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A case for a weakened WikiLeaks
Anti-secrecy website may founder with founder in jail
“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.
Mr. Assange’s conflicts with the London-based Guardian are long-running, but reservations about WikiLeaks extend beyond the English-language press.
Concerns became especially acute after WikiLeaks published 250,000 diplomatic cables on the Web in their raw, uncensored form in a move that many feared would lead to the persecutions of sensitive diplomatic sources.
Other problems are looming.
WikiLeaks is starved for cash, something Mr. Assange said is the result of a decision by MasterCard Inc., Visa and other financial companies to block donations to his site late last year.
He warned last week that his site could shut as soon as January if funding didn’t pick up. Attorneys for his payment processor have lodged a complaint in Brussels.
In the United States, the grand jury investigation into Mr. Assange’s activities continues, with government attorneys trawling through the Internet records of WikiLeaks’ volunteers and supporters looking for evidence of criminal activity under U.S. laws.
Although international levels of support for the site are strong, Mr. Assange has received little sympathy on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans have urged U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. 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.
Governments also have become more wary of the threat of WikiLeaks-style releases.
In early October, the White House announced a series of measures to guard U.S. government computer networks and classified material against leaks. The measures include the creation of a special committee to coordinate information-sharing and to ensure confidentiality.
Dave Winer, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, said that the spirit of WikiLeaks would live on whatever happened to the group or to Mr. Assange.
“The technology that made WikiLeaks possible is not going away,” he said.
By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
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