GENEVA - WikiLeaks' elusive founder, his options dwindling, has turned to Switzerland's credit, postal and Internet infrastructure to keep his online trove of U.S. State Department cables afloat.
Supporters say Julian Assange is considering seeking asylum in Switzerland. He told a Spanish newspaper that he faced "hundreds of death threats," including some targeting his lawyers and children, aside from the pressure he is getting from prosecutors in the United States and other countries.
After a number of web companies dropped WikiLeaks, much of the site's traffic was coming through the wikileaks.ch Web address yesterday. The address is controlled by the Swiss Pirate Party, a group that formed two years ago to campaign for freedom of information. The site's main server in France went offline but it remained reachable through a Swedish server.
The site showed Assange had begun seeking donations to an account under his name through the Swiss postal system in Bern, while also using a Swiss-Icelandic credit card processing center and other accounts in Iceland and Germany. He lost a major source of revenue when the online payment service provider PayPal cut off the WikiLeaks account over the weekend.
Supporters view Assange as a savior of the media and free speech; critics vilify him for brazenly unleashing diplomatic secrets, as well as for earlier leaks involving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Assange "a high-tech terrorist." He told NBC's "Meet the Press" he hopes Assange would be prosecuted for the "enormous damage" the disclosures had done to the country and to its relationship with its allies.
But even as governments put pressure on Assange, WikiLeaks lives on. The Swiss Pirate Party said wikileaks.ch was receiving about 3,000 visitors a second. It said supporters are creating "mirrors" of the WikiLeaks site on their own servers, meaning that the diplomatic cables will remain available even if WikiLeaks loses its own site.
"Even if you take down the server in Sweden, it's too late," Swiss Pirate Party Vice President Pascal Gloor told The Associated Press yesterday.
Assange is now in Britain, according to his British lawyer.