Conflict & Justice

The Wikileaks fallout continues

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in a British jail awaiting a hearing next week regarding his possible extradition to Sweden. The fallout from WikiLeaks' disclosure of hundreds of US State Department cables continues, both in the real world and online. The World's Clark Boyd has an update.

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Julian Assange, the founder of the website WikiLeaks, remains behind bars awaiting a hearing next week. Sweden wants him for questioning in a sexual assault investigation. Assange maintains his innocence, and says he will fight extradition.

Assange's legal plight is causing rifts, both in his native Australia and online. Ever since WikiLeaks began releasing the thousands of US diplomatic cables a week and a half ago, Australia's government has supported the US government line.

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard called Assange's actions �grossly irresponsible.�

And so it came as a bit of a surprise today when Australia's Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, came out blaming the US, and not WikiLeaks, for the leak of the cables.

In a television interview, Rudd said today, �I have been pretty consistent about where the core responsibility lies in this entire matter, and that lies with the release of an unauthorized nature of this material by US personnel.�

Rudd, who until June was Australia's prime minister, doesn't come off too well in some of the leaked cables. In one, he's dismissed as a �mistake-prone control freak.�

Rudd said today he couldn't care less about the criticism. He also said that Assange had asked for, and is receiving, Australian consular support in Britain.

And that puts Australia in a bit of a diplomatic bind, said Cameron Stewart, Associate Editor of newspaper, The Australian.

�It's side by side with the United States in criticizing Assange, and yet it has a consular responsibility to protect his rights,� Stewart said. �Any prosecution of Assange in the U.S. would be interpreted globally as politically motivated. And it will be fascinating to see where the Australian government would draw the line there. People are asking here, and it's a real test case if you like, of what the government here believes its responsibilities are to someone who holds an Australian passport.�

Stewart said public opinion on Julian Assange is evenly split in Australia. The same seems to be true online, said Kevin Mitnick, a former hacker who now runs his own security company.

�I've talked to individuals who look at Julian as a traitor,� he said, �and then I talk to individuals who look at him as a crusader out to expose wrongdoing. So I see people on both sides of the coin.�

That may explain why every attempt to take WikiLeaks offline is met with efforts around the world to keep it running. But pressure is mounting on WikiLeak's main source of income � online donations via credit cards.

Yesterday, Mastercard said it would stop processing payments to WikiLeaks. PayPal has done the same.

At a web conference in Paris today, PayPal's Osama Bedier explained why his company cut WikiLeaks off.

�What happened here is on November 27, the State Department basically wrote a letter saying that the WikiLeaks activit(ies) were deemed illegal in the United States,� Bedier said. �And as a result our policy group had to make the decision of suspending their account.�

In response, a group called �Anonymous� said it launched �Operation Payback� � cyber-attacks against PayPal and Mastercard.

A member of Anonymous told the BBC today, �We feel that WikiLeaks has become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people vs. the government.�

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