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Release Management : Article

PayPal Turns Off WikiLeaks Spigot; Sweden Issues New Warrant for its Boss

Wonder whether Assange has been counting on PayPal receipts to pay his mounting legal bills

WikiLeaks has lost its PayPal account.

The eBay unit stopped handling contributions to the renegade site late Friday night citing unacceptable use.

Meanwhile, Sweden has issued a new arrest warrant for WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange on allegations of rape, sexual assault and unlawful coercion made in the name of two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers in two separate incidents this summer.

Assange is understood to be in the UK and British authorities reportedly had technical problems with the original warrant. They needed to know how much time he’s looking at if convicted.

European media, even WikiLeaks itself, are claiming the irresponsible attention-seeking 39-year-old Australian troublemaker could be arrested in the next week to 10 days.

No formal charges have been filed. Swedish authorities say they want to talk to him again. His Swedish lawyer told Reuters Assange will fight extradition. His UK lawyer previously indicated as much.

Wonder whether Assange has been counting on PayPal receipts to pay his mounting legal bills.

PayPal said on its blog that it “has permanently restricted the account used by Wikileaks due to a violation of the PayPal acceptable use policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We’ve notified the account holder of this action.”

The New York Times, which has been a party to WikiLeaks’ drip-by-drip release of a huge pilfered cache of 252,000 frank diplomatic cables and State Department documents, says it’s illegal to leak classified information, but it is not illegal to receive or publish it. Pretty to think so.

Ellsberg decision or no, it’s not as simple as that and actually falls into a twilight state of American law under which the US government could charge Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act which covers receiving and retaining stolen government property it asked him to return.

Knowing as much Assange is reportedly afraid of being extradited to the US. He told the Guardian Friday in an online Q&A that he had sent the documents to 100,000 people just in case.

In response to PayPal’s move WikiLeaks predictably twittered that the online payment service had bent to “US government pressure.”

After Amazon kicked it off its cloud servers, visualization company Tableau Software erased WikiLeaks content from its site and EveryDNS.net pulled the plug on its WikiLeaks.org domain name, WikiLeaks turned up using a Swiss web address that directs traffic to servers in France.

When last seen France’s Industry Minister was talking about outlawing WikiLeaks’ use of the OVH infrastructure in France but the French servers are only part of WikiLeaks’ network which now spans domains in Germany, Finland and Holland, not counting mirror sites. It also has other ways to collect money although Wired claims that “most of the over $1 million in contributions WikiLeaks has drawn in the last year have come through its PayPal account.”

According to WikiLeaks’ moving web site, which has been repeatedly downed by denial of service attacks this week, it takes in donations at a post office box in Australia, through bank transfers to accounts in Germany and Iceland, and through MasterCard and Visa credit card payments.

Presumably the US government is doing what it can to trace any money flowing to the outlaw site to see if there is a larger destabilizing force behind it than the hordes of titillated individuals cheering it on. It may also be able turn off WikiLeaks’ other spigots of cash.

This is not the first time PayPal has cut WikiLeaks off from donations but, judging from Paypal’s statement, apparently it is the last. Because PayPal froze WikiLeaks’ account twice before the latest brouhaha, contributions intended for it were redirected to the Wau Holland Foundation in Germany, named for a German hacker. So it is actually Wau Holland’s account PayPal has terminated.

Meanwhile, the US government has forbidden government workers and contractors without proper clearance to access the documents on WikiLeaks. Well, at least on their office computers. It says the documents’ unauthorized disclosure – “whether in print, on a blog or on web sites” – doesn’t declassify them. The Library of Congress has blocked access to WikiLeaks.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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