Skip to main content

BOOK REVIEW: Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reviewed By Afrah Jamal
By Daniel Domscheit-Berg with Tina Klopp

A leaked video, allegedly of ‘the most dangerous man in the world’ on the dance floor is doing rounds on the internet these days.

As Assange himself will tell you,“Nothing is sacred anymore.”

Those who picture WikiLeaks — the whistle-blowing website — as an impregnable fortress with Julian Assange its modern day warrior casually brandishing incendiary matter will also find Julian’s accomplice busily stripping away its veneer of invincibility and with that, its founder’s credibility.

The duo is known for upsetting the global applecart of secrets and lies and if the truth is ‘out there’, it is because of one Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg who put it there. From secret US military intelligence documents and diplomatic cables to contents of Sarah Palin’s private emails and handbooks from Guantanamo Bay, first American fraternity and Scientology, Assange & co are in the business of making governments squirm.

Now the hermitically sealed universe of WikiLeaks (WL) (initially composed of two men and one server), like the material it publishes, is no longer classified. But Assange, a gifted hacker, known outlaw and notorious whistleblower, who is central to the WL plot, serves more as a human piñata in a new tell-all book by Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

This is a story of two people who believed in the same principles of transparency but had very different ideas of how to go about it. On one side stands Julian who “had a discerning eye for material that could be used to exert political influence”. On the other is his estranged partner, who shows how WLwas acting irresponsibly, playing a risky game with sources’ truth and supporters’ donations."

Daniel, who broke away from the WL orbit to form OpenLeaks.org, which he insists is not a publishing platform or a rival to WL, but an equal contender offering secure submission, where the sources choose the recipients, was unceremoniously dismissed and charged with “disloyalty, insubordination and destabilisation in times of crises”. Switching into full disclosure mode, he prepares to take down his partner as he recounts their tragicomic escapades in the backdrop of their unravelling partnership.

Inside WikiLeaks invites the world to witness Assange’s crucifixion alongside Daniel’s coronation as the shiny new king of his own kingdom. ‘The world’s most dangerous website’, where the magic happened amid childish bickering and duelling ideologies, is scary to behold.

The writer offers useful insights detailing the level of security taken to ensure the anonymity of the source and submissions; “sources remained untraceable even for the WikiLeaks team-mates”. They are coupled with titbits about their modus operandi, how they gave accounts to someone who was not interested in handling finances or chat rooms to those not concerned with personally influencing public opinion, etc. There were times when they tricked the people who wanted documents removed into authenticating them instead. Any evidence of ownership voluntarily given also ended up on the site next to the offending document. Informants did not fear lawsuits but WL welcomed them, he gleefully notes.

His initial impressions of Julian are kinder: “I knew he cared as little as I did that we could have earned far more money selling our talents to businesses.” The goodwill does not last long: “It was easy sharing our lack of success but hard for Julian to allow success to be credited to both.” Some of Daniel’s criticism stems from the fact that WL became a global political player ending the pledge to be neutral which, he stresses, was their most important principle. Julian, “who mentally transformed innocent plane passengers into State Department spies”, evolves as a caricature of a villain. “The rumours that he was being followed originated from his overactive imagination,” he declares, “giving him the aura of someone in dire peril, increasing the collective anticipation of every leak.”

His partner’s personal and professional conduct is called into question on numerous occasions. At one point he wonders if WL has become a religious cult where the guru is beyond question and there was no room for internal critique. He also admits that both of them were guided by Google searches and a gut feeling for authenticating documents. Mistakes were rare, but he hastens to add that he can think of none for which he alone was to blame. Daniel later sabotaged the WL operation by taking away its submissions platform. His defence: “Children shouldn’t play with guns.”

Assange, as the villain of the piece does not disappoint; he is the cad who takes Daniel’s Ovaltine and half his food. He is also a petty troublemaker, a superior ass, a nightmare guest, a charlatan suffering from foot in mouth disorder “with a free and easy relationship with the truth. And, as Mr Schmitt (the unfortunate feline) will testify, definitely not a cat person. The litany of charges covers everything under the sun from Julian’s philandering ways and financial irregularities to his miserly tendencies. Daniel, as the victim/saviour takes the halo and most of the credit.

As an origins story, it delivers the requisite thrills and chills, from the first appearance of stress fractures till the final break. And while their first homegrown leak may have been Julian’s fault (when he inadvertently exposed 106 donor names), the final one that comes from a former insider leaves a lot of scorched earth in its wake.

Publisher Jonathan Cape; 304 pages; Rs 950
Available at Liberty Books

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

BOOK REVIEW: Thinner Than Skin

Published inDaily Times (Pakistan) / 23 Feb 2013
Author: Uzma Aslam Khan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal



Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of critically acclaimed, award winning books like Trespassing and Geometry of God. Her new novel, 'Thinner than Skin' goes off the beaten track for inspiration. A realm built upon incomprehensible layers of intrigue, violence, fairytales and legends provides the stage. People foraging for a lifeline become the props. And the inevitable soundtrack of radicalism now coursing through every fibre sets Pakistan’s modern heart to an ancient beat.

It is these paradoxes that bring its US-based protagonist, Nadir, along with a German-Pakistani girl, Farhana, on a trek from northern California to the Kaghan Valley. Wesley — the American in the background — is drawn to the mating glacier ritual, which is an actual thing. And their trusty ally/guide Irfan charts the course to their path of self-discovery past majestic mountains and ice encrusted lakes.

Their quest …

INTERVIEW: What makes a Fighter Ace? (2006)

Written many moons ago when i was an Asst. Ed with Social Pages.

Published in Defence Journal September 2006

Republished in PROBENEWS(2006)


Legend has it that a Sabre took off from Sargodha airfield to intercept Hunters on a fateful September morning & landed back with an Ace.

120 Seconds: Squadron Leader Alam in a Sabre is on Air Combat Patrol accompanied by his wingman. Upon observing IAF Hunters exiting after an unsuccessful air strike over Sargodha, Alam sets off in hot pursuit of the enemy formation. He pursues a fleeing Hunter and eventually shoots it down with a missile shot.


He spots the other members of the Hunter formations flying very low and as he approaches the trailing member he is spotted and the entire formation breaks (violent turn) in the same direction - a fatal error as in less than two minute Alam has taken out four of them, (as confirmed by more than one independent eye witness) 1 bringing his tally for the mission to five…… And an Ace is born - a legendry ins…

BOOK REVIEW: Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West

Published by Daily Times / 5 May 2012

When characters in a modernised version of Sherlock Holmes make a passing reference to Karachi — they only have Daniel Pearl in mind. When the ISI agents are featured on TV shows — it is because they can stand in for the US’s favourite Cold War foes.

Such imagery goes well with the popular narrative doing the global rounds. A widening gulf between Islam and the West, the oscillating nature of the Pak-US relationship, and the alarming levels of toxicity within, is a source of concern and confusion. Now, it is the subject of a book. At the launch of Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West, veteran columnist Irfan Husain briefly touched upon these incongruities. In the book, he delves deeper into a cheerless terrain where reason has been cast adrift and paranoia is king.

Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West meticulously sifts through centuries of suspicion and decades of scorched earth left behind by Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan t…

KARACHI DIARIES: 6th LADIESFUND® Women's Awards 2014

First Published in Economic Affairs (Apr 2014) P-36


They conquered Everest in their spare time & crafted empires; their names were featured in Forbes ‘30 under 30’. Somewhere along the way they had reset the bar. Their contributions had not gone un-noticed.





The people who had made the list included trailblazers, trendsetters, risk-takers & crusaders, seen at the 6th LADIESFUND® Annual Women’s Awards. An event to salute an unlikely band of heroes who left a legacy of courage & compassion also acknowledged exceptional women on the rise.


LADIESFUND® launched by Dawood Global Foundation (2007) & headed by Tara Uzra Dawood, celebrates these achievements by adding powerhouse women and their noble causes to their wall of fame. It also makes its core mission - Educate 1000 Girls, the lynchpin & encourages the entrepreneur within our ranks. The talented Alycia Dias, who performed the anthem & walked away with a musical scholarship, would be joined by other hopefuls, …

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

BOOK REVIEW: Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (2007)

Author: Zahid Hussain

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JUNE 14, 2007

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Frontline Pakistan: the struggle with militant Islam goes for the jugular with an insiders look at a deformed culture borne of a dated ideology, fueled by vested interest and driven by intolerance; and a nation’s complicity.

Not surprisingly, the legitimacy granted jihadists by ISI-CIA ran out soon, as did the sympathy for their jihadist actions formally perceived as heroic. Once used to counter the threat of communism, the rapid shift in their objectives that placed Pakistan’s national interest on a collision course with its security rendered them an anachronism.

This led to a parting of ways with the ISI; consequently, the deadliness of operations and depth of penetration in society seen in the context of 9/11 forever breached the line between liberators and terrorists.

Veteran journalist Zahid Hussain, Pakistani correspondent for the "Times of London", "The Wall Street Journal", …