Published on The Fresh Outlook.com 2010-12-07 13:46:58
More than 500 mirror sites have been hosted since WikiLeaks faced cyber attacks, forcing its official website to fall off the internet on Friday. The controversial whistle-blowing website has come under attack since its latest leak, Cable Gate, that exposes official communique between governments and embassies around the world.
In the face of intense pressure from governments across the world, supporters of the website have started creating copy sites, making it almost impossible to censor the sensitive material. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has been heralded both as a 'hero' and as a 'terrorist', with recent allegations of sex offences pending against him in Sweden has made it difficult for him to seek refuge in the country's strong media-freedom laws. Interpol has also released a 'red alert' against Mr Assange regarding the alleged sex offence, which he has denied.
In a recent live chat with Guardian readers, Mr Assange said: “I get undue attacks on every aspect of my life...The Cable Gate archive has been spread, along with significant material from the US and other countries, to over 100,000 people in encrypted form. If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically.”
Now, in another attempt, Mr Assange is reportedly trying to seek asylum in Switzerland, as the United States increases its pressure against this move. American ambassador to Switzerland, Donald S. Beyer Jr., told the weekly magazine NZZ am Sontagg that the Swiss “should very carefully consider whether to provide shelter to someone who is on the run from the law”.
However, like several other countries, residents of Switzerland have shown support for WikiLeaks. The Swiss Pirate Party is a prime example whose forward-thinking has helped the whistle-blowing website escape shutting down.
Raffael Herzog from the Swiss Pirate Party told The Fresh Outlook: “There is no direct partnership with Julian Assange and the Swiss Pirate Party. However, half a year ago we created a domain name wikileaks.ch. We didn't really expect that it would happen this way (massive government pressure alongwith cyber attacks on WikiLeaks) during such a "big" leak and we didn't have any concrete plans. But yes, we thought that it might be useful if, at some point, we decide to support WikiLeaks more actively.
“We hadn't had any contact with Mr Assange, and the domain was registered independently by the Swiss Pirate Party. Later on, the president of our party met with Mr Assange and they discussed politics, state, etc. When wikileaks.org shut down recently, Mr Assange must have remembered our website, as now wikileaks.ch acts as a forwarding channel to the original website. We were very surprised, as we were informed about this like everyone else through the media. Although we've not had any direct contact with Mr Assange since then, the Swiss Pirate Party shares the same ideals and actively supports WikiLeaks.”
Mr Herzog also believes that Mr Assange should be granted asylum in Switzerland if he so desired, provided the charges of rape against him were dropped. Agreeing that Mr Assange's life “might now actually be in danger”, he said that “Switzerland should grant him asylum. However, if he is charged with sex offences, Switzerland should and will be forced to return him to Sweden. It all seems a little unclear at the moment, but we are writing an open letter to the Swiss Council asking them to support Julian Assange”.
Others have come out in support, too. Anonymous, an informal organisation alleged to be “notorious for hacking”, has declared its support for WikiLeaks and urged supporters to attack the sites of companies that do not support the whistle-blowing website, alongwith a continued spread of the revelations by WikiLeaks. Prominent member Gregg Housh said that an orchestrated effort was under way to attack companies that have refused to support WikiLeaks and to post multiple copies of the leaked material.
And the “kick back for Julian” begins with Paypal. The company that handled payments for Wikileaks, has withdrawn its support due to alleged pressure from the US government. Paypal has issued a statement holding Wikileaks responsible for violating its policy on promoting illegal activities.
“The reason is amazingly simple,” commented Mr Housh on the campaign. “We all believe that information should be free, and the internet should be free”.
However, not all supporters of WikiLeaks support the approach undertaken by Anonymous. Mr Herzog from the Swiss Pirate Party said, “Even though Anonymous may also share the same ideals as WikiLeaks and the Swiss Pirate Party do, we do not approve of their methods of working. We strongly believe that they should stop these attacks and to that effect, Pirate Party International, which we are a member of, have also urged Anonymous to not undertake such drastic measures.”
All donations are currently being handled by DataCell, a company based in Iceland. However, contrary to reports, DataCell has been handling transactions for WikiLeaks for the last few months, and not presently since the withdrawal of PayPal. CEO Andreas Fink told The Fresh Outlook: “WikiLeaks contacted us and asked for our services and we treat them like we would treat any other customer.” Commenting on potential pressure his company could face from having WikiLeaks as a client, Mr Fink said: “So far, we have had no problems. However, if there are such powerful forces that could bring down PayPal, we will see.”
In another turn of events, Swiss Post Office's bank, Postfinance, has frozen Julian Assange's bank account worth 31,000 euros due to the latter not providing a valid Swiss address on his application. Although it has been accepted by sources that stating Geneva as his address was a mistake on Mr Assange's part, many find that there has been a clear violation of the law on bank secrecy.
Mr Fink commented: “As Postfinance writes in the press-release, they have suspended the account of Julian Assange because of false information and the fact that he was not allowed to have an account as non-Swiss-residential. The latter point is very suspicious regarding these restrictions, as the fact that only Swiss-residents could open an account was not only not known, but I am trying to find that clause in the AGB - and so far did not find anything. I'll ask Postfinance directly, but I assume it will take some time to get an answer. There are persons known that are non-Swiss-residents with a Postfinace account!”
As an arrest warrant against Mr Assange has been issued in Britain, support for Wikileaks seems to be on the rise. Analysing the appeal for the website, Mr Herzog said: “Wikileaks is just one of the whistle-blowing platforms and there are many others. Its popularity is because of it's leaks.”
By Shayoni Sarkar