A French nonprofit group said Wednesday that it has established a fund enables the whistleblower website WikiLeaks to begin accepting credit card donations again for the first time in nearly two years.
The announcement comes just days after WikiLeaks partner Datacell won a key legal battle against the Icelandic credit card processing company Valitor, which had agreed in 2010 to cut off all payments to WikiLeaks. Although Valitor plans to appeal the judge's decision, the outcome of that case might not matter to WikiLeaks.
Thanks to the assistance of the French nonprofit group Fonds de Défense de la Net Neutralité (Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality, or FDNN), France's Carte Bleue smart card system will provide a safe harbor for WikiLeaks donations from Visa and Mastercard holders.
"We beat them in Iceland and, by God, we’ll beat them in France as well," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in prepared text. "Let them shut it down. Let them demonstrate to the world once again their corrupt pandering to Washington. We're waiting. Our lawyers are waiting. The whole world is waiting. Do it."
"Although the US government found that there were no lawful grounds to add WikiLeaks to a US financial blockade, the blockade of WikiLeaks continues," FDNN explained on its website. "WikiLeaks requested FDNN’s assistance in fighting this blockade and FDNN agreed. FDNN uses the French national banking system, Carte Bleue, to process these payments, rather than using Visa and Mastercard directly. So, for the moment, whilst we are still able to run this, we are enabling the public to use their credit cards to donate to WikiLeaks."
WikiLeaks also managed to reopen its access to PayPal by offering branded clothing and other "revenue-generating gifts," with the help of a company called Spreadshirt. They've also begun selling WikiLeaks-themed music through CDBay.com.
WikiLeaks said it must raise more than €1 million as soon as possible or face being forced to shut down "within a few months." A financial report (PDF) published on the website also showed that the company's funds dropped below €100,000 at the end of June.
The bleeding began after five organizations -- Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and Bank of America -- all decided in unison to stop doing business with WikiLeaks, even though the site and its founder have not been charged with any crimes. The site was in the midst of publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, allegedly given to them by a military whistleblower, but their capability to press on was called into question when more than 95 percent of their donations suddenly dried up.
Assange is currently wanted in Sweden for questioning on a charge of sexual assault, which he claims to be part of an attempt to jail him in a country friendly to U.S. extradition requests. He believes an American grand jury has issued a secret indictment for him that will only be unsealed once he's on U.S. soil, which led him to request asylum from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. No decision has yet been made on his request.