WikiLeaks suspends activity over cash blockade
The site’s cash flow was crippled after major payment services refused to accept transfers to WikiLeaks. The controversial organization will now focus on fundraising and legal action against the blockade. Otherwise it will not be able to operate beyond the year’s end, it said.
The suspension was announced at a media conference held by WikiLeaks’ management on Monday in the Frontline Club in London.
A handful of companies vs the world
Founder of the website, Jullian Assange, said the ban by MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, the Bank of America and other institutions has cut 95 per cent of WikiLeaks’ income, which exists through supporter subscriptions.
“These few companies are not allowed to decide how the world deals with its wallet,” he said in outrage.
He added that the financial blockade has no legal grounds in any country in the world, including the US, and so the move is clearly unlawful and motivated by extrajudicial reasons.
Assange accused enemies of WikiLeaks, including the governmental and financial establishments, of launching a global smear campaign against the website, as well as carrying out criminal cyber attacks against it aimed at revealing its sources of information and support, and undermining its activities.
He also said the example clearly shows that no NGO operating on individuals’ donations is safe from arbitrary decisions taken by a handful of executives and officials.
According to WikiLeaks, the project’s revenue at the height of its popularity and before the blockade was implemented was 100,000 euros a month.
Checks and mailed cash accepted
The organization has filed a number of complaints against the financial blockade, both in the US and in Europe. It is hoping that at least some of those complaints will result in court injunctions against the actions.
It is also pursuing some “more creative” ways to circumvent the blockade, including accepting donations via mobile phones, bank-to-bank transfers, checks and in cash sent via ordinary mail.
The optimistic expectation for donations in case the blockade is torn down is $2.5 million in the first half of 2012. The sum would allow the project continue and develop, said Assange.
Hacker-proof encryption announced
If the plan works and WikiLeaks continues to operate, it will upgrade the way it works with its sources. On November 28, the anniversary of the “cablegate”, the website will launch a new secured system for submitting data to it.
It will not use the encryption system regularly used online, because WikiLeaks believes it to be unsafe and exposed to tampering and outright hacking by governmental bodies. This will protect whistleblowers from persecution, Assange said. The full details of the system will be revealed on the launch date.
WikiLeaks came to worldwide prominence after making public a number of confidential materials, relation to the US foreign policies and military campaigns abroad. The largest leak was the exposure of US State Department cables, which made public the inner workings of the American diplomacy.
The activities of the website have spurred controversy. A number of politicians both in US and abroad believe the website to be a threat to US national security and called for legal action against it.
Supporters of the website praised it for making governments across the world better known to the general public. They say secrecy in politics is harmful for the world, and that is what WikiLeaks is trying to do.
Assange is currently under investigation in Sweden over sexual accusations and is appealing an extradition from the UK. Supporters believe him to be a victim of political persecution.
Losing WikiLeaks to an unlawful financial blockade would be a blow to freedom of speech, but others will carry on the cause, says Donnacha DeLong, the president of the National Union of Journalists in Britain.
“It is obviously a very murky affair. We’re at the very beginning of the situation, raising questions about what, potentially, members of the US government had suggested or asked of companies,” DeLong told RT. “Obviously, this has been taken outside any legal process or international political agreements. Yet they seem to have an ability to shut down websites that some governments find troubling. It is deeply unsettling that it is unclear what motivations and powers have been behind it.”