back to article WikiLeaks payment service threatens to sue Visa, MasterCard

WikiLeaks' Iceland-based payment processor says it will take immediate legal action against Visa and MasterCard for suspending service to the renegade whistle-blowing website, according to ZDNet UK. DataCell EHF, which facilitates credit card-based donations to WikiLeaks, said it will file suit in the UK against Visa Europe, …


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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy

      "The leaks occurred solely because of the failure of American authorities to properly secure the data." No, the leaks occurred because of crap security AND because a trusted individual who had agreed not to do so stole some data. IANAL, but it sure sounds like a US crime has been committed by a US citizen.

      This individual chose to pass this data on to Wikileaks, who knew perfectly well that it had been obtained unlawfully. I'm pretty sure that selling property known to be stolen (albeit in another country) would still be a crime in the UK and elsewhere. I'm not sure of the position if you give it away, but don't forget that Wikileaks are doing this for publicity and to attract donations.

      Irrespective of this, Wikileaks are making the information available to US citizens against the wishes of its owner, so they are (prima facie) committing a crime in the US. They may wish to argue that this is either in the public good or that the US public is the true owner of the data, but they're free to do so in the US courts (good luck with that).

      So it's pretty clear that if Mastercard (a US company) processes payments in the US on behalf of Wikileaks, it may well be breaking the law. In those circumstances, what would you do?

      1. Ian Yates

        Re: AC 1017

        "a trusted individual who had agreed not to do so stole some data. IANAL, but it sure sounds like a US crime has been committed by a US citizen."

        Interestingly, the US have "whistleblower" laws to allow people to 'steal' information and pass it on 'illegally' but get let off. It'll be interesting to see how much (if any) of this leak is allowed under that defence.

        At the end of the day, there's been very little in the current batch of cables that the US gov should be scared of, so their reaction is probably related to something they know or suspect is still to come.

        So far, the leak has been a slight embarrassment, but even ex-UK envoys have admitted that this pretty much par-for-the-course with every country (and I believe that pretty easily).

        The telling thing is how they don't appear* to have sought much of a discussion with wikileaks, instead resorting to name-calling and threats.

        * In the sense that I can't find any public announcement that they tried to talk to Assange et al.

        1. david wilson

          @Ian Yates

          >>"Interestingly, the US have "whistleblower" laws to allow people to 'steal' information and pass it on 'illegally' but get let off. It'll be interesting to see how much (if any) of this leak is allowed under that defence."

          It will be interesting.

          Though surely selectivity plays a part in justifying whistleblowing?

          If I found an organisation I worked in was doing something illegal, and I responded by copying and giving away all the data I could get my hands on to someone likely to release most of it - not merely stuff relevant to the matter I was concerned about, but everyone's personal emails, confidential contract negotiations, trade secrets, etc, I'm not sure that even the most generous whistleblower protection would cover me.

          In the Manning case, there might be a good case for saying that release of some of the information was in the public interest, but if there was stuff released that didn't need releasing to show up gross misbehaviour, that could be treated quite separately.

          I can't see there'd be a defence of "But he gave so much confidential information away, he can't have been expected to read it all!"

          A trial may well relate only to the information they think wouldn't reasonably be covered by whistleblower protection.

          Would "But he gave other stuff away which people did have a right to know" actually be a workable defence?

    2. Scorchio!!


      These leaks occurred because someone stole the data. Any spurious defence is akin to counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, and will not stop the expected self defence and retribution. Saying or expecting that the case should be other wise is worse than naive and childish, worse than egregious.

      1. Miek
        Thumb Down


        Give it a rest soldier-boy

        1. Scorchio!!


          Hush child. The grown ups are speaking now. Back to your toys.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "The leaks occurred solely because of the failure of American authorities to properly secure the data."

      That's an interesting philosophy and I hope that you would be happy to live in a world where it is consistently applied ... someone's house gets robbed solely because they failed to properly secure it, someone's car get stolen solely because they failed to properly secure it, someone gets beaten up solely because they failed to take proper security measures.

      1. Terry H


        I think I would thoroughly love to live in that world. I'd move there tomorrow. The only part you left out is that if it's "MY" responsibility then "I" get to decide what "properly secure" means -- You know, like every government on the planet does -- without ANY regard to ANY other authority!

        So sure, bring it on. "I" will properly secure my house with shot-gun traps and land mines. If I come home drunk and blow myself up --- too bad for me. If you die lusting after my TV - too bad for you. And the taxpayers save about 100K a year keeping the bad guy in prison (where everyone freely admits he will refine his skills).

        "I" will secure my car with a 1,000,000 stun gun. If the odd dog or "young lad stealing hubcaps" gets the top of their head blown off, oh well. they won't be doing that again will they?

        And if I get beaten up because I only had a revolver when the 10 guys come at me. My bad! Next time I'll carry that lovely German party favor the MP-5. You know, like the ones the body guards of every politicians on earth carry. Maybe you're not familiar with it. You are excused, as far as I know, it is illegal for normal people to own in every single country on earth.

        Alternately here's a plan that's not quite as radical. Make every government, every politician, and every government employee fully and completely comply with each and every law they inflict on their citizens. No special treatment. The government wants warrant-less wire tapping of the world? They can hardly complain then when the world wonders what's under their kilt then can they? Good for the goose good for the gander.

        1. david wilson


          >>"So sure, bring it on. "I" will properly secure my house with shot-gun traps and land mines. "

          So I take it you don't expect to get many visitors, then?

        2. Anonymous Coward


          More, more, more (sound of feet stamping and hands clapping)

          "Things can only get better..."

      2. Anonymous Coward

        hey solely

        That argument is not valid in this example, because your taxes have paid for "the house" and the people that "live in it". So do you not have a right of sorts to see what has/is being done in your name?

    4. Scorchio!!

      Re: Brave guy, this Icelander, and right on the mark

      >Assange and Wikileaks have broken no laws with respect to the 'leaks'.

      >The leaks occurred solely because of the failure of American authorities to properly secure the

      >data. Any claims by these usurious credit card companies to the contrary are plain and simply


      'Was not my fault officer, his window was not properly secured and, besides, his cleaner passed the USB drive out of the window'

      Won't work. Particularly when it comes to pay back time. So your childish morals will be put ashes in the fire.

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Any company can choose....

    to have who they like as a customer, however.

    When an elderly friend was being ripped off for thousands by some scammers in Canada not only did they re-issue his cancelled card with the same account numbers they continued to pay the scammers. Getting the card cancelled in the first place took a major battle and we had no chance trying to get them to pay compensation for the fiasco with the re-issued card. He lost what small savings he had and had to re-mortgage his very small house in order to pay the banks.

    This scam was widely discussed on the web and also raised in the Canadian Courts and Parliament but they still processed payments for them and presumably had issued the scammers with accounts allowing them to collect the payments. The scam netted millions from the UK alone, mostly vulnerable pensioners.

    Double standards apply methinks.

    1. copsewood

      monopolies don't have a right to choose their customers

      Anyone acting as the sole provider of an essential service has responsibilities to operate without discrimination or favour other than as allowed by law. That is what monopoly commissions and anti-trust legislation and court cases are all about. For example, Severn Trent, as the sole supplier of piped water in my area has it's prices decided by a regulator and has no right to refuse service because their managers don't like someone.

      1. david wilson


        >>"Anyone acting as the sole provider of an essential service has responsibilities to operate without discrimination or favour other than as allowed by law. That is what monopoly commissions and anti-trust legislation and court cases are all about."

        Surely, the issue of providers of essential services to individuals and the behaviour of monopolists or effective monopolists are reasonably distinct?

        For one thing, it's fairly tightly defined what an essential service is.

        Also, much of the monopoly/anti-trust legislation is related to anti-competitive behaviour, such as not using a monopoly or cartel to extort excessive profits or doing things to prevent competition arising, like undercutting potential new entrants to a market to make their business uneconomic, but may be unrelated to how essential a service is, or is thought to be.

      2. Scorchio!!

        Re: monopolies don't have a right to choose their customers

        Wake, not only are these not monopolies/utilities, but they work in a competitive international market. In addition to that, when a state tells them that they don't approve of them passing money to an individual/organisation that specialises in displaying stolen state secrets, to whom the thieving employee owed allegiance having signed a secrets act clause, they can see the wisdom in behaving themselves. Not least because Assange is threatening to destabilise international banking by releasing information about it.

        This is the real world, not la la land. In the real world people are liable to punishment for breaking official secrets acts, theft and similar. Expect a lot of spanked arses over the next few months. Starting with the Dutch 16 year old who found, presumably to his distress, that the LOIC does not conceal IP numbers in the DDOS scam. I foresee a lot of prison sentences. The stocks would be a popular idea. As in, but this time IRL, where the state secrets meet the road.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    big whoop

    Wikileaks have not broken any law's if they had instead of these supposed "sex crime" issues Assange would have been arrested on breaking what ever laws the Wikileaks site would have broken.

    While im not saying the current charges of false or not (it still remains to be seen) im sure the US would have loved to have something they could have him arrested him on.

    As such Wikileaks as a website has not broken any laws other than highlight some things some powerful people would rather remain hidden. Just embarrassing someone by telling the truth should not be against the law, hell enough of the tabloids do it, just look at the UK MP expenses scandal, how much would they loved to have kept all that quiet.

    People claim that the leaks put peoples lives at risk but do the really? Are they publishing anything about current ongoing operations, certainly not in anything I've read so far. They have published information about people who have done wrong and should be exposed for doing such.

    All that is happening is some rather pissed off powerful people who don't like the fact that their dirty little secrets are getting out and it looks bad on them and they are putting the pressure on companies to give wikileaks the boot. This form of strong arming should always be resisted, and until anyone can show exactly what law's wikileaks has broken no action's should be take against the site.

    As for the DDoS I personally can not condone them ether, it just makes wikileaks look like its backed by a bunch of spoilt script kiddies (mostly running LOIC) (no major botnets are involved as far as im aware) and that just harms their case.

    1. Scorchio!!

      Re: big whoop

      Dealing in stolen goods, but bugger that, here's another one; liable to termination with extreme prejudice for placing various states in jeopardy. Don't mess with a state if you don't want your fingers chopped off. It's no good claiming nothing wrong has been done and putting on injured airs, either don't do it and be happy, or do it and suffer.



  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    US credit cards maybe, but why ban EU ones

    This is a fantastic internet power struggle. The US view the internet as theirs, and want their companies -easyDNS, amazon, paypal, visa and mastercard to go along with that plan.

    But visa is a consortium of banks, it's global, and for it to take a side here is going to alarm everyone else round the world. What if the US govt. next decide your country needs to be blacklisted, your online retail outlet, your phone company? I wouldn't mind if they just said "US cards aren't allowed to fund wikileaks", but stopping me pay with my UK card (owned by a bank that the UK govt. owns) paying for someone in iceland is going too far.

    Anonymous may have made Low Orbit Ion Cannon a phrase now used in the news, but the US govt and their accomplices have done the work.

    1. Scorchio!!

      Re: US credit cards maybe, but why ban EU ones

      Category error. It's nothing to do with whether the US regards the net as their own or not. It is what its use as a conduit for broadcasting classified material, stolen from it by an employee legally obliged to protect it. Handling stolen goods and publishing them under such circumstances, whether by radio, television, printed paper, or any other medium including morse is no different. It is not the medium. So we have here again a non sequitur argument.



  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legality of leaks

    IANAL but....

    The method by which the cables were acquired was unlawful in every sense as the guy who did it knew he was breaking the law along with trust etc etc. Don't think anyone would agrue this.

    The content of the cables 'could' be deemed to be confidential and therefore protected to some degree but the bulk of what has come out so far is opinion pieces worthy of the lower order media and is more of a danger to reputations than to nation states. Starting to get onto arguable ground now.

    There is a defence in law that the content of material obtained by 'less than legal' methods can be disclosed in the public good. This is to prevent a Government simply brushing everything under the carpet, think 'infinite options'-gate where some secret government document or illegal recording has been revealed which has exposed unlawful actions by members of various governments. Hmmm really into opinion range now.

    In the US and the UK there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty although in the UK this is being over-ridden by things such as the European Arrest Warrant which can be raised by a country you have never entered for an act which is legal in your country of residence and seen by another person in a country with no link to the two. Scared yet?

    With regards to Visa/Mastercard/PayPal, they have you by the short and curlies. Never mind these physical banks which were 'too big to fail', these guys are little different to stock market traders in that they get their money from every transaction regardless of it's morals and they know that if the US government decide to get sniffy with them they would be in deep trouble. They would like to just lay there quietly slurping their cut from each interweb transaction with the minimum of fuss. Fighting them is like pushing water uphill.

    All in all this is a very odd fight to get involved in and would indicate either alternative motives or else very poor judgement. Getting the Wikileaks team into court one by one is unlikely to stop the flow of documents which surely should be their aim here.

    Why Anonymous? well if you have to ask....

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      IANAL also

      However, as far as I understand it, you cannot be arrested on a European Arrest Warrant for an activity which is legal in your country. The example I have seen given beofre is that of Holocaust denial - this is illegal in Austria, but a UK citizen cannot be extradited to Austria for denying the holocaust in the UK. If, however, they were in Austria at the time but later returned to the UK, they could be extradited.

      Again, IANAL, and this is just my understanding of the issue. And just to be clear, I wouldn't condone holocaust denial in any way; those who do so are morons. It is just an example of something that carries a different legal status in various EU states.

      1. Ian Yates


        From my following of EAW cases, I don't believe this is true (or if it is, no member country understands it correctly).

        EAWs are regularly abused (there are some notable countries that like to apply for them without any real evidence to back it up) - but this is due to poor "quality control" and understanding.

        Sorry for lack of sources, 'busy' at work. Examples should be easy to find, though.

      2. viet 1


        "However, as far as I understand it, you cannot be arrested on a European Arrest Warrant for an activity which is legal in your country. The example I have seen given beofre is that of Holocaust denial - this is illegal in Austria, but a UK citizen cannot be extradited to Austria for denying the holocaust in the UK."

        This is the general principle, but there's a list of 32 crimes that can be an automatic basis for an EAW, irrespective of local laws. Among them, you guess it, rape. So, take an unproven 'minor' offence, say sexual harassment, spin it to 'alleged rape' proportion, *bam* EAW.

        The EAW is a monstrosity.

        1. david wilson

          @viet 1

          >>"Among them, you guess it, rape. So, take an unproven 'minor' offence, say sexual harassment, spin it to 'alleged rape' proportion, *bam* EAW."

          But then, if it has all been some Grand Conspiracy, they could have fairly easily progressed things to the point where they could have stopped him leaving the country in the first place, and wouldn't need to bother with EAWs.

          If 'They' are going to fit him up, what advantage do They actually get from delaying things?

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    You help me, I help you...

    "Monday, 01 February 2010, 04:41"

    C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000228


    The latest version of the Russian draft law "On the National Payment System" contains several provisions that would disadvantage U.S. businesses. The draft law would set up a National Payment Card System (NPCS) including its own payment card that banks and payment card companies could join voluntarily. Most likely to be a consortium of state-owned banks, the NPCS operator would process the domestic payments for all members and collect processing fees estimated at $4 billion per year. The draft also forbids sending abroad any payment data for domestic transactions. Should international payment card companies such as Visa and MasterCard chose not to join the NPCS they would have to set up the infrastructure to do their Russian payment processing domestically.

    .... This draft law continues to disadvantage U.S. payment card market leaders Visa and MasterCard, whether they join the National Payment Card System or not. If they join, the NPCS operator will collect the fees, leaving them to collect processing fees only when card-holders travel abroad -- a tiny section of the market. If they do not join but choose to compete with NPCS cards, they will have to set up payment processing centers in Russia, a very large investment in itself, and compete against a system likely backed by the largest Russian state banks. While the draft legislation has yet to be submitted to the Duma and can still be amended, post will continue to raise our concerns with senior GOR officials. We recommend that senior USG officials also take advantage of meetings with their Russian counterparts, including through the Bilateral Presidential Commission, to press the GOR to change the draft text to ensure U.S. payment companies are not adversely affected. END COMMENT.

    1. loopy lou

      Thank you

      Adding this to the debate deserves more than the 1 upvote I can give it.

      The wikileaks issue is just illustrating the problem: as normal people become more dependent on credit cards to get on with their lives, we have to make sure the Ts and Cs don't give corporations (and the governments that lean on them) excessive power. States have to start saying "if you want to provide credit card services to our businesses and citizens, here are Ts and Cs YOU have to abide by".

      Good on the Russians for realizing this and starting to do something.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Keep it up Wikileaks

    Funny how the US and UK governments invade our privacy more and more each day and say it's for our own good and say if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.

    Now that this rule is working both ways they don't like it so much do they? Tough.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Ah, but ...

      ... they know they *have* done wrong things, so they *do* have something to hide - that's what all the fuss is about!! ;-)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    seven-digit figures in losses in a week?

    We're talking binary here, I presume?

    AhHa, the IT angle :)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If Assange is innocent?

    If he's innocent why doesn't he go to Sweden and clear his name of the rape charges?

  9. ShaggyDoggy

    Is it just me


    ... it's wikileaks this time, next time it' could be YOU

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


      like he did a couple of days ago, when he handed himself into a UK police station you mean? Please do try to keep up...

      1. Scorchio!!

        Re: Ummm,

        A UK police station =! a court of law.

        The appropriate place for the matter to be determined is in the legal system where the allegations were made, that is to say where actions were alleged to have occurred. It is important not merely because the data are all available there, and not merely because the matter to be determined is under the laws of another country.

        Finally, the police are not a court of law, in case it had escaped your attention, though I am sure that it would not were they to determine the guilt or innocence of rioters in this country.

        So, all in all, flawed logic of the kind that would not even pass muster amongst the Sophists.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Public Interest?

    Wikileaks has got itself confused between "in the public interest" and "of interest to the public".

    As much as they are probably revelling in the "ooh look at us making fun of the Americans" moment .. I suspect that real damage will be done and at some point some random nation will get all upset.

    Things smaller than this have lead to wars, where real people get really killed.

    When Wikileaks was doing good work (like the Apache helicopter footage) they had my full support, but this latest stunt is simply titillation for the sake of their own notoriety.

    I'm still trying to figure out how they manage to fit their notions of free speech into the concept of "and if you choose not to supply us, our supporters will DDOS the hell out of your business" .. not the sort of freedom I would want, thanks.

    1. The main man


      Thats what i have been saying. They have brain washed so many people and they use their hacker buddies to blackmail those who stand in their way. I supported them early on but not any more

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Errrr ...

        "They have brain washed so many people and they use their hacker buddies to blackmail those who stand in their way. I supported them early on but not any more"

        You're not really getting a handle on all of this, are you?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      >>"Wikileaks has got itself confused between "in the public interest" and "of interest to the public"."

      And in that respect at least, isn't necessarily very different to large sections of the real media, who try to pretend that finding someone happy to read something justifies pretty much anything (or, put another way, pretend that finding a willing reader removes most/all responsibility for publishing from the publisher).

      The difference is that if the real media fuck up and really go much too far, there's a possibility that they can be held to account somewhere.

      Who can hold Wikileaks to account?

      And for that matter, where does Wikileaks' income actually go?

      If they lost a 7 figure sum in a few days, how much do they make per year, and what does it get spent on?

      Who audits their accounts?

      1. The main man


        Their income goes to the upkeep of the site, blackmail purposes via hackers (4chan) and sustaining Julians lifestyle

  11. Spider

    how the times change

    one man leaks classified docs of shady government shennanigans and those that publish are given pulitzers...

    now they are decried as terrorists and threatened with assasination as they are hounded to the ends of the earth.

  12. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What's your definition of Criminal?

      It clearly doesn't match the legal one, which is the only one that actually matters.

      In law, a criminal is someone who has been proven (usually in a court) to have broken a law.

      Someone *suspected* of breaking a law is not a criminal, they are a suspect.

      I suggest that you watch the 1985 film "Brazil" directed by Terry Gilliam, and ask yourself how the world depicted could have come about.

      The short answer is that it's the logical extension of opinions like the ones you posted. Take care that you do not allow it to come about.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    The payment company's senior management left themselves open for being litigated in court and castigated in public the moment they did not turn round to US pencil pusher and say, "so you claim this is unlawful, go and get me a court order, and we'll shut it down, see you in an hour then"

    Hopefully the size of the bill will make banks and payment services think twice before the pull the same stunt on another organisation or person, who may not have the same legal resources as wikileaks

  14. Anonymous Coward


    I got this email from PayPal yesterday:

    Dear <full name>

    On , we attempted to transfer from your bank account, ending in . This transfer was returned by your bank on for the reason below:

    There was a bank processing error.

    As a result, this bank account has been removed from your PayPal account. Please contact your bank for more information or add a new bank account. Please do not contact PayPal because this is entirely an issue between the account holder and their bank.

    Yours sincerely,


    Bank account is still there and a payment has gone through?

  15. Velv Silver badge

    How to shutdown wikileaks....

    Presumably the US Government knows which documents have been "stolen"

    So they can assume that wikileaks will publish them at some point over the coming weeks.

    Ergo, all the US government needs to do to is publish the documents themselves. Once all the information is out in the public domain, nobody will give too hoots about wikileaks and they will become redundant.



  16. heyrick Silver badge

    Banks should be able to trancend this nonsense (banks & politics = fail)

    The idea that a bank is aiding and abetting a terrorist/treason(er?) and could find themselves partly liable is ridiculous and a hangover from an olden day. That an international brand can suspend services globally because "one country doesn't like it" is extremely ridiculous. That all this can happen on heresay alone rather than an actual jury decision is beyond description.

    I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to compile a list of "unwanted" organisations that the banks are more than happy to deal with. As the first poster says - KKK yes, Wikileaks, no.

  17. Bob Fish

    Oh the irony...

    ... it has probably already been mentioned, but I found it really funny when I read that the 'hacktivists' behind the DDoS attacks were campaigning for 'making sure the Internet stays a free and open place'.

    I mean. Really.

  18. h 6


    "“Not being able to receive money from the public for a week can cost WikiLeaks seven-digit figures in losses/"

    Then write and snail mail a fecking CHECK! (CHEQUE for the Brits)

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Seven Digit Figures in Losses

    So, they're making millions per week then?

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