WikiLeaks’ Cash Pledge Hasn’t Reached Bradley Manning’s Support Fund
WikiLeaks has failed to deliver on a months-old pledge to contribute financially to the defense of Bradley Manning, according to a group raising money for the imprisoned Army private suspected of providing WikiLeaks its most important U.S. releases.
A spokesman for the Bradley Manning Support Network said Wednesday that the group had still not received money that WikiLeaks pledged in July and was supposed to release to the group back in September.
“As of yesterday afternoon, the money had not arrived,” spokesman Jeff Paterson told Threat Level on Wednesday.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said last week at a panel discussion in London that WikiLeaks had contributed “a substantial amount of money” to Manning’s defense. But upon learning Tuesday that the money had actually not been paid yet, Hrafnsson told The Washington Post that there was a misunderstanding and that $20,000 would be distributed to Manning’s defense immediately by the nonprofit Wau Holland Foundation, which manages the majority of WikiLeaks donations.
“The contribution was informally agreed upon quite some time ago, and that was relayed to the defense fund,” WikiLeaks spokesman Hrafnsson told the Post. “I was under the impression it had been formally authorized as is required by the trustees [of the] Wau Holland Fund. This situation has now been rectified, and the payment is being processed now.”
The figure, however, falls short of the $50,000 that the Bradley Manning Support Network was expecting from WikiLeaks. Manning’s defense attorney, David E. Coombs, has agreed to defend the soldier for a flat fee of $100,000, and WikiLeaks was expected to pay half of this, Paterson said.
“We had an informal agreement to split the cost,” Paterson said. “We identified the cost to be about $100,000, and they’re now proposing an 80-20 split apparently. I’ve always hoped that they make a contribution. If they ever do I’ll be happy to receive it, whatever it is.”
The Manning Support Network sent out an impatient-sounding press release Wednesday saying it had already sent Manning’s attorney $50,000 from money that it had raised separately from WikiLeaks, and that it was still waiting for WikiLeaks to make good on its promise to contribute its share of the defense costs.
“We understand the difficult situation WikiLeaks currently faces, as the world’s governments conspire to extinguish the whistle-blower website,” Paterson said in the release. “However, in order to meet Bradley Manning’s legal-defense needs, we’re forced to clarify that WikiLeaks has not yet made a contribution towards this effort. We certainly welcome any contribution from WikiLeaks, but we need to inform our supporters that it may not be forthcoming and that their continued contributions and support are crucial.”
Although Paterson said he felt reservations about contributing to the “anti-WikiLeaks news,” he told Threat Level that his group issued the release in part to address constant inquiries from media and from supporters who had contributed funds to WikiLeaks for Manning’s defense.
“Supporters who donated to WikiLeaks on the assumption that they were going to contribute to Bradley’s defense based on [WikiLeaks'] June and July statements” wanted to know if the money was reaching its intended destination, Paterson said. “We finally feel that we had to issue a statement to tell our supporters it really is up to us to raise the funds, and people should not be under the expectation that WikiLeaks will step in and pay up the rest of the legal bill.”
Loraine Reitman, a member of the group’s steering committee, shied away from placing blame on WikiLeaks.
“WikiLeaks is the reason we’ve been able to get so much money and donations,” she told Threat Level. “They’ve been linking to us and tweeting about us, and every time they do it, donations come in.”
The group said that in addition to legal costs, it had covered the cost of travel for an unspecified number of visitors who had met with Manning at the Marine Corps brig where he is being held in Quantico, Viriginia. It had also paid the costs of printing and distributing leaflets, staging public forums and demonstrations and producing banners, T-shirts and stickers, among other expenses.
WikiLeaks led a prominent fundraising campaign on Manning’s behalf following his arrest last May in Iraq. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange indicated in June that he had hired three U.S. criminal-defense attorneys to defend Manning, and his group appealed to supporters to provide money to cover the cost of sending attorneys to the Middle East to meet with Manning.
It’s not known how much money WikiLeaks succeeded in raising for Manning’s defense. The group has yet to provide the detailed report of its contributions and expenses that was expected in August. Manning hired his own defense attorney instead of one provided by WikiLeaks.
According to a September e-mail to Threat Level from the Wau Holland Foundation, WikiLeaks authorized the foundation to release an unspecified amount of money for Manning’s defense sometime that month. But Wau Holland vice president Hendrik Fulda told the Post on Tuesday that although it was his understanding that the amount to be released was $20,000, he never received final confirmation to distribute the funds.
Assange has recently declined to publicly comment on any payment by WikiLeaks for Manning’s defense, despite soliciting donations for the cause. Assange said at a press conference in Geneva in November that his group had been advised not to talk about it anymore.
WikiLeaks has raised at least $1 million in general donations, according to statements Assange made after April when his site published a classified Army video taken in Iraq. In an online chat with a former hacker who turned him in, Manning took credit for leaking the video to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks claimed it raised more than $150,000 in just two days after it published the video online.
The site has subsequently released three massive caches of documents, all believed to have been leaked by Manning. The first cache published in July included almost 77,000 documents pertaining to the war in Afghanistan. The second cache published in October consisted of 400,000 documents from the Iraq war. The most recent cache — of more than 250,000 U.S. State Department cables — were released to several media outlets and are being published in daily installments of about 80 documents by WikiLeaks.
Manning is believed to be the source for the video and the documents. Although WikiLeaks has never acknowledged Manning as its source, it has continued to raise money on his behalf.
WikiLeaks recently set up a separate defense fund account for founder Assange, who is facing a sex-crimes investigation in Sweden and was jailed in London this week, pending a possible extradition. The Swiss bank that was administering the account, however, canceled it after learning that Assange had provided false information about his residence when he opened the account.
WikiLeaks’ PayPal account, which it uses to receive some contributions to its general fund, was also frozen last Friday, blocking about $80,000 in donations that were in the account. Visa and MasterCard have since cut off WikiLeaks’ ability to receive donations made through those credit cards as well.
Additional reporting for this story contributed by Kevin Poulsen
Illustration: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears in Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London this week, where he was denied bail after appearing on an extradition warrant.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010
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