Over recent weeks, WikiLeaks, the highly controversial whistle-blower organization, has endured tremendous international pressure on multiple fronts. The website has endured near continuous denial-of-service attacks from various origins that left the page nearly inaccessible and required a plea for mirroring. The group has also had their funds frozen, and then had their ability to collect any additional donations diminished, first by a service revocation by PayPal, and then a declination of charges by Visa and MasterCard.
Outside of direct action, American leaders have applied what pressure they can, with Republican Peter King of New York calling for the organization to be declared a terrorist group. American Attorney General Eric Holder has been encouraged to pursue legal action against the group for violating the Espionage Act, and he has gone on record as saying that the actions of the website have broken the law and put American lives in danger. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated publicly that the recent leaks are, in her estimation, a direct attack on American and international security, conjuring visions of military action.
Julian Assange has also been under attack, even outside of his arrest on unrelated sexual charges. In late November, a former Canadian advisor, Tom Flanagan, expressed bluntly that Assange should be assassinated. An editorial in the Washington Times in December argued that Assange should be treated equivalent to any other terrorist, a sentiment that is shared by other members of the media, including Fox News analyst Kathleen Troia. Even former FBI service member and Richard Nixon aide, George Libby, has suggested that Assange should be killed without trial.
With the deluge of oppositional criticism and vitriol that has burned freely toward Assange and WikiLeaks, I have wondered if and when supporters of the group would emerge and begin making their own arguments. Perhaps fear of reprisal has encouraged silence. Or perhaps some felt that the group was not in need of vocal support, as they were clearly succeeding in their intended goals. But when Assange surrendered to London authorities and a media storm began pondering whether he could see extradition to America or another country for crimes unrelated to the Swedish arrest warrant, I wondered when the supporters would make themselves known.
The backlash, it now seems, has begun.
A twitter account known as Anon_Operation, with a title of “Operation Payback,” posted today that they were responsible for the denial-of-service attack against MasterCard and Visa that has made the companies website inaccessible. The blog operated by PayPal that explained the decision to revoke the WikiLeaks account was also attacked and briefly brought down. And Swiss bank PostFinance, which was responsible for freezing the funds of the WikiLeaks organization, was also attacked yesterday and has been attributed to the group, which has further promised additional and continued attacks against “anti-freedom entities.”
The account has since been suspended by twitter.
This morning it was revealed, to the surprise of many, that Australia, the home country of Assange, will support the infamous figurehead and offer consular support in his legal proceedings. “We have confirmed we will provide that, as we do for all Australian citizens,” Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was quoted as saying on ABC radio today, following with, “My view is the core problem lies with the US protection of its own diplomatic communications.”
Today will almost certainly be marked by a continued offensive by supporters of the embattled organization, which has continued to leak diplomatic cables, saying on their twitter page that they “…will not be gagged.” Furthermore, they have said that the arrest of Assange “…will not stifle Wikileaks. The release of the US Embassy Cables – the biggest leak in history – will still continue.” It is becoming clear that Assange was not the only member of the group who holds to the conviction of information freedom.
Assange will next be in court for a hearing on December 14 where he will be able to challenge his arrest warrant and argue against extradition. Many have speculated over what ruling will be levied, but the only certainty is that his case and the WikiLeaks saga will continue to be a story worth following closely for some time to come.