WikiLeaks will temporarily stop publishing so members can address a cash shortage that could cause the whistleblower site to financially collapse by the end of the year, founder Julian Assange said on Monday.
The dire financial picture comes 10 months after PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and other payment services significantly curtailed WikiLeaks' ability to raise funds by refusing to process payments from supporters. Assange told journalists in London that donations to the site have all but dried up since the embargo was put in place. Last year, the average cumulative total was about 100,000 euros, compared with 6,000 euros to 7,000 euros this year.
“If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year,” Assange said at a press conference. “If we don't knock down the blockade we simply will not be able to continue.”
WikiLeaks has about 20 employees and needs about $3.5 millions to sustain it through 2013, he added.
A PayPal executive said in December that the decision to block payments to WikiLeaks came after officials with the US State Department warned executives that WikiLeaks was engaged in illegal activity. WikiLeaks has since sued Visa and MasterCard over the blockade.
With grass-roots fundraising thwarted, WikiLeaks has recently begun focusing on new sources for donations. Lunch with the 40-year-old Assange and a laptop he used to organize a dump of US diplomatic cables have both been auctioned off. He said he was now looking to a “constellation of wealthy individuals” to keep his site running.
Perhaps WikiLeaks' best-known wealthy benefactor is Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith. Assange has spent the past few months under house arrest in Smith's mansion in Eastern England. A decision on whether Assange will be extradited to Sweden is pending.