Among other things, the WikiLeaks affair is corroborating the view of political economists Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler that "capital itself can be seen as an emergent form of state." -- WikiLeaks had only to be identified as an enemy of the state to see a number of the major financial institutions it had been using to pay its bills begin to shut their doors to the journalistic organization, prior to any legal proceeding whatsoever. -- On Friday, citing unspecified "[n]ew data from the German foundation that processes WikiLeaks' bills," the Wall Street Journal reported o the organization's finances. -- Wau Holland Stiftung has collected about 1,000,000 euros in 2010 on behalf of Wikileaks, which began paying staff salaries for the first time this year. -- "So far, the Wau Holland Foundation . . . has paid more than 100,000 euros in salaries for 2010, including about 66,000 euros to Mr. Assange. -- On Dec. 13, Der Spiegel published an interview with Wau Holland board member Hendrick Fulda about WikiLeaks finance. -- The website News and Views from Norway reported Friday that "a leading Norwegian law professor believes the credit card blockade, suspected of being politically motivated because of WikiLeaks’ disclosures of classified government documents, is illegal and violates both national and E.U. finance agreements and directives" and that "the Icelandic Parliament has launched an investigation into the grounds for the actions taken by Teller, Visa Europe, and MasterCard against WikiLeaks." ...
WIKILEAKS SPENDING BALLOONED, DATA SHOW
By David Crawford and Jeanne Whalen
Wall Street Journal
December 24, 2010
New data from the German foundation that processes WikiLeaks' bills show that the document-leaking website has sharply increased its spending as it seeks to professionalize its activities by paying salaries -- primarily to founder Julian Assange -- and as the organization faces potential legal issues.
At the same time, the Germany-based Wau Holland Foundation says it has collected about 1 million euros ($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. WikiLeaks said in August that it had raised about 765,000 euros until that point in the year. The data from the foundation, which is a major but not the sole conduit of funding for the website, suggest donations to WikiLeaks have tampered off [sic] some since the organization landed in the headlines.
The Wau Holland Foundation provides key back-office services for WikiLeaks' operations by collecting donations and paying its bills. Last summer, WikiLeaks said it operated on about 150,000 euros a year.
Now, however, the foundation says it has paid about 380,000 euros in WikiLeaks expenses, with some invoices for the year still unprocessed. Some of that total is for hardware, Internet access, and travel, Wau Holland spokesman Hendrik Fulda said. But a big factor in the leap is a recent decision to begin paying salaries to staff.
The primary beneficiary of that decision -- which has been hotly debated within WikiLeaks -- is Mr. Assange, the controversial founder and public face of WikiLeaks who is currently under house arrest in the U.K., where he faces possible extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct.
So far, the Wau Holland Foundation -- founded in 2003 to honor the legacy of the late computer hacker Wau Holland -- has paid more than 100,000 euros in salaries for 2010, including about 66,000 euros to Mr. Assange, Mr. Fulda said.
Mr. Fulda says the WikiLeaks decision to compensate its staff -- rather than rely on volunteers -- ends nearly a year of internal debate. In order to professionalize its activities, WikiLeaks will now pay key personnel based on a salary structure developed by the environmental activist organization Greenpeace. Under the structure, Greenpeace department heads are paid about 5,500 euros in monthly salary, Mr. Fulda said.
The salaries will be paid retroactively to January 2010, Mr. Fulda said. So far, six WikiLeaks staff members have filed invoices requesting compensation, including at least one invoice for just one month of work, Mr. Fulda said. Other former staff members are expected to file for compensation in the coming weeks, he said.
Manfred Redelefs, head of the research unit at Greenpeace Germany, declined to comment on the specific pay structure at WikiLeaks but said, "Every organization is free to use the Greenpeace pay structure as their model."
Another mounting cost for WikiLeaks relates to legal work. Lawyers acting on behalf of WikiLeaks have billed the document-leaking organization for about 30,000 euros in services. Going forward, that could become a much bigger cost for the organization, given that the U.S. has launched several broad investigations in the wake of WikiLeaks' release of classified documents, which has angered the U.S. government.
However, none of the funds collected by the Wau Holland Foundation are going to pay for legal expenses related to defense against possible criminal charges in Sweden, Mr. Fulda said.
WikiLeaks recently established the Julian Assange Defense Fund to collect donations for Mr. Assange's legal battles, including his effort to resist extradition to Sweden for questioning over sexual-assault allegations. WikiLeaks' Twitter account recently posted a link to the fund's term sheet, which says it can be used to cover expenses "concerned with extradition, release from arrest, dealing with bail or surety/security . . . the cost of obtaining legal advice and legal services for [Mr. Assange]" and to make "payments ordered by any court to be made to any opposing party."
On the fundraising front, Mr. Assange in August said WikiLeaks had raised about $1 million (€763,000) since the beginning of 2010. He said the group got about half of its money from modest donations via its website, and the rest from "personal contacts," including wealthy donors who give tens of thousands of dollars.
Much of this money was donated to the WikiLeaks account at the Wau Holland Foundation, Mr. Fulda said. EBay Inc.'s online-payment service PayPal previously processed many of these WikiLeaks donations via Wau Holland, but this month stopped doing so, saying that WikiLeaks had violated PayPal policies that ban "any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate, or instruct others to engage in illegal activity." Mastercard Inc., Visa Inc., and Bank of America Corp. also recently stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks.
On its website, WikiLeaks says donors can still send money to a WikiLeaks-Wau Holland account at Commerzbank Kassel in Germany, or to an account at Landsbanki in Iceland that also accepts donations to WikiLeaks.
Mr. Fulda says donations have continued at a steady pace despite the cancelation of banking services by PayPal. Wau Holland plans to publish an accounting of processing of donations on behalf of WikiLeaks, Mr. Fulda said. The report will include details of banking fees charged by PayPal for its handling of WikiLeaks donations, Mr. Fulda said.
Mr. Fulda says WikiLeaks asked the Wau Holland foundation to determine whether it could contribute to a legal-defense fund created for the benefit of U.S. Army intelligence analyst Pfc. Bradley Manning. Military prosecutors allege Mr. Manning, who is awaiting court martial at a military base in Quantico, Va., illegally downloaded and disseminated government documents. If convicted, he could face a 52-year jail sentence. The foundation is awaiting advice from its lawyers on whether the donation would be legal under German law, Mr. Fulda said.
A spokesman for the foundation's oversight agency said the Wau Holland Foundation must make an initial decision on whether it is authorized to assist Mr. Manning's defense fund. "If necessary, we would review the decision later," the spokesman said.
'DONATIONS WERE NEVER AS STRONG AS NOW'
** German Foundation on Funding WikiLeaks **
December 13, 2010
Even though key payment channels have been blocked, donations for WikiLeaks keep flowing in. Hendrick Fulda is a board member of Germany's Wau Holland Foundation, one of the whistleblowing platform's main funding channels. He spoke to SPIEGEL about WikiLeaks' internal finances, PayPal's recent payment block and how support for the organization is booming.
SPIEGEL: PayPal, Mastercard, and Visa have stopped cash flows to WikiLeaks. Has it put you out of action?
Hendrik Fulda: No, it just means that we have lost one option for collecting donations. Of course, the option of paying via PayPal was very popular because it is so easy. It was much less effort than giving us money via a bank transfer -- a few clicks of the mouse was all you needed. We had twice as many donations through PayPal as through normal banks, but of course the conventional way of transferring money still works. The rumor that our bank account has been blocked is false. Our foundation doesn't handle Visa and Mastercard payments.
SPIEGEL: The Ebay subsidiary PayPal justified halting donations by saying that WikiLeaks supports illegal activities.
Fulda: That is far-fetched and we took legal steps against it. PayPal reacted quickly and released the frozen donations. The criticism is that WikiLeaks is possibly encouraging people to break the law. PayPal is explicitly calling that an opinion, but continues to cite its business terms and conditions. Our account remains blocked for new donations. If PayPal doesn't want to work with us any more, it will always find a reason. We see this chapter as finished -- end of story.
SPIEGEL: In response, hackers have targeted the websites of Mastercard and Visa, temporarily putting them out of action. What do you think about such attacks?
Fulda: We have nothing to say on that subject. We do not encourage people to take such action, nor do we have anything to do with it.
SPIEGEL: Has there been political pressure on the foundation not to work with WikiLeaks any more?
Fulda: The Kassel Regional Council and the tax office are responsible for us. I don't know what has been happening behind the scenes and whether the American authorities have exerted pressure on the German government. We haven't been put under any direct pressure.
SPIEGEL: How much money have you already collected in donations for WikiLeaks?
Fulda: Since October 2009, we have received a bit more than €900,000 ($1,2 million).
SPIEGEL: How much do people usually donate?
Fulda: People usually make small donations, the average is about €25. But we have also had a donation from one individual that was over €50,000.
SPIEGEL: How much money has been passed on to WikiLeaks?
Fulda: Up until now we've paid out over €370,000 to WikiLeaks.
SPIEGEL: One of the criticisms of WikiLeaks is that there is no transparency regarding its internal finances. How do you control how the donations are used?
Fulda: As a matter of principle, we only pay out when we get a receipt. That applies to travel costs, as well as hardware expenses, for example new computers, or infrastructure costs like Internet access. Personnel costs are a relatively recent development. WikiLeaks now pays some of its employees salaries. The staff members give the organization an invoice and WikiLeaks hands them over to us. Finally we also deal with campaigns and legal assistance, for example lawyers' costs. Nothing gets paid without a receipt.
SPIEGEL: Are the accusations true that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange flies business class and stays in expensive hotels?
Fulda: I haven't checked every single hotel but, based on the receipts I've seen, that is nonsense. Assange flies economy class and often stays with friends and acquaintances.
SPIEGEL: How have the donations fared since the latest batch of leaked diplomatic cables?
Fulda: Every new publication by WikiLeaks has unleashed a wave of support, and donations were never as strong as now. More than €80,000 was contributed in one week via PayPal alone. We will have to see what impact the removal of PayPal has on our incoming funds.
SPIEGEL: Are Assange's defense costs against the rape allegations financed with money which you administer?
Fulda: No, that would not be in keeping with the foundation's aim. We pay out money for WikiLeaks' work but not for private matters relating to any of its employees.
--Interview conducted by Holger Stark.
WIKILEAKS BLOCKADE UNDER PROBE
By Nina Berglund
Views and News from Norway
December 24, 2010
Government officials in both Norway and Iceland are questioning the grounds for what’s become a credit card blockade against WikiLeaks that has disrupted the non-profit whistle-blowing organization’s ability to raise funds. Norwegian-Danish finance firm Teller is also the target of a government inquiry.
Norway’s leading business newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv (DN), has reported in a series of articles this week how Visa Europe and MasterCard have effectively blocked their credit card holders’ ability to send donations to WikiLeaks. The blockade has been carried out through the Norwegian-Danish finance firm Teller, which handles credit card transactions for Visa Europe and MasterCard.
Teller officials claim they were ordered by Visa Europe to suspend yet another firm involved in the complicated chain of credit card facilitators, Datacell of Iceland, which received donations (which donors had charged to their credit cards) on behalf of WikiLeaks.
DEMANDING LEGAL BASIS FOR THE SUSPENSION
DN reported earlier this week that a leading Norwegian law professor believes the credit card blockade, suspected of being politically motivated because of WikiLeaks’ disclosures of classified government documents, is illegal and violates both national and EU finance agreements and directives.
Now, reports DN, the Icelandic Parliament has launched an investigation into the grounds for the actions taken by Teller, Visa Europe, and MasterCard against WikiLeaks. ”Nobody has been able to clarify the judicial foundation as to why payments to Datacell, and therefore WikiLeaks, have been stopped,” Robert Marshall, who leads the Parliament’s control committee, told DN. “And that is, of course, a problem.”
Marshall called the credit card blockade “serious” and “highly dubious” and said the Icelandic parliamentarians were demanding a “legitimate reason” for it. So far, he told DN, Teller has only referred to “due diligence” undertaken to ensure that Datacell has operated in accordance with its agreement with Visa. Neither Teller nor Visa Europe has produced evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Datacell or WikiLeaks, even though they have effectively halted payments to WikiLeaks through Datacell for nearly three weeks. That, according to DN, has cost WikiLeaks an estimated USD 1.6 million in lost donations from its supporters and also is hurting Datacell, which has more than 3,000 other customers.
NORWAY ALSO DEMANDS SOME ANSWERS
DN reports that Norwegian financial authorities at regulatory agency Finanstilsynet in Oslo are also raising questions and have asked Teller to produce a legitimate reason for turning away customers. Finanstilsynet planned to send a letter Thursday to Teller demanding a legal reason as to why Teller has effectively stopped payments to WikiLeaks by suspending Datacell.
Anders Kvam of Finanstilsynet told DN that “we’re looking into this,” and that the regulators want to know Teller’s basis for the actions taken against Datacell. Teller must answer by January 3, an unusually short deadline that means Teller officials will need to work on the issue during what otherwise is a Christmas holiday period in Norway.
“This is a current problem that must be solved,”" Kvam told DN. “It involves payment transactions, and we can’t let these types of questions remain unanswered.”
Teller sent out a press statement earlier this week saying it had concluded that Datacell had violated its agreement with Visa by turning over payments to a third party. Datacell’s officials objected immediately and legal action is pending.
Teller also claimed that it had found no violations on the part of Sunshine Press, WikiLeaks’ company in Icceland, but that it was now up to Visa to approve payments to Sunshine Press.