(Reuters) - WikiLeaks's ability to receive new leaks has been crippled after a disaffected programer unplugged a component which guaranteed anonymity to would-be leakers, activists and journalists who have worked with the site say.
Details of the breakdown are contained in a book by estranged Assange collaborator Daniel Domscheit-Berg which is due to be published on Friday, a source familiar with the contents of the book told Reuters.
Neither WikiLeaks's embattled Australian founder, Julian Assange, nor members of his entourage responded to an e-mailed request from Reuters for comment but a WikiLeaks spokesman confirmed the website's submission system was being overhauled.
Domscheit-Berg also took a backlog of leaks sent to the WikiLeaks website with him when he left, the source familiar with the contents of "Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website," said.
In a statement issued to the Forbes website on Wednesday, Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesman, said the website was suing Domscheit-Berg, who with Assange served until late last year as one of WikiLeaks's two principal spokesmen.
"In (his) book Domscheit-Berg confesses to various acts of sabotage against the organization. The former WikiLeaks staffer admits to having damaged the site's primary submission system and stolen material," Hrafnsson's statement said.
"The sabotage and concern over motives led to an overhaul of the entire submission system, an ongoing project that is not being expedited due to its complex nature and the organization's need to focus its resources on publication and defense," Hrafnsson added.
CRIPPLED FOR MONTHS
The activists and journalists who have worked with WikiLeaks and Assange, who faces a sexual misconduct investigation in Sweden, say the website's ability to receive new leaks of data has been crippled, if not totally disabled, for months.
Domscheit-Berg recently announced that he was creating a WikiLeaks spinoff or rival called OpenLeaks.org with support from a former WikiLeaks programer, believed to be a German, whose programing skills are more dazzling than Assange's.
Precisely how much material sent in to WikiLeaks is now under the control of Domscheit-Berg and the programer, known only as "The Architect," is unclear.
Domscheit-Berg has not publicly characterized the subject matter or volume of material he has stashed away, though he has indicated that at some point, he might be willing to cede control over it back to Assange.
In an e-mail to Reuters, Domscheit-Berg said he planned to offer a public clarification of what happened at a news conference scheduled for Thursday.
To avoid what Domscheit-Berg has condemned as Assange's dictatorial leadership of WikiLeaks, OpenLeaks will be a more decentralized organization, he has said.
The new website will not itself publish or analyze leaks which it receives but instead will serve as a conduit to relay the information to partners in the website, who could include media outlets, NGO groups, and labor unions.
WikiLeaks insiders say Assange still has control over substantial quantities of data leaked to the website before the WikiLeaks founder became entangled last August in a sexual misconduct case in Sweden. He has said in the past this includes a huge cache of data from the hard-drive of a Bank of America executive.
In an interview with the German weekly magazine Stern, Domscheit-Berg is quoted saying that Assange's cache of bank data is old and "completely unspectacular."
Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.