- Congressman: McAuliffe victory means gun control a winning message
- Hillary Clinton aide admits soliciting disgraced D.C. fundraiser; says actions were legal
- Joel Osteen church victimized in $600K theft
- Obama goes shopping at Gap as minimum-wage thanks
- N.J. woman charged after client dies from black-market butt injections
- CIA chief Brennan ‘determined’ to speak out more this year
- Reset? What reset? U.S.-Russia ties at worst since Cold War
- 9/11 terror recruiter released in Syrian prisoner swap
- D.C. elections board gives green light to marijuana legalization initiative
- Elephants can tell difference between human languages: study
Assange: Financial woes may close WikiLeaks
LONDON (AP) - WikiLeaks _ whose spectacular publication of classified data shook world capitals and exposed the inner workings of international diplomacy _ may be weeks away from collapse, the organization's leader warned Monday.
Although its attention-grabbing leaks spread outrage and embarrassment across military and diplomatic circles, WikiLeaks' inability to overturn the block on donations imposed by American financial companies may prove its undoing.
"If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year," founder Julian Assange told journalists at London's Frontline Club. "If we don't knock down the blockade we simply will not be able to continue."
As an emergency measure, Assange said his group would cease what he called "publication operations" to focus its energy on fundraising. He added that WikiLeaks _ which he said had about 20 employees _ needs an additional $3.5 million to keep it going into 2013.
WikiLeaks, launched as an online repository for confidential information, shot to notoriety with the April 2010 disclosure of footage of two Reuters journalists killed by a U.S. military strike in Baghdad.
The Pentagon had claimed that the journalists were likely "intermixed among the insurgents," but the helicopter footage, which captured U.S. airmen firing on prone figures and joking about "dead bastards," unsettled many across the world.
The video was just a foretaste. In the following months, WikiLeaks published nearly half a million secret military documents from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a whole the documents provided an unprecedented level of detail into the grueling, bloody conflicts. Individually, many raised concerns about the actions of the U.S. and its local allies _ for example by detailing evidence of abuse, torture and worse by Iraqi security forces.
Although U.S. officials railed against the disclosures, claiming that they were putting lives at risk, it wasn't until WikiLeaks began publishing a massive trove of 250,000 U.S. State Department cables late last year that the financial screws began to tighten.
One after the other, MasterCard Inc., Visa Europe Ltd., Bank of America Corp. Western Union Co. and Ebay Inc.'s PayPal stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks, starving the organization of cash as it was coming under intense political, financial and legal pressure.
Assange said Monday that the restrictions _ imposed in early December _ had cut off some 95 percent of the money he believes his organization could have received.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson defended the estimate as "conservative," noting that in 2010 the average monthly donation to WikiLeaks had been more than 100,000 euros ($140,000), while in 2011 the amount had fallen to between 6,000 and 7,000 euros.
Each company has given its own explanation for the blockade, expressing some level of concern over the nature of the secret-spilling site. WikiLeaks supporters often point out that MasterCard and Visa still process payments for fringe groups such as the American KKK or the far-right British National Party and that neither WikiLeaks nor any of its staff have been charged with any crime.
Assange said his group was being subjected to corporate censorship.
"A few companies cannot be allowed to decide how the whole world votes with its wallet," he said.
WikiLeaks recently organized a series of auctions aimed at shoring up its finances. Assange said Monday that generally his group had relied on small-time donations averaging about $25 to keep it afloat, but would now turn its attention to a "constellation of wealthy individuals."
He didn't elaborate, but Assange has several wealthy backers, including Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith, whose manor house in eastern England has been put at Assange's disposal while he fights extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.
A decision on whether to extradite him is expected in the next few weeks. Speaking to journalists after Monday's appearance, Assange put his chances of being extradited without the possibility of appeal at "30 percent."
Also looming in the background is a U.S. grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks' disclosures. Earlier this month a small California-based Internet provider became the second company to confirm it was fighting a court order demanding customer account information as part of the American WikiLeaks inquiry.
WikiLeaks' suspected source, U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, remains in custody at Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas.
(This version CORRECTS Adds more background, corrects spelling of spokesman's last name. This story is part of AP's general news and financial services.)
TWT Video Picks
Virginia homosexuals attempt to bully McAuliffe's choice of Jones for party chief
- House Democrats trying to force unemployment insurance vote
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Redskins bypass big splash - for now - as free agency period begins
- FCC targets black conservative in TV station fight
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- Joel Osteen church victimized in $600K theft
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Sharyl Attkisson resigns from CBS after months of talks
- CARNES: Kissinger's flawed and offensive analysis of Ukraine
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again