WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange went from being "imaginative, energetic [and] brilliant" to a "paranoid, power-hungry, megalomaniac," a former colleague charges in a new book.
"Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website," written by WikiLeaks defector Daniel Domscheit-Berg, was released Thursday and headlines immediately focused on different extraordinary claims made in the book, including:
"WikiLeaks boss Assange 'fathered children' across the globe"
"Assange abused my cat: WikiLeaks insider"
"Assange portrayed as 'emperor' in insider book"
In a perhaps more damaging claim to the organization, which relies on whistleblowers, Domscheit-Berg writes that WikiLeaks lost key software that lets users submit documents anonymously when he and another colleague left.
WikiLeaks blasted Domscheit-Berg in a statement shortly before the media launch for the book, which is to be released Friday in 16 countries, saying that he "damaged" WikiLeaks infrastructure and "stole material."
The website said it was taking legal action against him, though Domscheit-Berg denied that.
WikiLeaks, which publishes secret documents, downplayed Domscheit-Berg's role in the organization, saying he was "a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in Germany at various times."
It denied he was ever a "programmer, computer scientist, security expert, architect, editor, founder [or] director" of WikiLeaks.
"Domscheit-Berg's roles within WikiLeaks were limited and started to diminish almost a year ago as his integrity and stability were questioned," the website said.
Domscheit-Berg rejected that claim in a press conference Thursday, calling himself "the only person who was intensively involved in this organization for such a long time," according to CNN.
Among the more salacious details in the book, Domscheit-Berg — who last month launched a rival website called OpenLeaks — claims Assange had a habit of chasing young women who would "know their role" and not question his actions.
"Julian's main criterion for a woman was simple. She had to be young. Preferably younger than 22. And it went without saying that she couldn't question him. 'She has to be aware of her role as a woman,' he used to say," Domscheit-Berg writes, Fox News reported.
Assange also used to "boast about how many children he had fathered in various parts of the world ... . Whether he took care of any of these alleged children, or whether they existed at all, was another question."
He also is portrayed as an "emperor" who had become just the kind of public figure he is trying to expose, according to Salon.
WikiLeaks' original mission to "control the power executed behind closed doors and to create transparency, where it was being denied" deteriorated into a situation in which the group was "gradually corrupted by power and secrecy itself," Domscheit-Berg writes.
Domscheit-Berg, who then went by the alias Daniel Schmitt, left the organization in September last year reportedly after he challenged Assange's leadership qualities. He claims his rebellion got him kicked out of WikiLeaks, something Assange has publicly denied.