WASHINGTON - WikiLeaks was on the defensive on several fronts yesterday, scrambling to remain on the Internet and post more U.S. diplomatic documents while its fugitive founder, Julian Assange, was targeted by a European arrest warrant on Swedish rape charges.
Amazon.com Inc. prevented WikiLeaks from using the U.S. company's computers to distribute embarrassing State Department communications and other documents, WikiLeaks said yesterday. The WikiLeaks site was unavailable for several hours before it moved back to servers owned by its previous Swedish host, Bahnhof, which are housed in a protective Cold War-era bunker.
At the same time, Swedish officials intensified legal pressure on Assange by asking European police to arrest him on rape allegations that have shadowed him for weeks. Swedish Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny said that the European arrest warrant had been issued for Assange in connection with the allegations filed against him in that country.
Amazon's move to kick WikiLeaks off its servers came after congressional staff called the company Tuesday to inquire about its relationship with WikiLeaks, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, said Wednesday.
"The company's decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material," Lieberman said in a statement. He added that he would have further questions for Amazon about its dealings with WikiLeaks.
The White House said yesterday it was taking new steps to protect government secrets after WikiLeaks' release of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables. Officials said national security adviser Tom Donilon has appointed a senior aide to identify and develop reforms needed in light of the document dump.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also spurned a call from Assange for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to step down if she had any role in directing U.S. diplomats' spying on other foreign leaders. Gibbs called the demand "ridiculous and absurd," saying in TV news interviews that Clinton had done nothing wrong and U.S. diplomats do not engage in spying.
Meanwhile, Assange's secret-spilling group is still in the process of disclosing hundreds of classified State Department cables, which have revealed requests for U.S. diplomats to gather personal information on their foreign counterparts, highlighted Western concerns that Islamist militants might get access to Pakistan's nuclear material, and American skepticism that Islamabad will sever ties to Taliban factions fighting in Afghanistan.