WikiLeaks under pressure from money firm, Sweden

AP News
Posted: Oct 18, 2010 3:49 PM
WikiLeaks under pressure from money firm, Sweden

The founder of Wikileaks was denied a Swedish residency permit on Monday and said his whistleblowing website had been cut off by a company that handled many of its donations.

Julian Assange blamed the financial cutoff on the U.S. government, which denied any involvement. The U.S. did tell reporters that it was bracing for the potential disclosure by Wikileaks of hundreds of thousands of secret Iraq war documents, and asked media companies not to publish them.

The Pentagon said the group had as many as 400,000 documents from a military database on operations in Iraq but Assange downplayed expectations that a leak was imminent. In a Twitter post, Assange said information were coming from "a single tabloid blog" that had put out a "tremendous amount" of false information about his site.

In Sweden, the national immigration authority delivered a setback to Assange's efforts to gain protection from its generous media freedom laws by announcing that it had rejected his request for residency.

Migration Board spokeswoman Gunilla Wikstrom declined to explain why Assange's application had been denied, saying the reason was confidential.

Allegations of rape and sexual molestation have been made by two Swedish women against Assange, who has denied them. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to file charges in the case, which became public nearly two months ago.

Speaking generally, Wikstrom said only crimes that have been proven would affect the Migration Board's decision, which Assange has three weeks to appeal.

Assange did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the residency issue.

But he released correspondence from London-based, which pulled the plug on its relationship with WikiLeaks over the summer, shortly after the website published a massive trove of U.S. intelligence documents relating to the war in Afghanistan, an unprecedented leak that infuriated the Pentagon and energized opponents of the war in Afghanistan.

When Assange queried the decision, Moneybookers replied to say that his site had been added to "blacklists in Australia and watch lists in the USA," according to an August 13 e-mail exchange.

It was not clear which blacklists or watchlists Moneybookers was referring to. The organization declined to elaborate on its correspondence, saying that it always follows the law _ and that it had never been asked directly by any government to stop dealing with WikiLeaks.

It noted that it sometimes dropped clients "as part of our rigorous, continuous risk management checks." It offered no details on the nature of those checks.

Australian officials denied that they'd blacklisted the site, while Marti Adams, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury department, said that WikiLeaks was not targeted by any of the department's sanctions programs.

Assange made clear he blamed Washington for pressuring the site to close down his account.

"Craven behavior in relation to the U.S. government is unlikely to be seen sympathetically," he said in an August 16 e-mail to one of the site's administrators.

The blacklisting allegations _ which Assange said he was only publicizing now due to his heavy workload over the past two months _ illustrate the problems WikiLeaks has faced as it tries to raise money online in the teeth of the U.S. government's anger. WikiLeaks has in the past shut its website down due to lack of funds.

It has been down "for scheduled maintenance" for the past two weeks.


Satter reported from London. Associated Press Writer Anne Flaherty in Washington contributed to this report.