next major obstacle took shape invisibly and came from our own ranks. Along with piles of dirty clothes and empty pizza boxes, cabin fever was beginning to take over our apartment at the Fosshotel.'
Uh-oh! Wiesbaden all over again!
'Although we all got along extremely well and worked together very efficiently in chats, none of us could stand the physical presence of others for so many days in a row.'
'It was almost funny.'
'Our first serious clash of personalities probably never would have happened if we hadn't rented a shared apartment in that Icelandic hotel.'
Who clashed, DDB?
'On a Wednesday evening during the third week, the situation escalated dramatically. The cause was an open window. I had been out and about and had returned to the apartment, where everyone else - Rop and Julian as well as Herbert and Smári - was hunched over his laptop, typing away.'
So they were bickering? No?
'A coffin that had been reopened after a decade would have smelled better than our room. I held my nose, went over to the French balcony on the other side of the room, and opened it to let in a bit of oxygen.'
'A French balcony is actually a false balcony, with doors that open to a railing with a view of the courtyard or the surrounding scenery below.'
The point being those aren't small windows - they're floor to ceiling and they're at least two so people can walk through them. And it's the dead of winter with extreme subzero temperatures on Iceland. It's a wonder you're still alive, DDB.
Julian looks up, feels the ice rush toward him and the others, and speaks to DDB.
'Rop is cold, you idiot!'
DDB describes Julian's tone as 'extremely insulting'. The reader may at this point take a five minute break to apply palm to face.
'I had no idea why he felt he had to play the role of Rop's father.'
Maybe because he felt someone should say something?
'The others looked at Julian and me in horror.'
Are you sure they looked at him in horror too, DDB? That's highly doubtful. Sorry. You're telling the story and you're not succeeding in making yourself look good.
'Rop had in fact said he was cold, but I didn't intend to leave the window open all night.'
So Rop had in fact spoken up? And you ignored him? And that's why Julian spoke up? Can't you even lie well? No you didn't intend to leave the window open all night - but did it ever occur to you to ask the others about it before you froze them half to death? In a room that at least one of them already thinks is too cold? Who's the dictator there, DDB? Who is it?
'I went back and shut the window, perhaps louder than needed. Then I left the room.'
'Perhaps louder than needed' - in other words you demonstrably slammed it. Temper temper, DDB. You're unraveling.
'That evening made clear how quickly the mood could turn sour.'
No not at all, DDB. Only one person turned things sour.
'I bought some swimming trunks and goggles and submerged myself in the warm water of a nearby outdoor public pool.'
Those goggles were important to be sure.
'It was nice only to perceive the outside world - the cries of children, the blubbering of water pumps, the smacking sound of flip-flops approaching and then receding again on the edge of the pool - in muffled, distant form.'
Knock knock. Who's there? Nervous! Nervous who?
'Without our noticing, four weeks had passed. We weren't making progress with the IMMI, and the question was what were we doing there?'
Everyone sees what you're doing there.
'But Julian couldn't or didn't want to let it go. He considered the IMMI his baby. Later he made undiplomatic statements that damaged the whole project politically.'
What statements are you referring to? Clue us all in please.
'None of us were simple people. And as the pressure mounted, our personal relationships showed the first cracks, especially the relationship between Julian and me.'
Anything strange with any of the others?
'The others were more like film extras helplessly watching our fights.'
Like a John Wayne movie? Whose fights were they? Why were you attacking Julian?
Toward the end of our weeks in Iceland, Julian accused me of losing perspective, of getting distracted by the minor details, and losing sight of the biggerpicture.'
'I can't remember any one decisive incident.'
No of course not. That's difficult. But you did remember one! The one with the window. No?
'Nor can I recall what prompted our first major quarrels. Probably it was banalities like open windows.'
Probably. But everyone was peaceful in that room until you entered, opened the French balcony onto an icy Iceland winter for people who you didn't at all consult, evidently ignored the pleas of one who asked you to close as it was so fucking cold, then SLAMMED the window shut out of pure frustration. Don't ask anyone else to share the rap for that, DDB.
'I began to criticise Julian's appearance.'
Oh brother. You sure pick your moments.
'I told him he should generally pay more attention to how he looked.'
More designer clothes?
'Do you have to meet with the Minister of Justice looking like a bum?'
'At one point he said he needed to have a word. Birgitta, he informed me, was getting completely irritated with me.'
Birgitta irritated with you? How could that happen?
Everyone here thinks you're being unbearable, Julian tells DDB. Who's everyone? DDB asks.
Everyone! Julian replies. Anyone who has to deal with you!
But this of course was all Julian's fault. He was the one opening French doors and slamming them - then writing a 'tell all' memoir where he wrote a lot of shit about all his former friends. It wasn't you, DDB. Oh heaven forbid.
'None of us cooked or even bought anything sensible to eat. Half empty bags of potato crisps began to collect amidst our dirty laundry. A pile of stinky dried fish that someone bought but no one thought was edible lay rotting away on some surface.'
Sounds like hackers! But this was all Julian's fault?
'Things were getting worse by the hour.'
That fast? Good thing nobody was panicking!
'I need at least a modicum of orderliness...'
Of course you do!
'... the faintest hope of keeping an overview...'
Perfectly understandable, DDB. Those animals!
'I can't concentrate with total chaos around me.'
Of course not! Who can? Aside from everyone else there, that is.
'I could drink as much orange juice as I wanted from the bottles with their bright sunny faces, but at some point my head began to spin and twenty laps in the outdoor pool wasn't going to make it stop.'
The sunny faces let you down?
'The flat was way too small for us, especially since Julian was always occupying himself with one woman after another!'
Oh goodness. That Julian! That really upset you, didn't it DDB?
'One night I really needed to sleep. I was dead tired and I asked him to just let me crash in peace for once. A short time later I heard Julian talking to a woman on the phone. He laughed into the mouthpiece and I could tell she'd just said that they could meet at her place. I sighed to myself. But Julian insisted she come to the hotel. My problem was that we shared not only a room but a large double bed.'
Delivered from heaven by a single innocent phone call.
'Everyone else would usually be standing in the doorway, ready to roll, while Julian had to be asked for the umpteenth time to tear himself away from his laptop.'
Asked by whom?
'I was the only one who had a serious word about this with him and who got irritated if he kept typing.'
Ah. It was you! Those 'serious words' can wreak havoc on a relationship!
'The others preferred to wait stoically until he got himself together.'
Or maybe it didn't bother them as much? Or maybe they hadn't unraveled as much? And so curious the narrative of the Fosshotel contains not a smidgeon of detail about any of the others - only Julian. As if the others who were also working diligently don't really matter. Not a word about what colour socks they wore - nothing. Everything's about DDB's increasing annoyance with Julian - something he appears to share with no one. Everything's about the 'cabin fever' and the darkness of the arctic DDB's succumbing to yet again.
'I was in bad shape.'
No shit Sherlock. How insightful. That's a start. Perhaps it's time to leave and take a break.
'The stress, the worries, and the aggravation had shredded my nerves, and I could no longer calm down, even for a moment.'
Yes we know. Poor you!
'Something in the flat, in the air, in the sulfuric water, in the lack of sunlight, in the chaos, and in Julian's bossy manner was making me sick.'
Tell us something about this 'bossy manner', DDB. No?
'Before I completely lost my shit, I booked a flight home on 5 February.'
Good move, DDB. Nobody wants you to lose your shit.
'We weren't parting on friendly terms. It would be the last time we would ever see each other in person.'
DDB's book goes on for several further chapters. But they mostly resemble a new twist on Poe's Descent into the Maelström or a play by Eugene O'Neil.
What's of course missing is the story of brave crusader DDB who now has to grapple with his high sense of morals as he starts deliberately sabotaging and stealing from WikiLeaks. That part of the narrative won't win a prize either.
And talk about picking up on the rebound: Daniel now meets his future wife Anke - his wife and his equal, as he says in the final credits - at Dada Falafel in Berlin. Dada Falafel is a 'trendy' place, writes DDB, which is probably why he goes there. Anke's of course a government lobbyist for Microsoft, a key position given the government's aversion to software from that company, coming out formally and advising their citizenry to stay away from those sad products.
DDB gradually starts to calm down.
'When I pictured myself in the hallway of the Fosshotel, nervously tapping my foot and feeling like I was going to explode just because Julian had again made us wait for five minutes, the Daniel in Iceland seemed like my evil twin. An intolerable bundle of nerves.'
'The Devil in DDB'? You were 'intolerable'? Yes that would seem to sum it up nicely. We all hope you feel better now. Look around you - all you see are sympathetic eyes. Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home.
'I desperately wanted everything to be right. I didn't think at the time that his judgment about me would be permanent.'
OK. Don't forget your medication.
'I asked him what he blamed me for, what had gone wrong, and why he suddenly no longer wanted to work with me. He only gave one sentence answers. 'We can't go into that now', he wrote. 'Later?' I asked. 'Maybe', he wrote.'
Don't call us, we'll call you. He didn't want to work with you any longer. DDB and WikiLeaks are history.
DDB is not part of any of the big events of 2010 when WikiLeaks really took off. He's not part of the production of the Collateral Murder video, the presentation of the Afghan War Diaries, the Iraq War Logs, the Cablegate embassy cables, or the Gitmo files. Although there are rumours he had copies of some of these documents and passed them onto the Guardian and other rogue organisations.
But whatever: DDB is out of the loop and his separation from WikiLeaks and his former duties is only a matter of time.
DDB's book also has the audacity to take up Julian's legal situation in Sweden - and the further audacity to get more facts wrong than there are facts presented. One has to wonder if DDB can actually do any proper journalistic research or if the whole purpose of the chapter - and perhaps the entire dime novel - was to smear and harm Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. For it's not even close to accurate and every mistake seems to work against Julian and WikiLeaks, not in a single instance for him. There's too much coincidence for it all to be mere 'coincidence'.
The rest of the book also takes up how DDB - one of the few who was privy to the locations of the WikiLeaks servers on the continent - took not one but two train rides to the site of the main mail server. DDB claims his aim was to get the mail server back online. He's already attempted one palace coup - but that got crushed by Julian in a matter of minutes. Now he was up to something again.
Of course it was all with the best of intentions. Of course it was. But the people at the data centre didn't like him mucking about and sensed foul play. But DDB kept at it long enough to get what he'd come for. Exactly what that was he's not saying.
DDB does admit to deliberately sabotaging the WikiLeaks submission system and stealing thousands of whistleblower documents. Those documents were not submitted to him but to WikiLeaks. DDB had gone rogue and was jeopardising the safety of the WikiLeaks organisation and their whistleblowers. Quite an epitaph for someone who thinks so highly of himself and so condescendingly of everyone else.
DDB could have stayed at EDS. He'd be a higher ranking manager by now. But he jumped ship - onto something he wasn't suited for. And now he's got nothing save a book that's already been written and universally derided, a website that's having a real hard time opening, and a name that's pariah in the industry.
DDB's book is both dark tragedy and comedy gold. But don't buy the book - enjoy this article instead.
Laugh about it shout about it
But when you've got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose
- P Simon
The eXiled: Revenge of the Second Banana
Rixstep Industry Watch: Schmitt Leaves WikiLeaks?
Rixstep Industry Watch: Schmitt Suspended from WikiLeaks
Rixstep's Red Hat Diaries: Jules & The Amateurs