Assange surrenders; Visa cuts off payments, Swiss close bank account; Update: No bail
posted at 10:12 am on December 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
This doesn’t really count as breaking news, since Julian Assange’s lawyers more or less pledged that the Wikileaks founder would present himself to British authorities after a court upheld an arrest warrant. Assange surrendered as promised, but will request bail at a hearing later today:
Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks Web site whose release of sensitive U.S. documents on the Internet has generated outrage and embarrassment in official circles, was arrested by British police Tuesday morning on a Swedish warrant and was set to appear before a magistrate for a bail hearing later in the day.
Assange turned himself in at a London police station at 9:30 a.m. local time and was immediately taken into custody, police officials said. Later Tuesday, his lawyers planned to request that he be freed on bail pending the result of the extradition proceedings, which could take weeks. Assange intends to fight extradition to Sweden, where he is being sought for questioning related to allegations of sexual assault against two women.
He may need to work that bail as low as possible. Today, the credit-card giant Visa announced that they would suspend payments to Wikileaks as authorities attempt to starve it out of existence. That comes as a huge blow, especially after Switzerland shut down their bank account:
Visa says it has suspended all payments to WikiLeaks pending an investigation of the organization’s business.
Visa’s decision is a powerful blow to the loosely knit organization, which relies on online donations to fund its operations.
Popular online payment company PayPal, Inc. has already severed its links with WikiLeaks. Visa’s decision to pull the plug on WikiLeaks leaves the website with one fewer source of revenue.
Swiss authorities closed Assange’s new Swiss bank account Monday.
Meanwhile, the FBI closed a potential new source of information yesterday as well:
A Navy intelligence specialist at the Joint Special Operations Command has been accused of taking top secret documents from military networks and offering to sell them to an investigator posing as a foreign agent.
Petty Officer Bryan Minkyu Martin was arrested last week by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, after a sting operation in which he passed classified documents to an FBI undercover agent claiming to be an intelligence officer of a foreign country, according to the affidavit for a search warrant filed last week in a federal court in North Carolina.
Martin, who enlisted in 2007 and was assigned to the Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, has not been charged. An attorney for Martin could not be contacted Tuesday night.
Maybe Martin should have been more suspicious. The “foreign agent” only brought $500 to their meeting, and wound up paying just $3500 for the entire package of documents. It’s a tough economy, but come on, man.
Getting back to Assange, it seems as though the US has begun treating him like a terrorist in one way — by attacking his financial support. Without money and without allies, Wikileaks will eventually grind to a halt, whether or not the US gets its hands on Assange.
Update: Well, Assange won’t have to worry about paying for his three hots and a cot in the next few days:
Judge Howard Riddle told Assange that he had “substantial grounds” to believe the 39-year-old Australian wouldn’t turn up for subsequent proceedings. He then put Assange into U.K. custody ahead of an extradition hearing.
“Substantial grounds”? You mean, like going into hiding and then using extortion to keep authorities from pursuing him? You don’t say.