WikiLeaks and Julian Assange: Stateless, penniless pariahs?
In the latest blow, online payment service PayPal has cut off WikiLeaks. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks has been forced to move from website to website, and Julian Assange has gone to ground.
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On Saturday, WikiLeaks was still available on two European-based domains, http://www.wikileaks.nl/and www.wikileaks.de. And on Twitter, WikiLeaks showed no signs of backing down: “The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.”Skip to next paragraph
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Speaking of troops, American service personnel and other government employees now are being dissuaded from perusing WikiLeaks online.
According to an e-mail sent to all federal offices Friday and obtained by Talking Points Memo, agencies are to immediately tell their employees to “safeguard classified information” by not accessing WikiLeaks via the Internet.
US politicians have been swift to criticize WikiLeaks and the media outlets that published more than 250,000 sensitive and classified diplomatic cables – some calling for prosecuting the website and its founder for treason. But the rogue website is not without its defenders.
Although he’s remained out of sight in recent days, Julian Assange is being heard from – including in an online chat Friday with readers of the British newspaper the Guardian.
At one point in the Guardian chat, Assange was asked whether it might not have been better if WikiLeaks had remained anonymous rather than focused on one controversial individual such as himself.
“I originally tried hard for the organization to have no face, because I wanted egos to play no part in our activities,” he replied, but then added: “In the end, someone must be responsible to the public and only a leadership that is willing to be publicly courageous can genuinely suggest that sources take risks for the greater good. In that process, I have become the lightening rod. I get undue attacks on every aspect of my life, but then I also get undue credit as some kind of balancing force.”
WikiLeaks and Assange could be put out of business one day. But it may be impossible to prevent other self-styled “watchdog” organizations from doing the same thing.
“I think the basic concept has a future,” Steven Aftergood, who works on government secrecy policy for the Federation of American Scientists, told the AP. “Anonymous disclosure of restricted records is easier than it has ever been. The virtues of transparency and government accountability are more widely recognized than they have ever been. Those two factors together provide a foundation for this kind of activity.”
“Whether it will be Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks or … another initiative remains to be seen,” he said.