By Frank Bajak Associated Press / October 17, 2011
LIMA, Peru—WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday described as nonsense reports of defections from his organization and said his group helped inspire the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Addressing a meeting of the Inter American Press Association in Peru via Internet video hookup from Britain, Assange said WikiLeaks’ biggest problem is the ban on processing contributions by credit card companies and PayPal.
“We have not cut any staff,” he said, calling it “an exception for most of the newspaper world.”
Though asked for specifics, he did not say how many people WikiLeaks has on staff or offer details about its finances.
“We have been pleasantly in a strong enough financial position to survive entirely on our cash reserves for the past eleven months,” Assange said.
He said WikiLeaks expects to prevail in legal action it has taken in the European Union against corporations that blocked payments last year after the online secrets-spilling organization facilitated the release of tens of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables and sensitive documents from the Afghan and Iraq conflicts.
He said the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement, which blames corporate greed for the global financial crisis, “is in part inspired by our activities” and claimed “community support and media support for WikiLeaks has never been stronger.”
On Saturday, the 40-year-old Australian spoke to protesters in London during one of scores of global Occupy Wall Street rallies, calling the international banking system a “recipient of corrupt money.”
As for allegations WikiLeaks may be splintering or weakening, Assange said reports that circulated last year about 12 people leaving the organization were “absolute nonsense.”
He said WikiLeak’s sole defection was a German spokesperson he did not name. He was clearly referring to Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who Assange said he “suspended.”
Domscheit-Berg says he had challenged Assange’s leadership style as imperious.
He has published a book about his experience and created a rival site called OpenLeaks for gathering sensitive information from people who wanted it released without their identities becoming known.
Assange said Monday that WikiLeaks has thousands of pending disclosures for publication and contracts with more than 50 media organizations worldwide. He did not indicate when the next big release might come.
Assange’s claim that he is a journalist was rejected by industry veterans who questioned him.
“Really what he is an intermediary. He is a go-between,” said Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post. “He is a terrible journalist.”
Diehl said Assange violated a fundamental ethic of journalism by allowing WikiLeaks to release last month the full, unredacted set of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.
“He has burned dozens if not hundreds of sources,” said Diehl
Assange’s legal woes include allegations of rape and sexual misconduct made last year by two Swedish women. He says he’s not guilty.
Assange was briefly jailed over the allegations in December and is currently out on bail and living at a supporter’s mansion in eastern England as he awaits a judge’s decision on whether he will be extradited to Sweden.