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|Monday, October 24, 2011|
Wikileaks has suspended operations after many U.S.-based financial institutions blocked donors from giving money to the organization. Founder Julian Assange says it may have to shut down permanently.
Although its attention-grabbing leaks spread outrage and embarrassment across military and diplomatic circles, WikiLeaks' inability to shake the restrictions 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.
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, Visa, PayPal and Western Union 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 thinks his organization could have received.
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