2011-11-06 WikiLeaks Emergency Funding Drive

Freedom of speech should be free. It should not have a price tag, but it does in the world we live in, and it is a high one. For the course of its five year history, Wikileaks has been bearing the astronomical legal and adminstrative costs of exercising freedom of expression in the pursuit of justice. Now it needs your help.

Wikileaks' explicit mission is to publish material whose reform-potential is so great that powerful organizations and governments are willing to expend their resources to prevent that material ever entering the public record - to prevent you and I from ever hearing of it.

As a whistleblower organization, Wikileaks' primary function is to facilitate conscientious leaks. The first line of defense for powerful organizations is to cloak their wrongdoing in secrecy. Secrecy is achieved by using coercive means to deter the disclosure of information to the public. Individuals are often compelled to conceal evidence of wrongdoing within powerful factions because the personal consequences of doing so would be dire.

By providing - at cost - a secure and robust mechanism by which conscientious individuals can leak such materials anonymously, Wikileaks ensures that secrecy can never be so complete as to suppress evidence of the misconduct of the powerful. It creates, in effect, a safety-valve for secrecy, so that there will always be a conduit by which people of good conscience can get information to the public, at reduced risk to themselves. To date, no other single organization has performed this function as effectively, or as consistently.

The second line of defense, for powerful organizations, is to attack Wikileaks, and to prevent it from publishing the information it receives. The whistleblower group, therefore, draws upon itself the fire that would otherwise be directed at the whistleblowers whose identity it is sworn to protect. At various times in the past few years, this has taken the form of:

Drawing this fire, as it must, it is necessary for Wikileaks to defend against all of these forms of attack, in order to fulfill its mandate. This has proven to be the most egregious operating cost for the organization during its history.

A time-honoured strategy used by the powerful and wealthy to censor the press has been to abuse legal process. Corporations and governments will typically have vastly more resources at their disposal to engage in litigation than publishers and press organizations. It is therefore often a successful strategy to prolong litigation, so that publishers cannot afford to win on the merits of the case. An out-of-court settlement normally ensues in favour of the plaintiff, and urgent information is thereby consigned to the black hole of censorship, permanently excised from the historical record.

Unlike the traditional press, Wikileaks is designed expressly to deal with suppression efforts of this sort, and has successfully resisted all such efforts in the past. This is a costly business, and Wikileaks relies for its funding on the support of private donors: ordinary people like you and I. Because Wikileaks does not rely for funding on large organizations, it has in the past been more difficult for its enemies to exert their influence, as they might on advertisers, who fund the mainstream press.

Unfortunately, Wikileaks has made a lot of powerful enemies. Since December 2010, in the wake of its highest profile publishing efforts thus far, a new and worrying suppression strategy has been in effect. The very financial organizations across whose infrastructure private individuals make their donations have put Wikileaks behind a financial blockade. Bank of America, Western Union, Paypal, Visa and Mastercard have blacklisted Wikileaks, disallowing donations using credit cards or money transfer. It is no longer possible for ordinary people to transfer donations to Wikileaks. The effect has been - as reported in this press conference held recently by Wikileaks - to block over 95% of the donations Wikileaks needs to survive.

In February the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Timothy Geithner, concluded that there were no legal grounds for putting Wikileaks on its SDN blacklist. The actions by the blockading institutions are purely discretionary - having no legal basis - and seems calculated only to fatally marginalize Wikileaks. The blockade amounts to an unlawful use of financial power to silence an institutional actor for political reasons. This is an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression. If our financial institutions successfully manage to eliminate Wikileaks, an extremely worrying precedent is set for all organizations that rely on donations by similar means.

For the past year, Wikileaks has managed to survive on reserve funds, and, although crippled in many of its functions, continue with publishing. On the 10th of October 2011, Wikileaks announced that it had shut down publishing operations as a result of the financial difficulties it has suffered under the blockade.

In order to break the blockade, Wikileaks must mount legal challenges against the decisions of the financial institutions. Along with the Icelandic company Datacell, Wikileaks is pursuing a competition law complaint with the European Commission, which, it is hoped, will give rise to an investigation into monopolistic practices by banking institutions against Wikileaks and associated organizations. It is therefore necessary for Wikileaks to direct its remaining resources towards this end. The consequences of this bid will be wide reaching. If Wikileaks is not successful, we can expect to see other non-government organizations and human rights advocacy groups targeted by similar means when they attempt to stand up to systematic injustice carried out by the powerful.

This places Wikileaks in dire need of funding. It remains possible - although more difficult - to donate money to the organization. Alternative means of getting money to Wikileaks are listed here. A donation to Wikileaks at this time goes beyond support for the organization itself, and amounts to an investment in your own freedom to donate your money to worthwhile causes of your own choosing. It is also a significant investment in freedom of expression globally, at a time when that freedom is crucially in question.

Freedom of speech should be free, but it is not. Wikileaks' very future is now in jeopardy. There has not been a time at which Wikileaks was more in need of your support. Even a small donation will be unusually significant in furthering the cause of justice in the world. As independent supporters of Wikileaks' work, WL Central appeals to all readers to consider giving generously to Wikileaks in the days ahead.

Donate to Wikileaks Here.