WikiLeaks, on Tuesday, released documents from the European Commission which, it claimed, showed that “hard-right U.S. politicians” plotted “the extra-judicial” banking blockade against it after it published leaked secret diplomatic cables.
It specifically mentioned Senator Joseph Lieberman, chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and Republican Congressman Peter T. King, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
The documents were submitted to the Commission by MasterCard and Visa, in response to WikiLeaks’ complaint demanding an investigation into their alleged “wrongdoing”. It had claimed that the financial blockade imposed by them and a host of other financial institutions, including the Bank of America, PayPal and Western Union, was “unlawful” and part of a “politically motivated” attack by American authorities.
WikiLeaks, which temporarily suspended its publication operations last year after donations dried up because of the blockade, said it was “surprised” that after deliberating for 15 months, the Commission had decided not to launch a formal investigation.
“The Commission’s 16-page preliminary decision has been announced after 15 months of deliberations. The ‘normal’ waiting time is four months. Yesterday, DataCell and WikiLeaks submitted detailed counter-arguments to the Commission’s preliminary decision,” it said.
WikiLeaks’ chief Julian Assange said the blockade amounted to “political censorship of the world’s media”.
“There is no sovereignty without economic sovereignty. It is concerning that hard-right elements in the United States have been able to pressure VISA and MasterCard, who together hold monopoly over the European market, into introducing a blockade that the U.S. Treasury has rightly rejected. These unaccountable elements are directly interfering in the political and economic freedoms of EU consumers and are setting a precedent for political censorship of the world’s media,” he said in a statement from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been holed up since June after seeking asylum in Ecuador to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault.
WikiLeaks said: “In the heavily redacted documents, MasterCard Europe admits that Senator Joseph Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King both ‘had conversations’ with MasterCard in the United States.”
Both Mr. Lieberman and Mr. King had been pursuing WikiLeaks. While Mr. Lieberman called for prosecuting The New York Times for espionage in connection with WikiLeaks’ releases, Mr. King tried to formally designate WikiLeaks as a foreign terrorist organisation.
“While Lieberman and King were unsuccessful in these methods of legally cutting WikiLeaks from its popular donor base, they were successful in doing so extra-legally via VISA and MasterCard, which together hold a monopoly of 97 per cent of the market of EU card payments,” it said.
The papers revealed that the instructions to “blockade WikiLeaks’ operations in Europe came directly from VISA and MasterCard in the United States”. They further showed that VISA and MasterCard used “a false statement by the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to mislead the European Commission”.
In its submission, MasterCard justified its blockade saying that “it was under no obligation to provide its services to any particular undertakings”.
“It is evident that any affiliation with an organisation causing damage to the national interests of several nations involved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and possibly putting lives needlessly at risk, will be damaging for the public perception of MasterCard and consequently damage MasterCard’s goodwill or its [trade]Marks,” it said.
Visa said that it took the decision “in light of the alleged unlawful conduct of WikiLeaks, which, among other sensitive material, in 2010 published and refuses to return large amounts of material stolen from classified U.S. military databases”.
WikiLeaks said last week the European Parliament adopted a resolution saying that “the Commission should prevent the arbitrary refusal of payments by credit card companies, which economically strangles businesses and organizations, notably ours”.
“The resolution is an important step to putting an end to the Lieberman/King blockade, which has wiped out 95 per cent of WikiLeaks’ revenues.”