Swiss close bank account of WikiLeaks founder

6th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland on Monday closed a bank account set up by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as his website unveiled a secret list of key infrastructure sites around the world that could be targeted by terrorists.

The Swiss Post Office's banking arm said it had closed an account set up by the embattled Australian after he gave false information.

"PostFinance has ended its business relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Paul Assange," the bank said in a statement.

And in one of its most explosive leaks of US secrets so far, WikiLeaks divulged a list of key infrastructure sites around the world that, if attacked by terrorists, could critically harm US security.

The whistle-blowing website released a State Department cable from February 2009 asking US missions to update a list of infrastructure and key resources worldwide whose loss "could critically impact" the country's public health, economic life and national security.

Among other disclosures, the latest WikiLeaks document dump showed Australia's then prime minister Kevin Rudd warning US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that force might be needed against China "if everything goes wrong".

But the most sensational revelation was the list detailing undersea cables, key communications, ports, mineral resources and firms of strategic importance in countries ranging from Britain to New Zealand, via Africa, the Middle East and China.

Also listed were European manufacturers of vaccines for smallpox and rabies, an Italian maker of treatment for snake-bite venom, and a German company making treatment for plutonium poisoning.

Compilation of the list would help "prevent, deter, neutralize or mitigate the effects of deliberate efforts by terrorists to destroy, incapacitate or exploit" sites deemed of "vital" importance to the United States, the cable said.

Britain condemned the release, which gave locations of British undersea cables, satellite systems and defence plants, as "damaging to national security".

The release will add to the political storm engulfing WikiLeaks and its 39-year-old founder Julian Assange, who broke cover on Friday to say in an online chat that he had boosted his security after receiving death threats.

The website is already battling to secure its avenues for financial donations online, and has been hop-scotching across servers and legal jurisdictions to evade a total shutdown.

In Switzwerland, PostFinance said it shut down Assange's account after the Australian provided false information about his place of residence which his applicaton had said was in Geneva.

"Assange cannot provide proof of residence in Switzerland and thus does not meet the criteria for a customer relationship with PostFinance. For this reason, PostFinance is entitled to close his account," it said.

WikiLeaks had advertised the PostFinance account details online to "donate directly to the Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks Staff Defence Fund," giving an account name of "Assange Julian Paul, Geneve."

Facing repeated cyber-attack, WikiLeaks has meanwhile moved to ensure its information remains available. Mirror websites, which replicate WikiLeaks's data, have sprung up on servers in various countries.

The leaks have led Washington to plan a major reshuffle of its diplomats, military officers and intelligence operatives who have been compromised.

In the United States, leading lawmakers are calling for Assange's arrest or even execution.

Among the latest revelations:

-- Qatar is using the Arabic TV news channel Al-Jazeera as a bargaining chip in negotiations with other countries, despite the broadcaster's insistence that it is editorially independent.

-- Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri feared another war with Israel would mean the "death" of his pro-Western alliance, leaked cables showed Monday.

-- One leak with the potential to infuriate China revealed details of a conversation between Rudd, when he was Australia's prime minister, and Clinton over a Washington lunch in March 2009.

Rudd called for "integrating China effectively into the international community and allowing it to demonstrate greater responsibility, all while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong," the cable stated.

Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat who is now foreign minister, refused to confirm the details in the confidential memo released by Wikileaks.

But he defended Australia's "robust" ties with the Asian powerhouse, adding that he would not be contacting Beijing over the comments.


© 2010 AFP

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