STE WILLIAMS

Lawyers fear Assange faces death penalty in US

Jan
12

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or face the death penalty if he’s extradited to the US, his attorneys argued in court papers released Tuesday.

The document, which outlines the defense Assange’s legal team intends to use next month at a hearing over Sweden’s request for extradition, says Assange could be subject to other types of maltreatment that would violate the European Convention on Human Rights. They include the possibility of torture or, they hinted, “extraordinary rendition,” in which the CIA forcibly transfers suspected terrorists to countries where prohibitions against torture aren’t in place.

“There is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the US will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, in conditions which would breach Article 3 of the ECHR,” the document stated. “Indeed, if Mr. Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty.”

The document went on to cite references from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who have both called for Assange to be treated as a terrorist.

Assange, 39, remains confined to a country mansion outside London on about $410,000 surety while a London court decides whether Assange should be extradited to Sweden. Prosecutors in that country are investigating claims by two women that Assange sexually molested them while visiting Sweden in August. Assange was previously cleared to leave the country after prosecutors there closed their investigation. When it was reopened, prosecutors sought Assange’s extradition, which the WikiLeaks’ founder has opposed.

Assange hasn’t been charged with any crime.

In the defense preview, Assange’s attorneys took issue with the extradition application of Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny. Requests can be made only after a suspect has been charged with a crime that is subject to extradition, the attorneys argued. What’s more, prosecutors must exhaust all “normal procedures” for interrogating Assange, which has yet to happen, they argued.

“In short, Ms. Ny went from informal discussions about arranging an interview of Mr. Assange straight to the issuance of [a European arrest warrant], without taking the reasonable and proportionate, intermediary step of formally summoning him for an interview or formally requesting his interrogation,” the wrote. “The proper, proportionate and legal means of requesting a person’s questioning in the UK in these circumstances is through Mutual Legal Assistance.”

The defense preview was issued a few hours after Assange appeared at a brief court hearing attended by supporters including Bianca Jagger and heiress/socialite/humanitarian Jemima Goldsmith. ®

WikiLeaks lawyer dubs US subpoena on Twitter ‘harassment’

Jan
12

US prosecutor demands that Twitter hand over data about WikiLeaks and a raft of supporters amounts to harassment, a lawyer for the whistle-blower website says.

The claim comes amid revelations of documents the US Department of Justice secretly filed in federal court seeking detailed information associated with the accounts of WikiLeaks and several of its supporters, including Icelandic Member of Parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir, founder Julian Assange, and Rop Gonggrijp and Jacob Appelbaum, who are hackers who have worked with Assange in the past. Pfc. Bradley Manning, the US Army intelligence analyst suspected of supplying WikiLeaks with classified government documents was also targeted.

Mark Stephens, an attorney representing the secret-spilling website, told journalists over the weekend that the demands violate the US Constitution’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures and amounts to a shake down.

“The Department of Justice is turning into an agent of harassment rather than an agent of law,” Stephens told Bloomberg News. “They’re shaking the tree to see if anything drops out, but more important they are shaking down people who are supporters of WikiLeaks.”

Stephens went on to tell Bloomberg that similar information was sought from Google, Facebook and eBay’s Skype division. Those companies have yet to confirm or deny that claim.

The government’s dragnet might never have come to light were it not for the actions of Twitter, which under the national security letters filed on December 14 in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was forbidden from notifying its subscribers that their information was being demanded. Lawyers for the micro-blogging filed a motion to unseal the court order and won last week.

The company easily could have complied with the order and faced “zero” liability for doing so, said Christopher Soghoian, a Ph.D. candidate in Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing, where he is researching data security and privacy, cyber law.

“It is wonderful to see companies taking a strong stance, and fighting for their users’ privacy,” he blogged. “I am sure that this will pay long term PR dividends to Twitter, and is a refreshing change, compared to the actions by some other major telecommunications and internet application providers, who often bend over backwards to help law enforcement agencies.”

He went on to highlight comments made a few years ago by eBay’s director of compliance boasting that the online auction house “has probably the most generous policy of any internet company when it comes to sharing information.” The site doesn’t require a subpoena “except for very limited circumstances,” the official went on to say.

Meanwhile Iceland’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the US Ambassador to Reykjavik to explain why investigators are dredging up the online activity of an Icelandic lawmaker. It’s not clear when the meeting will take place.

Stephens, the WikiLeaks attorney, said government investigators are using the data demands to learn as much as they can about the comings and goings of the targets, as well as their relationship to each other.

“What they will then do is take that data and analyze it in conjunction with data they get from Google, Facebook and the other social media, so that they can ascertain individuals that they feel they want to pay more attention to,” he told Bloomberg. ®

Feds subpoena Twitter for info on WikiLeaks backer

Jan
08

US authorities have subpoenaed Twitter for information about an Icelandic parliamentarian who until recently was a vocal supporter of WikiLeaks and its embattled founder Julian Assange.

Iceland Member of Parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir disclosed the legal demand in a series of tweets on the micro blogging site on Friday. The former anarchist was a vocal supporter of the whistle-blower website until recently, when her enthusiasm for Assange cooled following allegations he sexually molested two women during a visit in August to Sweden.

“Just got this: Twitter has received legal process requesting information regarding your Twitter account in (relation to wikileaks),” she wrote in one dispatch. “USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize i am a member of parliament in iceland?” she quickly added.

She went on to say she is consulting with a lawyer and intends to fight the demand, which came from officials at the Justice Department.

“They are asking for a lot more then [sic] just my tweets,” she said. “I only got 10 days to stop this via legal process or [Twitter] will hand it over.

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to confirm the account, or say whether the service intends to comply.

“To help users protect their rights, it’s our policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so,” she said.

The demand makes Twitter the latest company to get embroiled in the US government’s heated campaign against WikiLeaks. Over the past month, a variety of companies – including PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Bank of America – have denied services to WikiLeaks following claims by the State Department that the site was engaged in illegal activity.

Charges have yet to be brought.

Jónsdóttir was the chief sponsor of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, which was passed in that country’s parliament in June. The measure reformed media laws to make Iceland an international safe haven for journalists.

According to The Telegraph, Jónsdóttir also managed to get Assange into a US Embassy cocktail party at the ambassador’s residence in Reykjavik. During the event, Assange sipped with Sam Watson, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission, whose embarrassing dispatches concerning the US and UK role following the collapse of Iceland’s bank would later be published on the site.

“He certainly had fun at the party,” Jónsdóttir was quoted as saying. “I said it would be a bit of a prank to take him and see if they knew who he was. I don’t think they had any idea.”

According to Wired.com, the subpoena was served on December 14 in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, the same venue of a federal grand jury deciding whether to bring charges against Assange for leaking classified State Department cables.

“I think I am being given a message, almost like someone breathing in a phone,” Jónsdóttir wrote. “If Twitter hands over my information – then no ones information is save [sic] with Twitter.” ®

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Now Making $86k/year

Dec
24

WikiLeaks’ main financial arm, the Germany-based Wau Holland Foundation says it has collected about 1 million Euro ($1.3 million) in donations in 2010, the year in which WikiLeaks exploded into public prominence thanks to its release of thousands of classified U.S. documents, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

Wau Holland is the primary but not sole financial provider for WikiLeaks, the Journal reports.

From those donations, Wau Holland has established a Greenpeace-like system of salary payments, as WikiLeaks attempts to legitimize its organization by moving away from purely volunteer-based work, the Journal reports. The move to make salaried employees allegedly comes after a year-long intense internal debate about whether to do so.

The main beneficiary has been founder Julian Assange, who has drawn 66,000 Euros (about $86,000) in salary thus far this year, the Journal reports. Wau Holland has paid a total of 100,000 Euros in salaries to the entire WikiLeaks staff, which means Assange is getting the lion’s share.

WikiLeaks will pay key personnel based on a salary structure developed by the environmental activist organization Greenpeace, the Journal reports. Under the structure, Greenpeace department heads are paid about 5,500 Euros in monthly salary, a Wau Holland spokesman said.

Among the many revelations from the Journal report are several indications that donations to WikiLeaks have dropped off significantly in the second half of the year.

By August, WikiLeaks had raised about 765,000 Euro, which means it has only raised about 235,000 Euro since then, the Journal reports.

Last summer, WikiLeaks said it operated on about 150,000 Euro a year. Now, however, the foundation says it has paid about 380,000 Euro in WikiLeaks expenses, with some invoices for the year still unprocessed. Some of that total is for hardware, Internet access and travel, a Wau Holland spokesman said. But a big factor in the leap is a recent decision to begin paying salaries to staff.

WikiLeaks had also allegedly promised to contribute half of the estimated $100,000 it will cost for the legal defense of Bradley Manning. Recently, however, a WikiLeaks spokesman said it would only donate around $20,000.

As of the writing of this report, it had still not contributed the funds. The Wau Holland Foundation is awaiting advice from its lawyers on whether the donation would be legal under German law, a spokesman told the Journal.

Anonymous Wikileaks supporters mull change in tactics

Dec
10

‘Coldblood’, a member of the group Anonymous, tells Jane Wakefield why he views its attacks on Visa and Mastercard as defence of Wikileaks.

Web attacks carried out in support of Wikileaks are being wound down as activists consider changing tactics.

Attacks against Amazon were called off late on 9 December and re-directed towards net payments firm Paypal.

Analysis suggests the earlier attacks were made more effective by the involvement of hi-tech criminals.

At the same time one wing of the activist group suggested ditching the attacks and doing more to publicise what is in the leaked cables.

Site saving

The attacks have been carried out using a tool, called LOIC, that allows people to bombard a site of their choosing with data or let the target be chosen by those running the Anonymous campaign.

Luis Corrons, technical director of Panda Labs, said during its investigation of Anonymous’ attacks its analysts got talking to some of the activists via Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

One of those activists said he had a botnet of 30,000 machines under his control that he was planning to use on behalf of Wikileaks.

“The guy said he had this botnet which was nothing special and was not specifically designed to do these attacks but could be used to do them,” said Mr Corrons.

A botnet is a network of hijacked home computers that have been compromised by their owners visiting a booby-trapped webpage that installs code to hand over control to a hi-tech criminal.

Mr Corrons said a botnet with 30,000 machines in it was “about average size”. Most of the spam sent around the net is funnelled through machines that are in botnets.

It was becoming clear, he said, that some attacks were aided by the 30,000 machines under the cyber criminals control.

“We know for sure the botnet was used in at least one attack on Paypal,” he said.

Panda itself has come under attack with its blog knocked offline for hours by an attack very similar to those Anonymous has been carrying out. Mr Corrons said that, so far, it did not why it was being attacked or who was attacking it.

Fresh leaks

There are also suggestions that the Anonymous group might be about to drop the web attacks in favour of another tactic.

A message posted on the 4chan image board, out of which Anonymous has grown, suggests dropping LOIC in favour of publicising information in the diplomatic cables that Wikileaks is releasing.

Searching for the less-well publicised cables and spreading the information they contain around the web could be more effective than simply knocking out sites deemed to be enemies of Wikileaks, it said.

The message also suggests using misleading tags on posts and YouTube videos to trick people into reading or viewing the information.

“They don’t fear the LOIC, they fear exposure,” read the message.

It is not yet clear if the call to change tactics has been taken up by the Anonymous group at large.

In related news, Wikileaks looks set to have a rival as former staffers of the whistle-blowing website prepare to launch. Set up by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Open Leaks is expected to launch in mid_December and will host and post information leaked to it.

Is taking part in these attacks illegal?

The short answer is yes, according to Struan Robertson, legal director at law firm Pinsent Masons.

He told the BBC that in the UK, taking part in the attacks would be a breach of the Computer Misuse Act.

He said that anyone found guilty of taking part could face “up to ten years imprisonment”.

“Even downloading the [software] tools to assist in committing these attacks… are themselves guilty of an offence,” he said.

He said this could carry a sentence of up to two years in the UK.

Different countries will have different laws and penalties.

However, security expert Peter Wood said that in practice it would be very difficult to track down the people involved because the attacks used “anonymising software” to hid their tracks online.

The tool launches what is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack which tries to knock a website offline by bombarding it with so much data that it cannot respond.

The LOIC tool has been downloaded more than 46,000 times but, said Anonymous activists in a tweet, this did not translate into enough people using it to knock the retail giant off the web.

Instead, the attack was re-directed towards Paypal and its computer systems which, according to a status page, has intermittently suffered “performance issues” ever since.

Early on 10 December Moneybookers was chosen as the next target and its site was occasionally unreachable from about 1100 GMT.

The chances of success could be boosted by a new version of LOIC written in web programming language Javascript that allows anyone with a browser, including on a mobile phone, to launch attacks.

However, defences against the attacks were being drawn up as security firms scrutinise the code behind LOIC to work out how attacks happen. Some suggest that well-written firewall rules would be able to filter out most of the harmful traffic.

Criminal chain

Information is also starting to emerge about the other resources that supporters of Anonymous have been able to bring to bear. Research by security firm Panda suggests that some of the earlier attacks on payment firms were aided by hi-tech criminals.

Who are Anonymous?

‘Anonymous’ is commonly used to describe a leaderless collective of people who come together online, commonly to stage a protest.

The groups vary in size and make-up depending on the cause. Members often identify themselves in web videos by wearing the Guy Fawkes masks popularised by the book and film V for Vendetta.

Its protests often take the form of disrupting websites and services.

Its use of the term Anonymous comes from a series of websites frequented by members, such as the anarchic image board 4Chan.

These allow users to post without having to register or provide a name. As a result, their comments are tagged “Anonymous”.

In the past, groups have staged high-profile protests against plans by the Australian government to filter the internet and the Church of Scientology.

The latter spilled over into the real world with protests by masked members outside churches. An offshoot of Anonymous called Project Chanology focuses purely on this cause.

Many Anonymous protests tackle issues of free speech and preserving the openness of the net.

Daniel Schmitt Interview by Der Spiegel

Dec
10

Daniel Schmitt Interview by Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel, 26 September 2010. Translation by Babelfish, massaged by Cryptome.
Original pages, in German, excerpted from purchased Der Spiegel issue.
“For me only withdrawal is left”

The German WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Schmitt, 32, on his disgreement with with Julian Assange, the founder of the leaks platform, his exit from the organization – and his correct name

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Schmitt, WikiLeaks and you for several weeks could not be reached by email. What is the matter?

Schmitt: There are technical problems and nobody worries about them. WikiLeaks is in a phase of significant change. We have been insane in the last months due to rapid growth and we need to urgently to see that all matters become more transparent. This development is blocked internally. Even to me it is no longer clear how we make decisions, provide answers to questions and other matters. Because of high pressure since the publication of the American military documents, we are trying to convert the organization to respond to new conditions. That means that not everythng is working and resolved correctly. All this is making excessive demands on the project.

DER SPIEGEL: Is that only your view or does everyone involved see it that way?

Schmitt: That is one of the internal points at issue, but there are others. WikiLeaks was for example always discrimination-free in what we published. We have received minor submissions, only important locally, which were always treated exactly the same as major documents whether they were nationally or are even internationally important.

DER SPIEGEL: Why don’t you publish both?

Schmitt: We would gladly have done that, but unfortunately we are in a dead end. I tried several times to open up the dead end, but Julian Assange has reacted to each criticism with the accusation that I was refusing to obey and disloyal to the project. Four weeks ago he suspended me — a single person as prosecutor, judge and executioner. Since then for example I have had no access to my WikiLeaks mail. Thus much work remains undone, and other tools needed for the work are blocked. I know that nobody from our core team agreed with this. But the core team seems to play no role. WikiLeaks has a structural problem. For me without an answer to that problem I must leave the project.

DER SPIEGEL: Why has your controversy with Assange escalated?

Schmitt: We all had insane stress in the last months. Errors happen and can be corrected so long as one learns from them. But they must be admitted to be corrected. Above all it seems that confidence has been lost and we are at a stand still.

DER SPIEGEL: Assange says you questioned the power and guidance from WikiLeaks to do what you wanted.

Schmitt: From my point of view it was not struggle for power, it was not about personal interests, but about our organization and its development. Why he sees that differently, only he knows.

DER SPIEGEL: Nevertheless you have also suggested and advised, because of the rape accusations which have been made against him in Sweden, for him to withdraw from the public.

Schmitt: The investigations against Julian in Sweden are from my point of view a personal attack on him and it has nothing directly to do with WikiLeaks. All this costs to time and energy, and it adds to our burden. From my point of view it would have been best if these matters were handled privately in the background, to clarify and resolve them peacefully. It would have been nothing against him if resolved in the background and our work continued normally. That was my internal proposal but obviously he saw it as an attack on his role.

DER SPIEGEL: How does it continue now?

Schmitt: I worked on WikiLeaks because I believed the idea correct and important. We tried several times with Julian to talk over and address all questions without success. I have given more than hundred interviews with world media, handled finances in Germany coordinated and cooperated on publications. Now I pull back from the project and hand my tasks over – to whomever remains.

DER SPIEGEL: Who do you mean by them of “we talk?”

Schmitt: A handful of the people from the core team, which see the situation similar to me, but do not want to go public with action. A majority of the work by people, that made anonymously, will likely continue. Because of disagreements I need to step out.

DER SPIEGEL: They leaves the project in a critical phase. Do you fear that many Internet activists will accuse you of betrayal?

Schmitt: I am aware of that, and you can assume I deeply considered this step for a long time. Nevertheless I have put in the past years very much time, money and energy into WikiLeaks. But because of that I must be able to be publicly accountable. Therefore this remains for me momentarily only a temporary withdrawal.

DER SPIEGEL: Which exactly do you no longer want to represent?

Schmitt: We promise for example everything from our sources will be published. We have concentrated lately however only on the big topics and practically all our resources are used for that, for example on the Afghanistan documents of the US army at the end of July. The video of the air strike in Bagdad from the year 2007, “Collateral Murder,” was an extreme demonstration of our growth. At the same time we have dozens of other documents we can publish. And due to our increased publicity in the last half year very much new material has been received that needs to be urgently worked on and published.

DER SPIEGEL: By the publication of the secret Afghanistan reports, also by DER SPIEGEL, you have come into conflict with the world power of the USA. Washington threatens you with prosecution because of espionage, WikiLeaks supporters have been contacted by the FBI. Bradley Manning, one of your alleged informants, sits in the prison. Are you afraid of great public pressure?

Schmitt: No, public pressure is part of the endeavor. But this direct confrontation with the USA is not what we intended. We were always against corruption and abuse, to uncover the exercise of power wherever that takes place, whether in a small location generally speaking or the whole world.

DER SPIEGEL: Which does it mean for the organization if after Assange the its most well-known public face is discharged? Is the future of WikiLeaks endangered?

Schmitt: That I do not believe. For WikiLeaks is very important idea. There is a large number of new people in Sweden and Great Britain, and I hope that they all will work together at something meaningful. I believe in the concept with which we began and I am confident that it will survive.

DER SPIEGEL: Must persons who submit material fear for its protection if now a part of the WikiLeaks crew leaves?

Schmitt: From my point of view material and all donated funds should remain with WikiLeaks, because both are explicitly protected in how the project worked. There are alos internally different opinions, in particular with ours technicians. We can however depend on everyone to guarantee that a clean publicaton takes place.

DER SPIEGEL: They have their job with WikiLeaks to continue. And how does it go further for you?

Schmitt: I will contribute to the effort that the idea of a decentralized leak platform not go down. On that I will now work. It in all other respects our earlier common convictions remain: In the end there must be a thousand WikiLeaks.

DER SPIEGEL: You have always spoken for WikiLeaks as “Daniel Schmitt.” What is your real name?

Schmitt: It probably time to stop hiding my name and attach my real name to my opinions. My real name is Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

INTERVIEW: MARCEL ROSENBACH, HOLGER STARK

Daniel Berg on Linkedin:

http://de.linkedin.com/pub/daniel-berg/3/610/663 (more at the link)

[Image]

A sends:

Anke Domscheit and Daniel Berg are married in July 2010.

Anke Domscheit-Berg is Director Government Relations at Microsoft Germany in Berlin.

Daniel and Anke supporting the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative:

# 194. daniel berg, germany
# 196. Anke Domscheit-Berg, Germany

Wikileaks insiders break away from ‘Emperor’ Assange

Dec
10

OpenLeaks opens on Monday.

Fed up with what they perceive as autocratic leadership, former members of St Julian d’Assange’s core inner circle at WikiLeaks will start a breakaway site on Monday called OpenLeaks. The site will act as an intermediary between whistleblowers and the press, reports Dagens Nyheter.

Defectors include Daniel Domscheit-Berg, otherwise known as Daniel Schmitt, who made a high-profile exit from WikiLeaks in September, and Herbert Snorrason, an Icelandic student. Both resigned in September. Snorrason is quoted as telling Assange, in an online chat log acquired by WiReD:

And you’re not even fulfilling your role as a leader right now. A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader.

Snorrason’s departure was fomented by this declaration from Assange:

I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier and all the rest. If you have a problem with me, piss off.

And he did.

According to the Swedish newspaper, the former inner circle “were dissatisfied with the operation’s association with Assange’s personal problems and how he used the organisation in his explanation of the criminal charges.”

Assange handed himself in to police earlier this week, and is remanded in London pending an extradition hearing next week following a request from the Swedish authorities which want to speak to him in relation to two alleged sexual offences. ®

Hacker Attack WikiLeaks foes

Dec
09

LONDON — In a campaign that had some declaring the start of a “cyberwar,” hundreds of Internet activists mounted retaliatory attacks on Wednesday on the Web sites of multinational companies and other organizations they deemed hostile to the WikiLeaks antisecrecy organization and its jailed founder, Julian Assange.

Within 12 hours of a British judge’s decision to deny Mr. Assange bail in a Swedish extradition case, attacks on the Web sites of WikiLeaks’s “enemies,” as defined by the organization’s impassioned supporters around the world, caused several corporate Web sites to become inaccessible or slow down markedly.

Targets of the attacks, in which activists overwhelmed the sites with traffic, included the Web site of MasterCard, which had stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks; Amazon.com, which revoked the use of its computer servers; and PayPal, which stopped accepting donations for Mr. Assange’s group. Visa.com was also affected by the attacks, as were the Web sites of the Swedish prosecutor’s office and the lawyer representing the two women whose allegations of sexual misconduct are the basis of Sweden’s extradition bid.

On Thursday, Gregg Housh, an activist with the loosely affiliated group of so-called hacktivists, said the group was redoubling its efforts to bring down PayPal, which is better protected than some other sites. The assertion was backed up by an independent security analyst who closely monitors the Internet and saw evidence of the onslaught.

No other major Web sites appeared to be suffering disruptions in service early Thursday, however, suggesting that the economic impact of the attacks was limited.

The Internet assaults underlined the growing reach of self-described “cyberanarchists,” antigovernment and anticorporate activists who have made an icon of Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian.

The speed and range of the attacks Wednesday appeared to show the resilience of the backing among computer activists for Mr. Assange, who has appeared increasingly isolated in recent months amid the furor stoked by WikiLeaks’s posting of hundreds of thousands of secret Pentagon documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Assange has come under renewed attack in the past two weeks for posting the first tranche of a trove of 250,000 secret State Department cables that have exposed American diplomats’ frank assessments of relations with many countries, forcing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to express regret to world leaders and raising fears that they and other sources would become more reticent.

The New York Times and four other news organizations last week began publishing articles based on the archive of cables made available to them.

In recent months, some of Mr. Assange’s closest associates in WikiLeaks abandoned him, calling him autocratic and capricious and accusing him of reneging on WikiLeaks’s original pledge of impartiality to launch a concerted attack on the United States. He has been simultaneously fighting a remote battle with the Swedish prosecutors, who have sought his extradition for questioning on accusations of “rape, sexual molestation and forceful coercion” made by the Swedish women. Mr. Assange has denied any wrongdoing in the cases.

American officials have repeatedly said that they are reviewing possible criminal charges against Mr. Assange, a step that could lead to a bid to extradite him to the United States and confront him with having to fight for his freedom on two fronts.

The cyberattacks in Mr. Assange’s defense appear to have been coordinated by Anonymous, a loosely affiliated group of activist computer hackers who have singled out other groups before, including the Church of Scientology. Last weekend, members of Anonymous vowed in two online manifestos to take revenge on any organization that lined up against WikiLeaks.

Anonymous claimed responsibility for the MasterCard attack in Web messages and, according to Mr. Housh, the activist associated with the group, conducted waves of attacks on other companies during the day. The group said the actions were part of an effort called Operation Payback, which began as a way of punishing companies that tried to stop Internet file-sharing and movie downloads.

Mr. Housh, who disavows a personal role in any illegal online activity, said that 1,500 supporters had been in online forums and chat rooms organizing the mass “denial of service” attacks. His account was confirmed by Jose Nazario, a senior security researcher at Arbor Networks, a Chelmsford, Mass., firm that tracks malicious activity on computer networks.

Most of the corporations whose sites were targeted did not explain why they severed ties with WikiLeaks. But PayPal issued statements saying its decision was based on “a violation” of its policy on promoting illegal activities.

Paul Mutton, a security analyst at netcraft, a British Internet monitoring firm, confirmed Mr. Housh’s account of the renewed attack on PayPal Thursday and said it had caused sporadic outages through the day. A spokesman for PayPal was not immediately reachable to confirm or deny the accounts.

The sense of an Internet war was reinforced Wednesday when netcraft reported that the Web site being used by the hackers to distribute denial-of-service software had been suspended by a Dutch hosting firm, Leaseweb.

A sense of the belligerent mood among activists was given when one contributor to a forum the group uses, WhyWeProtest.net, wrote of the attacks: “The war is on. And everyone ought to spend some time thinking about it, discussing it with others, preparing yourselves so you know how to act if something compels you to make a decision. Be very careful not to err on the side of inaction.”

Mr. Housh acknowledged that there had been online talk among the hackers of a possible Internet campaign against the two women who have been Mr. Assange’s accusers in the Swedish case, but he said that “a lot of people don’t want to be involved.”

A Web search showed new blog posts in recent days in which the two women, identified by the Swedish prosecutors only as Ms. A. and Ms. W., were named, but it was not clear whether there was any link to Anonymous. The women have said that consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange became nonconsensual when he stopped using condoms.

The cyberattacks on corporations Wednesday were seen by many supporters as a counterstrike against the United States. Mr. Assange’s online supporters have widely condemned the Obama administration as the unseen hand coordinating efforts to choke off WikiLeaks by denying it financing and suppressing its network of computer servers.

Mr. Housh described Mr. Assange in an interview as “a political prisoner,” a common view among WikiLeaks supporters who have joined Mr. Assange in condemning the sexual abuse accusations as part of an American-inspired “smear campaign.”

Another activist used the analogy of the civil rights struggle for the cyberattacks.

“Are they disrupting business?” a contributor using the name Moryath wrote in a comment on the slashdot.org technology Web site. “Perhaps, but no worse than the lunch counter sit-ins did.”

John Markoff and Ashlee Vance contributed reporting from San Francisco, and Alan Cowell from Paris.

Assange Arrested

Dec
07

LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested and jailed without bail Tuesday in a sex-crimes investigation, but his organization scarcely missed a beat, releasing a new batch of the secret cables that U.S. officials say are damaging America’s security and relations worldwide.

A month after dropping out of public view, the 39-year-old Australian surrendered to Scotland Yard to answer a warrant issued for his arrest by Sweden. He is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of having sex with them without a condom and without their consent.

Assange said he would fight extradition to Sweden, setting the stage for what could be a pitched legal battle. And as if to prove that it can’t be intimidated, WikiLeaks promptly released a dozen new cables, including details of a NATO defense plan for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that made Russia bristle.

The Pentagon welcomed Assange’s arrest.

“That sounds like good news to me,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on a visit to Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson insisted Assange’s arrest and the decision Tuesday by both Visa and MasterCard to stop processing donations to the group “will not change our operation.” Hrafnsson said the organization has no plans yet to make good on its threat to release en masse some of its most sensitive U.S. documents if it comes under attack.

At a court hearing in London, Assange showed no reaction as Judge Howard Riddle denied him bail while he awaits an extradition hearing Dec. 14. The judge said Assange might flee if released. When the judge asked him whether he would agree to be extradited, Assange said: “I do not consent.”

It was not publicly known which jail Assange was sent to, since British police never reveal that for privacy and security reasons. Some prisoners occasionally get Internet access, though only under close supervision.

The U.S. government is investigating whether Assange can be prosecuted for espionage or other offenses. On Tuesday, Pentagon and State Department officials said some foreign officials have suddenly grown reluctant to trust the U.S. because of the secrets spilled by WikiLeaks.

“We have already seen some indications of meetings that used to involve several diplomats and now involve fewer diplomats,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “We’re conscious of at least one meeting where it was requested that notebooks be left outside the room.”

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the military had seen foreign contacts “pulling back.”

“Believing that the U.S. is not good at keeping secrets and having secrets out there certainly changed things,” Lapan said.

During the hour-long court hearing in London, attorney Gemma Lindfield, acting on behalf of the Swedish authorities, outlined the allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion that were brought against Assange following separate sexual encounters in August with two women in Sweden.

Lindfield said one woman accused Assange of pinning her down and refusing to use a condom on the night of Aug. 14 in Stockholm. That woman also accused of Assange of molesting her in a way “designed to violate her sexual integrity” several days later. A second woman accused Assange of having sex with her without a condom while he was a guest at her Stockholm home and she was asleep.

A person who has sex with an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person in Sweden can be convicted of rape and sentenced to two to six years in prison.

Assange’s lawyers have claimed the accusations stem from disputes “over consensual but unprotected sex” and say the women made the claims only after finding out that Assange had slept with both.

Prosecutors in Sweden have not brought any formal charges against Assange. WikiLeaks lawyer Mark Stephens said there are doubts as to whether Sweden has the legal right to extradite him simply for questioning.

Experts say European arrest warrants like the one issued by Sweden can be tough to beat. Even if the warrant were defeated on a technicality, Sweden could simply issue a new one.

The extradition process could take anywhere from a week to two months, according to Assange’s Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig. If Assange loses, he may appeal to the High Court. There can be further appeals, and Sweden also has a right to appeal if the court finds in Assange’s favor.

In the meantime, Stephens said he would reapply for bail, noting that several prominent Britons — including socialite Jemima Khan and filmmaker Ken Loach — have each offered to post 20,000 pounds ($31,500) so Assange could go free.

Australian government officials said they are providing Assange with consular assistance, as they do with any countryman arrested abroad. The consul general in London spoke to Assange to ensure he had legal representation, the government said.

Some people protested outside the London court, bearing signs reading, “Save Wikileaks, Save Free Speech” and “Trumped Up Charges.”

“I came to show my support for Julian,” said 26-year-old electrician Kim Krasniqi. “He is innocent. Europe is bullying him, They don’t want him to publish what he is publishing.”

The latest batch of confidential U.S. cables could strain relations between Washington and Moscow. The documents show that NATO secretly decided in January to defend the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against military attack.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, said Tuesday that Moscow will demand that NATO drop the agreement, which he argued is clearly aimed at his country.

“Against whom else could such a defense be intended? Against Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland? Against polar bears, or against the Russian bear?” Rogozin said.

WikiLeaks dubs Amazon ‘The Cowardly Liar’

Dec
06

WikiLeaks has dubbed Amazon both cowardly and a liar, after the American net giant booted the whistle-blowing website from its hosting service and then said its decision had nothing to do with complaints from the US government.

“Amazon’s press release does not accord with the facts on public record. It is one thing to be cowardly. Another to lie about it,” WikiLeaks said in post to its Twitter account on Friday.

As of Monday, WikiLeaks was hosting its trove of classified US state department cables on the US-based portion of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud service, and on Wednesday, US Senator Joe Lieberman, the chair of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that after an inquiry from his staff, Amazon said it had removed WikiLeaks from the service.

“The company’s decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material. I call on any other company or organization that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them,” Lieberman said in a statement

“WikiLeaks’ illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world. No responsible company — whether American or foreign — should assist WikiLeaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials. I will be asking Amazon about the extent of its relationship with WikiLeaks and what it and other web service providers will do in the future to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen, classified information.”

Netcraft records confirmed that WikiLeaks was no longer hosted on AWS, and WikiLeaks soon tweeted that its mirrors were removed against its wishes. “WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted,” it said. “Free speech the land of the free — fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe.” According to internet records, the site fell back on servers in Sweden.

Amazon did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Register. But more than a day later, the company published a blog post claiming it had not removed WikiLeaks in response to government inquiries. “There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer,” the post said. “That is inaccurate.”

The company also said it had not removed the mirrors due to DDoS attacks. It said that WikiLeaks was booted because the site wasn’t following its terms of service. “AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. [For instance], it’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content,” the company said.

“Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments.”

The company added that it has no problems hosting “controversial” data, but that the WikiLeaks situation is a separate case. “When companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere.”

But the timing of the decision is telling.

Assange: ‘It was all part of my master plan…’

On October 25, The Register reported that WikiLeaks was mirroring data on Amazon servers in both the US and Ireland, including the classifed “Iraq War logs.” But aside from a brief mention on The Daily Telegraph website, the news received little mention in the mainstream media. We contacted Amazon at the time and alerted them to the mirrors, but the company did not respond.

Then, earlier this week, we reported that WikiLeaks had hoisted its “cablegate” documents onto Amazon, and this time, the news was picked up by the Wall Street Journal and several other major news outlets. The Joe Liebermans of the world, you see, read The Wall Street Journal.

What’s more, a day after Amazon booted WikiLeaks, the site was also ousted by its US-based DNS provider, EveryDNS. Last month, we spoke to EveryDNS about WikiLeaks’ use of its service, and though it declined to discuss the accounts of specific customers, it said it would only remove customers if they violated its terms of service. We also spoke to Dynadot, WikiLeaks’ US-based domain name registrar. President Todd Han echoed what EveryDNS told us, but he did add that it typically only removes sites for violations if it receives a complaint from an injured party.

“Usually, most of the time, we resonded to complaints, but sometimes we will take action on our own if it violates our terms of service,” Han told us. “If they violate the law, they violate terms of service. But with these kinds of situations with domains, there are two sides of the story. There’s a lot of grey areas.”

Indeed.

Like Amazon, EveryDNS did not boot WikiLeaks until this week — more than a month after we first spoke to the company about the site. Unlike Amazon, it said that it removed WikiLeaks due to DDos attacks on the site. “The services were terminated for violation of the provision which states that ‘Member shall not interfere with another Member’s use and enjoyment of the Service or another entity’s use and enjoyment of similar services’,” EveryDNS said in a statement.

“The interference at issue arises from the fact that wikileaks.org has become the target of multiple distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. These attacks have, and future attacks would, threaten the stability of the EveryDNS.net infrastructure, which enables access to almost 500,000 other websites.”

Naturally, WikiLeaks has simply moved its service elsewhere. Booted by its DNS provider, the site has resurfaced on a Swiss net domain. “WikiLeaks moves to Switzerland http://wikileaks.ch/,” read another Tweet from WikiLeaks.

In other words, the whole saga has played out just as expected. “Even if Amazon is insulated from liability, I suspect Amazon will choose to remove the content ‘voluntarily’ (motivated by a little persuasion from the government), presumably citing a breach of its terms of service as a pretext,” Santa Clara law professor and tech law blogger Eric Goldman told The Reg a month ago.

“A more ‘ideological’ web host would probably fight more vigorously for its users’ publishing rights than Amazon will.” Unless a federal crime has been committed, Amazon is not legally required to remove the data, and it’s unclear whether WikiLeaks is committing a criminal act.

And echoing other suspicions from late October, WikiLeaks founder has now claimed that the site purposefully mirrored its data on Amazon’s servers to expose the company’s “free speech deficit.”

“Since 2007 we have been deliberately placing some of our servers in jurisdictions that we suspected suffered a free speech deficit in order to separate rhetoric from reality,” Assange said on Friday during a live chat on The Guardian‘s website. “Amazon was one of these cases.” ®