WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was back in the spotlight Tuesday penning an essay in Britain's New Statesman magazine. The piece touches on a number of familiar themes—Assange's goal of empowering people with information, his distaste for The New York Times, etc. But one argument we were surprised to read was his complaint about U.S. credit card companies such as MasterCard and PayPal. He accuses them of imposing an "extrajudicial financial blockade" on WikiLeaks in order to "curry favour with Washington."
Interestingly, he fails to mention that he started using both PayPal and MasterCard to process payments to himself starting in February. We spoke to representatives of both companies and confirmed this at the time. Even now, if you visit the WikiLeaks donation page, you'll clearly see the logos of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal attached to the "WikiLeaks Legal Defense Fund."
Last December, PayPal, MasterCard and other financial firms decided to stop processing donations for WikiLeaks, which lead to Assange's first charges that the companies are "instruments of US foreign policy." His solution? Replace the fundraising pitch on WikiLeaks from an appeal to support the site to an appeal to support him personally (specifically, for clearing himself of rape charges). PayPal doesn't have a problem with the switch ("PayPal’s policy allows for designated entities to raise funds for the legal defense of individuals," a company spokesperson told us in February), but it's a move that many supporters of WikiLeaks' agenda of "radical transparency" might not notice.
Perhaps his ire is at the slowing pace of fundraising? According to the FundRazr Facebook app that processes the payments, in its first month or so his legal defense fund collected £25,005.50 or about $48,000. In the month since, contributions have added £6,093 or about $9,900 more.