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WikiLeaks’ only other publicly announced disclosure since then, the purported hand-over of CDs packed with tax evasion secrets by Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer, turned into a big dud when Elmer’s lawyers later claimed that the discs were blank.

Even if the spectacular revelations return _ and Assange insists he’s still sitting on hundreds of secrets _ WikiLeaks may have trouble finding an outlet to publish them.

The WikiLeaks chief said last week that he’d struck deals with some 90 media and human rights groups. But he has long had a prickly relationship with the mainstream press, which he variously describes as corrupt, complicit with powerful governments, or _ in a recent speech to demonstrators in London _ “war criminals.”

Many journalists return Assange’s disdain.

“I don’t think we’d ever work with him again,” said Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger, whose newspaper played a key role in last year’s WikiLeaks disclosures.

Assange’s conflicts with the Guardian (and The New York Times) are long-running, but reservations about WikiLeaks extend beyond the English-language press.

Concerns became especially acute after WikiLeaks published 250,000 diplomatic cables to the Web in their raw, uncensored form _ a move many feared would lead to the persecution of sensitive diplomatic sources.

The circumstances of the release are disputed, but Javier Moreno, the director of Spain’s El Pais newspaper, said it had breached his paper’s agreement with the online secret-spiller.

“It is now too complicated to work with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks,” Moreno told The Associated Press in September.

Other problems are looming. WikiLeaks is starved for cash, something Assange says is the result of the decision by MasterCard Inc., Visa, and other financial companies to block donations to his site late last year. Assange warned last week that his site could shut as soon as January if funding didn’t pick up. Lawyers for his payment processor have lodged a complaint in Brussels.

Back in the United States, the grand jury investigation into Assange’s activities continues, with government lawyers trawling through the Internet records of WikiLeaks’ volunteers and supporters looking for evidence of criminal activity under U.S. laws.

While there are strong levels of support for the site internationally, Assange has received little sympathy on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans have both urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute him for espionage.

“No one in political power defends WikiLeaks,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

Efforts to imitate WikiLeaks have stumbled, with The Wall Street Journal’s SafeHouse program and the New York Times’ own secure document submission system experiencing growing pains, according to a recent account carried in Forbes magazine. OpenLeaks, produced by Assange’s collaborator-turned-rival, Daniel Domscheit Berg, has yet to go live.

Governments have also become more wary of the threat of WikiLeaks-style releases.

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