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An Introduction to OpenLeaks, by OpenLeaks

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, January 27 2011

"We imagine that you're wondering what OpenLeaks is," intones a narrator in a new video, title "OpenLeaks 101" now up on the web home of the project that was spun out from Wikileaks by two participants who grew disenchanted with Julian Assange's leadership style and an organizational structure that seemed to support it. "Let's see if we can clarify things a little."

And they do, but only a little, because OpenLeaks is, by the admission of its creators Daniel Domscheit-Berg and Herbert Snorrason, very much a work in progress. Sketching out a few shapes on the screen, the voice says "this is what a typical leaking website of today looks like." (That's a genre that seems to include one entrant, but no matter. Onward.) "It's a monolithic block," says the voice, "that has an input were documents are uploaded and an output where they're published."

"What sense does this approach make where there's plenty of capability already out there to sustain this type of work?" They go on to cite investigative news outlets, NGOs, labor groups and others as existing parts of civil society that could serve in the scrub-and-publish role.

Beyond that, centralizing all those functions in one organization, says Team OpenLeaks, is foolish. "From our previous experience," says the narrator, "we have learned that this approach does not scale very well, and contains some design failures that corrupt the system at various levels.

One possible customer for an instance of OpenLeaks infrastructure? The New York Times, whose executive editor Bill Keller has talked about his organization setting up a "kind of EZ Pass lane for leakers," which seems to be akin to Al Jazeera's new Transparency Unit. (Keller might want to rethink the metaphor, given the tracking mechanisms built into EZ-Pass.) That doesn't seem all that likely a partnership, though. Users of OpenLeaks' leak channel would have to, it seems, have a considerable amount of faith that the group has set up a secure pathway that leads only to the organization that is the leak's intended target. And given Keller's recent recounting of his fraught dealings with Julian Assange, one imagines that the Times might not be too eager to partner up with a WikiLeaks spin-off. But one never knows.

Here's our past coverage of OpenLeaks.