A feud that has opposed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and a former German assistant at the anti-secrecy website, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, escalated on Thursday with a threat to sue and an allegation that the German committed sabotage.
A tell-all book is to be published Friday by Domscheit-Berg, who has set up a rival platform in Germany and accuses Australian Assange of womanizing. Passages of the book became public Wednesday.
WikiLeaks issued a statement on the web claiming Domscheit-Berg admitted in his book to "various acts of sabotage against the organisation" and "having damaged the site's primary submission system and stolen material".
The submission system is a web page where whistleblowers can anonymously leak documents without being caught by law authorities. Domscheit-Berg has told news interviewers it is not in fact secure.
The WikiLeaks statement said the system was being given an "overhaul" but it was impossible to do this quickly.
Domscheit-Berg was a spokesman in Germany for WikiLeaks till he left last year. The site hit the headlines in late November when it began publishing some of 250,000 US diplomatic cables.
The statement said Domscheit-Berg was "suspended from the organisation in September" and his "roles within WikiLeaks were limited and started to diminish almost a year ago as his integrity and stability were questioned".
"He has falsely misrepresented himself in the press as a programmer, computer-scientist, security expert, architect, editor, founder, director and spokesman. He is not a founder or co-founder and nor was there any contact with him during the founding years."
A blog that is part of the US magazine Forbes published a reply from Domscheit-Berg in which he denied sabotage and said he had never had access to the submissions system. He added he had two degrees in computer science and had edited while at WikiLeaks.
He told the blogger the overhaul had been forced on WikiLeaks by a developer "due to the lack of trust in Julian and the way he is 'leading' this organisation".
Assange is currently in Britain under a form of house arrest while courts consider an application from Sweden for his extradition on sexual assault charges.
The Berlin lawyer, Johannes Eisenberg, said separately he had been instructed by Assange and WikiLeaks to enforce their legal rights "through the courts if necessary". Assange had asked him to respond to "defamation" by the German.