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Seibel reports: "WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website that has been at the center of some of the world's most controversial news for the past 18 months, is facing dire economic times, largely, the website says, because Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have refused for more than 10 months to process donations made on its behalf."

WikiLeaks' supporters have been blocked from donating online by Visa, MasterCard and PayPal. (photo: techpluto.com)
WikiLeaks' supporters have been blocked from donating online by Visa, MasterCard and PayPal. (photo: techpluto.com)



Credit Card 'Blockade' Halts Donations, WikiLeaks Faces Funding Crisis

By Mark Seibel, McClatchy Newspapers

22 October 11

 

ikiLeaks, the whistleblower website that has been at the center of some of the world's most controversial news for the past 18 months, is facing dire economic times, largely, the website says, because Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have refused for more than 10 months to process donations made on its behalf.

The total financial cost of what WikiLeaks calls a blockade is uncertain, but the lack of resources mixed with turmoil that has surrounded the organization has kept the website from accepting new documents from would-be leakers for much of the year, its spokesman says.

WikiLeaks said Thursday on its Twitter feed that it would announce a new fundraising effort Monday, but how successful that can be without a lifting of the credit card barrier is an unknown. More than 90 percent of online transactions are handled through credit cards.

That means donors wishing to contribute to WikiLeaks must send money to two European bank accounts, a process that is both cumbersome and expensive. An online auction last month of WikiLeaks memorabilia raised "not a significant amount" of money, according to the spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson, a former television journalist in Iceland.

What large donors the organization has, Hrafnsson said, give primarily to help with legal expenses for the website's founder, Julian Assange, who is currently awaiting a British court decision on whether he should be extradited to Sweden for questioning in a sexual misconduct case. Those funds are "separately controlled" by an outside committee, Hrafnsson said.

DataCell, an Icelandic company that had been accepting donations for WikiLeaks, has filed a complaint with the European Commission against Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, saying the refusal to accept donations for WikiLeaks violates European Union trade agreements. Litigation also is being considered against the companies in the United States, Hrafnsson said this week. But there is no date set for a response on the European complaint, and a lawsuit inside the United States would seem to offer little hope for a short-term resolution.

MasterCard did not respond to a request for comment. Spokesmen for Visa and Bank of America, which also refuses to process payments destined for WikiLeaks, declined to comment.

PayPal in an email Friday referred to two statements it had made in December that said it had closed WikiLeaks' account because the website's activities violated its service agreement, which forbids payments to organizations that encourage illegal activities - a reference to US charges that documents WikiLeaks was publishing had been purloined by an Army intelligence specialist from an internal US government archive. The statements did not accuse WikiLeaks of illegal activities but said WikiLeaks' source for the documents had probably broken the law.

To date, neither WikiLeaks nor Assange has been charged with a crime, though Assange reportedly is the subject of a continuing federal grand jury investigation in Virginia.

WikiLeaks has been beset by financial problems before. In late 2009, the organization took down its website when it could no longer pay for computer hosting expenses, a blackout that lasted five months before donations began to surge in April 2010, the same month WikiLeaks posted a video shot from a US helicopter that recorded the death of a Reuters photographer.

That video, dubbed "Collateral Murder," was the first of what would become four controversial releases of documents during 2010, all apparently obtained from a classified US computer archive by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. Manning is currently being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., facing 34 criminal charges, including passing secrets to the enemy.

Fundraising records posted on the website of Germany's Wau Holland Foundation, which handled some donations for WikiLeaks and also tracked its expenses, show that contributions through Wau Holland's PayPal account for WikiLeaks rose after each of the 2010 document releases - the Collateral Murder video in April, a set of records related to the war in Afghanistan in July, a similar set of Iraq war records in October and then finally the massive release of more than 250,000 State Department cables that began in November and continued until September, when WikiLeaks made the entire file public.

During 2010, the plurality of donations to WikiLeaks, nearly 35 percent, came from donors in the United States, the Wau Holland report shows, with donors in Germany and Great Britain providing the next largest percentages, 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively. The average donation in 2010 was $35.

For the year, Wau Holland said, it took in nearly $900,000 for the website from PayPal alone - in excess of the $555,000 that Wau Holland reported WikiLeaks spent. Wau Holland reported it took in another $960,000 in bank transfers on WikiLeaks' behalf.

There are no similar figures for donations via Visa or MasterCard.

What fundraising would have looked like in 2011 is, of course, unknown, though based on the Wau Holland records, it seems likely that it would have exceeded 2010.

In the first four days of December 2010, after the State Department documents began appearing but before PayPal blocked the foundation's account on Dec. 4, Wau Holland recorded more than $138,000 in contributions to WikiLeaks from PayPal, more than in any previous month that year, except April, when PayPal donations totaled approximately $235,000.

Hrafnsson said the website took in more than $180,000 in the last 24 hours before the credit card companies closed down its accounts.

In July, WikiLeaks claimed on its website that the blockade had cost it $15 million, but Hrafnsson noted that WikiLeaks has never put such a figure in its official filings. He said that based on simple multiplication, the 333 days the blockade has lasted as of Friday might well have cost the website much more.

Certainly, however, it would have been more than the $500,000 he said WikiLeaks' is currently spending annually for computer services and technical support.

"We'd been seeing growing support," Hrafnsson said. "I am certain that support would have continued."

That assertion no doubt would be debated. Hrafnsson cited a survey by the French market research company Ipsos, which found in March that 75 percent of the more than 18,000 asked worldwide approved of WikiLeaks' activities.

But that number was just 39 percent in the United States, and when respondents were asked specifically whether WikiLeaks founder Assange should be prosecuted for publishing the secret State Department cables, 69 percent said yes.


On the Web:
Wau Holland Foundation report on WikiLeaks
Read the Ipsos survey on WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks' donations page

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

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+27 # Capn Canard 2011-10-22 17:10
Big Brother is putting his foot down?
 
 
-62 # Eman Resu 2011-10-22 22:16
I am glad to hear that the financial world is refusing to process donations to that goolish self inflated drama queen.
He would take credit for inventing the printing press if he thought people would recognize him for it and throw money and sex at him.
 
 
+42 # eatberry 2011-10-22 22:38
I have just posted at PayPal a request for an explanation of how, in a system whose law is based on the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, they can deny WikiLeakes donations. Even submitting feedback of this critical sort to today's top-down corporate control organisms is a daunting and time-consuming task. No wonder the Occupy... movement is gaining support.
 
 
+4 # ER444 2011-10-24 02:23
I have let my Paypal account expire and went to the bank last week and withdrew my small but for me important nest egg. I will be canceling my credit card this week and am going back to paying cash for as much as possible. The whole system is outrageously tilted against the average Joe, so I will be living "outside" of it as much as possible.
 
 
+25 # sandyboy 2011-10-23 05:03
So PayPal decided the source for WikiLeaks stuff "probably" broke the law. Nice to see that we don't need trials, judges and juries now - PayPal will decide for us. "Probably" - as the evil politician with the apt initials FU in the House Of Cards BBC show was won't to say: "YOU may think that - I couldn't possibly comment". And neither should flaming PayPal!!!!!
 
 
+29 # genierae 2011-10-23 05:16
WikiLeaks needs to go back to the old-fashioned way of getting donations. Why not establish an address in the US and other countries for the purpose of receiving checks and money orders? The organization has enough connections to do this, and once it was established, there would be a steady stream of money coming in. We also need to let the Obama administration know that we will not tolerate the continued persecution of Julian Assange, 202-456-1111.
 
 
+8 # brianf 2011-10-23 09:36
What about American Express and Discover?
 
 
+9 # in deo veritas 2011-10-23 12:52
As a user of Ebay I hold them responsible for this outrageous "blockade" as well. Their policy of requiring us to only accept PayPal for our sales is also intolerable. I will just post my own blockade of Ebay until this is resolved.Keep fdighting OWS! Don't give up. Keep on closing accounts with the big banksters! Even if it doesn't hurt them it is a moral victory.
 
 
+13 # geraldom 2011-10-23 13:01
Those Americans who do not support Wikileaks and their efforts to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about U.S. worldwide illegal activities have been brainwashed by U.S. propaganda and would have done well living in Nazi Germany.
 
 
+8 # Urbancurmudgeon 2011-10-23 17:20
So Paypal has decided not to take donations for WikiLeaks. Well, if you are a supporter of WikiLeaks and a user of Paypal the answer is quite clear. Do all your online buying with your credit card, preferably Amex, which hasn’t cut off payments to WikiLeaks. Paypal wants to be a sycophant to the power structure, okay. Let them do it with less income.

The less opaque we make government, the better for everyone. The US government hasn’t indicted Assange and it hasn’t brought PFC Bradley Manning to trial despite holding him in jail for over a year. Is that the example of American justice we want trumpeted around the world? If the documents Manning took were so secret how come they were available to a PFC without top security clearance? Maybe the morons in our services who were responsible for allowing those supposedly classified documents to fall into the hands of an impressionable kid should be the ones sitting in Leavenworth.

Let’s face it, the government slaps a classified label on everything including toilet paper orders. Maybe it’s for security purposes, maybe it’s just so the responsible parties can avoid their responsibility.

Maybe the government and the army should forget about Assange, release Manning and start doing their own jobs right
 
 
+3 # geraldom 2011-10-23 17:58
I have a VISA card from Wells Fargo. As far as I know, Wells Fargo has not blocked any payments to Wikileaks. Is is possible for me to use my VISA card to send a donation? And what is Amex? I'm a little confused here. Maybe you can enlighten me if you will.
 
 
+2 # Uranus 2011-10-23 17:54
Suddenly I can't buy anything overseas with my Visa card, when I could mid-summer. I called the bank three times and they said they'd fix it, but it still doesn't work.

I'd tried to buy whistles from acmewhistle.co. uk, and explained to them they don't supply insurgents, as any three-year-old knows. It didn't help.
 
 
+3 # ericlipps 2011-10-24 07:49
If the federal government were pulling a stunt like this, civil libertarians would be in court already. Private companies, however, can apparently ignore or suppress First Amendment rights with impunity (at least against those on the left).
 
 
+1 # geraldom 2011-10-24 21:06
Anyone interested in helping out WikiLeaks with donations, I would suggest that you visit the following websites:

Watch the video with Julian Assange. Important message.
http://www.wikileaks.ch/

Many ways to donate to Wikileaks on this site. Also, interesting video to watch on this site.
http://shop.wikileaks.org/donate

Wikileaks is in trouble. Reference the following article:

http://news.yahoo.com/assange-financial-blockade-may-close-wikileaks-183035025.html
 
 
0 # Obwon 2011-10-26 09:52
Someone needs to inform them all that these actions they're taking, without a specific legal decree from a court of law, is nothing short of vigilantism!

I'm appalled that American businesses are engaging in the same vigilantism that Law Enforcement agencies all decry! Politicians also disparage vigilantism, since it penalizes people without the benefit of trial.

If they're now in favor of vigilantism they should come right out and say so!
 

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