Former Friends Ask WikiLeaks Founder: Where's the Money?

Photo: Julian Assange vs Daniel Domscheit-Berg
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A mutiny within WikiLeaks has former associates of leaker-in-chief Julian Assange charging that he's turned the web site into a cult of personality, and asking what has happened to the money.

In interviews to be broadcast tonight on World News with Diane Sawyer and Nightline, Assange's ex-colleagues talk about what prompted their falling out with the WikiLeaks founder, and their plans for a new, rival web site to be called OpenLeaks.

Known as Daniel Schmitt when he made public appearances with Assange last year, German "hacktivist" Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a member of the core group that launched WikiLeaks, has reverted to his real name since he defected this September.

He began working with Assange in 2007, when the Australian was little known outside the world of hackers.

The release of previously secret Pentagon tapes and state department cables put WikiLeaks on the map. Assange is now well-known enouigh to be a candidate for Time Person of the Year and the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit.

"He certainly is different today from the way that I met him," Domscheit-Berg told ABC News. "It's either his way or the highway, so he can command everyone like in the military. We are not people like that."

Ironically, his former colleague says Assange became enraged over leaks about him he thought were coming from inside WikiLeaks.

"Was this you?" Assange wrote during an on-line chat with Domscheit-Berg just before their split. "I didn't speak to Newsweek or other media," he responded.

"I am investigating a serious security breach," Assange replied. "Are you refusing to answer?"

"He's not the best person to deal with criticism, I would say," said Domscheit-Berg.

The exchange ended with Domscheit-Berg writing, "You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader." Assange answered, "You are suspended for one month immediately."

Assange Will 'Love A Show Trial'

Others who have split with him say Assange's ego is out of control.

"His specific words were, 'I am the heart and soul of this organization,' " recalled Herbert Snorrason, an Icelandic University student who was part of the group's security team. " 'If you have a problem with me, you can piss off.' "

The most serious issue, say former Assange associates, is the secrecy surrounding the group's money, where it comes from and where it goes.

"I'd like to know myself what has been happening behind the curtains," said Domscheit-Berg. Another of WikiLeaks' early leaders said Assange's goal from the beginning was to make a lot of money and seek personal fame.

"No question," said John Young. "All the signs are there. It's a well-known aspect of underground hacking. Much money to be made here."

The WikiLeaks was first registered to Young, a New Yorker who has his own web site, Cryptome.org, that has published government secrets from around the world, including the names of British and Japanese spies.

Young said Assange had always hoped to be put behind bars, as a way to further establish his fame, like a marketing tool.

Said Young, "He was trained as an actor and he has a wonderful speaking voice. He works on his appearance, he works on his slow speaking thing. He loves to provoke people, he loves to make dramatic statements. He loves to be thrown in jail. He'll love to have a show trial."

CLICK HERE to follow ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross on Twitter.

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