WikiLeaks stays alive despite Assange arrest

Ronny Kerr · December 7, 2010 · Short URL:

Founder of whistleblower site, Julian Assange, held in custody in London until at least Dec. 14

Assange arrest

Founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks Julian Assange, after a voluntary meeting with police, has been refused bail by a London court on Tuesday. Though his legal team had offered to pay $280,000 backed by an additional $100,000 from three prominent media figures--journalist John Pilger, filmmaker Ken Loach and socialite Jemima Khan--the judge refused because Assange had the financial means and his return to court could not be guaranteed.

Assange denies sexual assault charges brought against him in Sweden, the technical reason for his arrest in London, and he says he will resist extradition. While he seemed cooperative enough to meet with police of his own volition, Assange has refused to give his home address, DNA, photo or fingerprint to the police, according to Heather Brooke, a campaigner for freedom of information.

He will remain in custody until at least Dec. 14, the date of the next planned court session.

In spite of the custody case, however, Assange’s arrest won’t be enough to stop the flow of WikiLeaks cables still planned for today and the near future.

WikiLeaks"WikiLeaks is operational. We are continuing on the same track as laid out before," said Kristinn Hrafnsson, spokesman for the group. "Any development with regards to Julian Assange will not change the plans we have with regards to the releases today and in the coming days."

Hrafnsson said a group of people will continue publishing secret or otherwise unavailable documents from London and other locations.

Of course, the small non-profit organization will be fighting an uphill battle to stay alive, as it struggles against a mounting tide of adversaries.

Following Assange’s arrest, a Visa Europe spokesperson announced that the company would be suspending all Visa credit card and debit card payments made to WikiLeaks “pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules." Mastercard did the same just hours earlier, claiming that “rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal.”

Yesterday, the Swiss bank PostFinance shut down Assange’s personal account, affecting a defense fund and assets worth 31,000 euros.

Besides financials, the very livelihood of WikiLeaks is at stake after the site’s newest host, Amazon, buckled under pressure from the U.S. government to remove the whistleblower content from its servers. The original WikiLeaks site was taken down by a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

So who are the friends of WikiLeaks? For now, just the two most popular social sites in the world, Facebook and Twitter.

We contacted Facebook to inquire whether the WikiLeak’s page on Facebook would be removed or whether a removal would be in the cards if sensitive information was posted directly through that venue, and received the following response:

We haven't received any official requests to disable the Wikileaks page, or any notification that the articles posted on the page contain unlawful content. If we did, of course, we would review the material according to our rules and standards, and take it down if appropriate. The mere existence of a Wikileaks fan page on Facebook doesn't violate any law and we would not it that down just like we don't take down other pages about controversial topics. We’re continuing to monitor the situation.

The WikiLeaks Facebook page, which posts news articles relevant to the site as well as mirrors of the original WikiLeaks site, is close to having a million fans.

While Twitter isn’t yet commenting on the situation, the Wikileaks account there is also alive and well.

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