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A few questions about WikiLeaks


Ian Welsh has a post up:

I am now an American Express Cardholder because of Wikileaks

Since Mastercard and Visa, in cutting off Wikileaks from donations, decided that they knew better than me who I should be able to give money to, I applied for and have now received an American Express card. Granted, American Express isn’t always a good actor, but at least they are willing to allow me to spend my money, my way.

I know what some of you are thinking (Oh Gawd, here he goes again!) but I have no problem with how Ian chooses to spend his money. It’s a free country.

I did have some questions for him though:

Just out of curiosity, Ian, do you know where your donations to Wikileaks are going?

How much money are they taking in? How much of it goes to overhead (server fees, etc) and how much goes to salaries? Who gets those salaries, and how much do they receive?

Is there some place where we can examine their books?

I think everyone should be interested in the answers to those questions.

Would people feel the same way about WikiLeaks if Julian Assange was raking in millions for himself?

Where the money comes from is another question. One can argue that the sources of the money should remain secret in order to protect them, but the government can get that information fairly easily if it really wants it.

This is a group dedicated to transparency. What if some neocon billionaire was a major donor? How about a foreign government? Wouldn’t that change your perception of WikiLeaks?

Just wondering.


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61 Responses

  1. I got this from the August 23, 2010 edition of the Joe Moneybags newsletter:

    How WikiLeaks Keeps Its Funding Secret

    The controversial website WikiLeaks, which argues the cause of openness in leaking classified or confidential documents, has set up an elaborate global financial network to protect a big secret of its own—its funding.

    Some governments and corporations angered by the site’s publications have already sued WikiLeaks or blocked access to it, and the group fears that its money and infrastructure could be targeted further, founder Julian Assange said in an interview in London shortly after publishing 76,000 classified U.S. documents about the war in Afghanistan in July. The move sparked international controversy and put WikiLeaks in the spotlight.

    In response, the site has established a complex system for collecting and disbursing its donations to obscure their origin and use, Mr. Assange said. Anchoring the system is a foundation in Germany established in memory of a computer hacker who died in 2001.

    WikiLeaks’s financial stability has waxed and waned during its short history. The site shut down briefly late last year, citing a lack of funds, but Mr. Assange said the group has raised about $1 million since the start of 2010.

    WikiLeaks’s lack of financial transparency stands in contrast to the total transparency it seeks from governments and corporations.

    [...]

    Though Mr. Assange declined to name donors or certain companies through which donations flow, he provided some insight into the funding structure that allows the group to operate.

    The linchpin of WikiLeaks’s financial network is Germany’s Wau Holland Foundation. WikiLeaks encourages donors to contribute to its account at the foundation, which under German law can’t publicly disclose the names of donors. Because the foundation “is not an operational concern, it can’t be sued for doing anything. So the donors’ money is protected, in other words, from lawsuits,” Mr. Assange said.

    The German foundation is only one piece of the WikiLeaks network.

    “We’re registered as a library in Australia, we’re registered as a foundation in France, we’re registered as a newspaper in Sweden,” Mr. Assange said. WikiLeaks has two tax-exempt charitable organizations in the U.S., known as 501C3s, that “act as a front” for the website, he said. He declined to give their names, saying they could “lose some of their grant money because of political sensitivities.”

    Mr. Assange said WikiLeaks gets about half its money from modest donations processed by its website, and the other half from “personal contacts,” including “people with some millions who approach us and say ‘I’ll give you 60,000 or 10,000,’ ” he said, without specifying a currency.

    [...]

    To operate, the website needs several powerful computers linked to high-speed Internet connections. WikiLeaks particularly tries to obscure payments for “basic infrastructure that could be attacked,” for “servers that are engaged in source protection,” and for “security engineers,” Mr. Assange said.

    So far, Wau Holland has distributed €50,000 ($64,000) to a WikiLeaks account in Germany, strictly in exchange for receipts, according to Daniel Schmitt, spokesman at WikiLeaks, and Hendrik Fulda, deputy board chairman of the foundation. Mr. Schmitt controls the account.

    The average donation to WikiLeaks via the Wau Holland Foundation is about €20, Mr. Fulda said. The largest donation through the foundation—€10,000—arrived from a German donor after the publication of the Afghan war documents, he said, declining to reveal further details.

    Mr. Schmitt said WikiLeaks needs about $200,000 a year to cover its operating expenses—mainly network fees, rent and storage costs for the sites where the servers are, and some hardware and travel expenses. Should it decide to pay salaries to its five staff members, as it is now considering, it would need about €600,000 a year, he said.

    Paying salaries is a “sensitive subject,” he said, noting that outsiders might question the need for them.

  2. Ian Welsh responded to my original inquiry:

    My money is going to help Wikileaks publish things. That’s what I need to know.

    • Ian sounds like someone who donates to a televangelist.

      My money is going to do God’s work. That’s what I need to know.

      • It sounds exactly like someone doing that. It’s amazing when seemingly clever people on other matters, do that.

        • It’s like they don’t WANT to know the answer.

          • I think they don’t. Just like people didn’t want to know the truth about what Obama did or didn’t stand for, or that maybe he was telling the truth in all those debates and in all of that campaigning instead of lying (aka 11-dim chess).

            Some people just want to follow a leader.

        • Yes, very surprised that Ian has become a Wikileaks fanatic. It’s as if Obama wasn’t the one they were waiting for so the progressives have crowned Assange as their new narcissistic messiah.

      • I give to various charities. But they report what they do with all the money they get.

        djmm

      • Well it sure isn’t going to Julian Assange’s pocket, because during the Journeyman interview when they traveled with him I could spot his long toes through his HOLES in his socks!

        Sheesh, poor wikileaks dude’s toes are freezing and you think he might be pocketing the SOCK money???

        I almost mailed him a needle and some thread…

  3. I would not donate to Wikileaks, but I fully get Walsh’s frustration with Mastercard and Visa.
    In fact I knew they were evil way before I knew of Wikileaks.

    • It’s kind of silly to argue that our government is a corporatist kleptocracy and then act shocked that the banks don’t want to help overthrow the system.

  4. For a poor guy, Assange sure manages to do a lot of globe trotting. He was living it up in Kenya, Britain, Sweden, so many different countries he allegedly doesn’t have a permanent residence anymore. Isn’t he currently holed up on some fancy estate in Britain at the moment?

    I’m telling you, you have to watch those Australians. First Rupert Murdoch and now Julian Assange. The place was once a penal colony, you know. We should probably keep our eye on them.

  5. So I assume if it’s eventually leaked, through some other whistle blowing organization of course, that Wikileaks actually gets most of it’s money from the CIA for a main goal of promoting a war with Iran (though there may be other collateral damage like State Department difficulties down the road and losing relations with formerly friendly countries, etc.), that it would all still have been worth it to donate that money. That is, if you don’t care where the money comes from, how it’s spent, and what real agendas might be, then you should be perfectly fine with that. Right?

  6. By the way, here’s a pet peeve of mine. Wikileaks is not a Wiki site. It has none of the properties attributed to Wiki based systems. They just co-opted the term to sound cool and hip. That fundamental dishonesty set off my spidey senses from the beginning. Perhaps it’s nothing at all, just one of those little dishonest things that perks the ears up.

  7. Mmmm.. The same questions can be asked just about of every online website that takes donations or subscriptions, like Salon. These websites take the money and do not account for them because like all privately held organizations, they don’t have to open their books. It’s something we accept.

    Only publicly traded companies and tax free charities are required to open their books.

    I think the questions are silly.

    • So you don’t care if WikiLeaks is taking in millions of dollars with no accountability?

      (Assange said that as of August they had received $1 million this year, so “millions” is not a wild guess)

      • Wikileaks may receive millions or thousands, we don’t know and we’ll never know because it’s not required to open its books.

        I’ve donated to many websites that say: “Pleeeaase”. It’s okay. It’s how it works.

        We don’t know the budget for the CIA and other intelligence departments either. It’s top secret, even for the taxpayers.

        • So if you gave money to a blogger who claimed he needed it because his car broke down but he was lying, you wouldn’t care?

          • What a coincidence, my car just broke down. :)

          • No. I often give money to homeless who will probably go have a drink with it. I don’t care. I don’t follow the money when I give it away. If someone lies to me, that’s his/her problem. In a way, I don’t usually care why someone asks for money. If I have the heart to give it, that’s enough for me. Normally though, if someone, like a homeless says that he wants food, I’ll get him food. I’ll take him/her to the nearest sandwich/hamburger place and pay for what he/she orders. I never deny food if that’s what’s being asked.

  8. OT… In the Bleak Midwinter by Judy Collins and ……TYNE DALEY. Never knew she had such a lovely alto voice.

    • Very nice. Thanks.

      • You are welcome. I live with a man who never listens to but old country from the 40s through the 70s. I am not a fan, I am more a classical music fan. So I go to you-tube and put my ear phones on so that, then at least, I can get my music fix.

  9. here is another, I couldn’t resist. I sang this in church in the early 90s with a friend as a duet. I have loved it ever since and I MISS John Denver

  10. Wikileaks is fundamentally a political organization, with a political agenda. I don’t send money to ANY political organization, at least not since 2004, when I sent $100 to John Kerry, only to watch him wimp out in the face of Elephascist election fraud.

    Name change: On every other political blog I post on, I’m “Monster from the Id”, so I’ve decided to be “MftI” instead of “Ivory Bill Woodpecker” here.
    On the comics & cartoons blogs, I’m “Kid Charlemagne”.

    Having only one name is boring, kinda like having only one personality. ;)

  11. If the foil hat fits, wear it.

    I, for one, am certainly glad to have Mastercard and Visa deciding where I can spend my money. It’s a good thing they are bowing to the US government’s request to stop doing business with someone. I know I can trust my government to keep us safe from potential whistleblowers! Geez, what could Ian be thinking not to have blind faith in the secrecy of the government?

  12. I do think that maybe a point is missed here. If someone wants to donate their money to an organization then that is their business. If one thinks that the organization isn’t transparent enough then don’t send money to them. However when large corporations whose job it is to actually handle authorized expenditures that you make with your own money decide for you, then there is a big problem. I haven’t seen any of these corporations stop donations to various hate religious filled groups in this country. I often wonder where Fred Phelps gets all of his money.

    Wikileaks has dumped information prior to this point and these companies did not behave in this way. We know that Wikileaks has information probably on BoA,. We also know how these companies behave in general by ripping us off. I hardly doubt the motivation for their current decision is to protect the consumer from making a bad financial decision. I am not necessarily convinced that these companies are all of the sudden interested in protecting the US government since they have never previously cared.

    Therefore, it is in the best interest of VISA and Mastercard for you not to send money to Wikileaks not ours. It is never OK in my book when the corporatists collectively make these decisions. These decisions were not motivated for any common good for humanity such as disinvestment from South Africa or for any other commitment to stop human suffering at the hands of oppressive governments or business practices. If the US government is pressuring these companies to shut off the financial flow, then we still have more problems in this country than we previously imagined. The US government has not brought legal charges against Wikileaks and has not arbitrarily determined that Wikileaks is a “terrorist organization”. Therefore, if the US government is pressuring these companies, I suppose that is another topic for future Wikileaks leaks.

    What are we learning from the Wikileaks? Governments and businesses are corrupt and often work in collusion for each others benefit at the expense of the poor and disadvantaged. This is new? It was at one time the State Dept foreign policy goal of “What is good for GM is good for us”. Under Nixon, the CIA plotted the over throw of Chile’s legally elected president Allende and gave the people Pinochet because it was good for business. Under Ronnie Raygun we gave Sadaam the tools and technology to conduct biological warfare that Sadaam used in his war with Iran and even on his own people.

    So all of the sudden Assange finally learns of this unholy alliance and rampant corruption. Has this man been living under some rock?

    • Who owns/controls the internet?

      Government and/or the corporatists (big business, banks, etc.)

      Government and the corporatists are corrupt and evil. They are scared of WikiLeaks but they can’t shut them down? The best they can do is restrict (but not close off) their funding (after WikiLeaks already raised a couple million this year)

      People keep claiming our government is going to “disappear” or assassinate Assange, yet he’s out on bail, sitting in a mansion in England and, giving interviews to the media on a daily basis.

      No charges have been filed against him in the U.S. because the government is waiting for Brad Manning to crack and join in a frame up or something.

      If they wanted to kill him he would be dead right now.

  13. Oh jeez, this might be the silliest thing i’ve ever read. So you’re attacking Ian Welsh because he’s not as curious as he “should” be about where donations to Wikileaks go?

    I also enjoy the undercurrent that Israel must be behind Wikileaks because the media outlets handling the release of documents have slanted releases in a way that could promote war with Iran. Get a clue. War with Iran will come. If not under this Democratic administration than under a future administration. It has nothing to do with leaked diplomatic cables that say nothing any person who follows the issues couldn’t have predicted. Gee, neighboring Sunni nations don’t like the idea of Shia Iran becoming the regional power? No, say it ain’t so.

    These leaks have also made it clear just how much the US bullies other sovereign nations. Like pushing Spanish authorities to drop charges against Bush/Cheney. Or like how the Spanish parliament just voted down a copyright law that was written by US lobbyists.

    Ian’s other statement on Wikileaks probably applies to myiq2xu (or whatever). It shows who the authoritarians are, doesn’t it? And since we already know that right-wing billionaires have been donating to the Democratic Party and supporting the likes of “The Big Dog” for years, your point is?

    • I have years worth of blog posts questioning authority. Now I’m an authoritarian because I don’t trust WikiLeaks?

      Gimme a break.

      • Selectively questioning authority or generally?

        So what is your problem with Wikileaks then? You don’t trust it? What’s to trust about an organization releasing leaked documents? Do you trust the US government to decide what should and shouldn’t be secret? Do you trust certain politicians but not others?

        How do you decide what/who to trust? Why does it matter if you trust Wikileaks? Are you suggesting that these aren’t actual cables but some grand conspiracy foisted on the world?

        I must note that you didn’t deal with any of the substance of my first comment. Ever donated to the Democratic Party? (I haven’t, nor any other political party…nor to Wikileaks.)

        Deciding to just ignore the news about how the cables brought down the Spanish copyright law, or is it just that Sarah Palin is that much more interesting? Well, that and who Ian Welsh decides to give money to…

        • They brought down Spanish copyright law????

          We’re saved!

          • Let the kid have his Spanish copyright law…it’s Christmas.

          • You too, can be a millennial revolutionary and help overthrow the corporatists.

            Just sent $5 to Wikileaks via VISA, Mastercard, AMEX or PayPal and stick it to The Man.

            If WikiLeaks was such a threat to TPTB then Wikileaks would be WikiGone

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