International pressure on Julian Assange intensified on Monday night, as the U.S. attorney general disclosed that he had authorised “significant” actions aimed at prosecuting the WikiLeaks founder over the release of thousands of diplomatic cables.

Eric Holder, who did not specify what these actions might be, also said his justice department was examining ways to stem the flow of leaked cables.

His comments came as a Swiss bank, Swiss PostFinance, announced it had closed Assange’s account because he had given “false information”. Earlier the U.S.-based commerce business PayPal also froze the WikiLeaks account. Assange has $61,000 in PayPal and $37,000 in the Swiss account, sources said.

‘Lives put at risk’

The U.S. attorney general said: “The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way. We are doing everything that we can.” Asked if he might mount a prosecution under the Espionage Act, Holder said: “That is certainly something that might play a role, but there are other statutes, other tools at our disposal.” Holder added that he had given the go-ahead for a number of unspecified actions as part of a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks.

“I personally authorised a number of things last week and that’s an indication of the seriousness with which we take this matter and the highest level of involvement at the department of justice,” he said.

He refused to say whether the Obama administration would try to shut down WikiLeaks. “I don’t want to get into what our capabilities are,” Holder said. “We are looking at all the things we can do to try to stem the flow of this information.” The leaks have created major disruption and embarrassment at the U.S. state department, throwing into question whether some of the more critical and candid diplomats can remain in post.

The Daily Beast website quoted an unnamed Obama administration source saying the state department is planning to recall some of them and that, in some cases, it would be dangerous for them to remain in their posts.

John Kerry, the Democratic chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, in a weekend interview, suggested he thought a reshuffle is necessary and that he would be advocating that behind the scenes.

The former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, was more specific, saying comments made about corruption by the present incumbent, Karl Eikenberry, made him redundant as an interlocutor. A German political party has called for the U.S. ambassador there to be brought home because of remarks he made about Germany.

Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2010

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