WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange reportedly has exposed an apparent attempt by the U.S. intelligence apparatus to undermine funding to his controversial website, using institutions he established for the express purpose of protecting potential donors from the authorities.
In a recent series of Twitter postings, Assange alleges "politically induced financial censorship" that violates not only US donors’ First Amendment rights but also their right to freedom of association. “US donors are the majority of our donor base," Assange wrote.
The discussion centers around two institutions: The Europe-based Wau Holland Stiftung and its US equivalent, the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), RT reported.
"Wau Holland is not WikiLeaks. It performs a similar proxy role as FPF for Europe," Assange wrote.
The Berlin-based Wau Holland collected over $1.2 million in donations for WikiLeaks before it was cut off by PayPal in 2010 for "activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity," reported CBS. Wau Holland’s charitable status was temporarily revoked by German authorities but has since been reinstated, RT reported.
Meanwhile, Assange claimed that U.S. authorities had attempted to build an initial “financial blockade” to silence the whistleblowing site back in 2010.
This move would ultimately prove a spectacular failure, as Assange himself noted in October this year:
"The financial blockade was one of several fronts we faced, along with a US grand jury, a Pentagon"war room" (their term, not mine), and an intense propaganda offensive by the US military, the political class and virtually all establishment media,” Assange wrote Sunday.
However, following the Vault7 leaks in 2017, Assange noted an increasing anxiety in US donors over the legality of supporting WikiLeaks. The FPF was customized in such a way so as to “counter political and legal pressure against WikiLeaks, its donors, and upstream financial intermediaries,” through an anonymizing structure and built-in tax-deductibility.
An email exchange, shared as part of Assange’s Twitter thread, reveals that the board of the FPF appears to have turned against him and WikiLeaks. The FPF says it will shut down WikiLeaks’ US “tax deductible gateway” in January, a move Assange calls “Banking blockade 2.0.”
“This week, FPF's board unanimously found – upon review of the available evidence – that the financial blockade by the major payment processors is no longer in effect, and as such, we will soon cease processing donations on behalf of WikiLeaks readers," wrote Director of the Freedom of Press Foundation Trevor Timm in an email dated December 9, 2017. "If a similar extrajudicial financial blockade is re-instated in the future, our board agreed WikiLeaks would be welcome to apply for protection again," RT reported.
"If it bows to political pressure it becomes part of the problem it was designed to solve,” Assange said.
As with the previous financial blockade, RT reported that "Assange’s response has been to expand the number of cryptocurrencies potential donors can use to financially assist the organization, adding both monero and zcash to the existing bitcoin and litecoin payment options."
The news comes amid reports WikiLeaks and Assange are facing multiple investigations by U.S. authorities, including three congressional probes and a federal criminal inquiry, sources familiar with the investigations told Reuters.
WikiLeaks published emails hacked from the Democratic Party and the personal email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman.
In a report issued in January, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Russian intelligence did the hacking, and the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, sent hacked data to WikiLeaks via intermediaries.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating who gave WikiLeaks the hacked Democratic National Committee data that WikiLeaks published in July 2016, which included more than 44,000 emails and 17,000 attachments, the sources said. So far, its inquiries are still at an early stage, the sources said.
Senate Judiciary Committee leaders have asked Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, for emails related to WikiLeaks.
The House Intelligence Committee has questioned Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump and a veteran political operative who promoted WikiLeaks’ disclosures of the emails on Twitter.
After initially refusing to identify an intermediary he dealt with who was in contact with Assange, Stone later told the committee it was Randy Credico, a left-wing comedian.
The committee sent Credico a letter asking him to appear voluntarily. When he declined to do so, the panel sent him a subpoena requiring him to give a deposition.
Credico’s lawyer, Martin Stoller, said on Wednesday that Credico was considering whether to invoke his First and Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution to avoid answering questions.
It is unclear whether Credico could help investigators uncover where WikiLeaks got the hacked Democratic emails.
In emails to Reuters, Stone has dismissed the intelligence agencies’ conclusion about Russian hacking.
It is not known whether Robert Mueller, the Justice Department special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, is investigating WikiLeaks.
A U.S. lawyer for Assange, Barry Pollack, said Mueller’s team had not contacted him.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, are conducting a criminal investigation into how WikiLeaks obtained thousands of classified U.S. government documents, including CIA materials and most recently ultra-secret technical materials describing American spy agency hacking tools. Law enforcement sources and Pollack said the probe began several years ago.
Assange has lived in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for several years after taking refuge there when Swedish authorities sought his extradition in a sexual molestation case.
(Newsmax wire services contributed to this report).
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