Julian Assange Spent Wikileaks' Money Doing Nothing

At a press conference this morning, Julian Assange—whom we imagine was wearing nothing but a barrel and suspenders—announced Wikileaks was so broke it might have to shut down in a matter of months. Even more than it already has shut down, that is.

Since soon after Wikileaks published the first of its giant diplomatic cable leak in November 2010, Mastercard, Visa and Paypal have refused to do business with the group. Assange has claimed the blockade has cost the website $15 million—a made up number, to be sure, but an impressive one!

Assange said today the lack of funds was so dire that Wikileaks faces imminent closure. "If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year," he said, according to the Associated Press.

So, Assange said, Wikileaks is now "temporarily suspending" their publication of leaks to focus on fundraising. This suggests that Wikileaks has actually been publishing leaks. In fact, besides slowly, painfully, dribbling out the diplomatic cable stash that ended up being leaked anyways after Assange reused his password, Wikileaks hasn't released anything of note since the end of 2010, besides a line of official merchandise.

What has Assange been spending all his money on? He's been living rent free under house arrest in a wealthy British journalist's country estate for eight months, so living expenses haven't been a huge concern. Assange says his group is launching a "new generation submission system" at the end of November, finally replacing the system that has been broken for more than a year. That probably cost some dough. The group kicked in $15,000 of a promised $50,000 to the defense fund for Bradley Manning.

But it doesn't add up. Consider these numbers: In 2010, Wikileaks spent about $550,000, according to its official financial report. During that time, it published the Collateral Murder video, the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diary and the diplomatic cables. Wikileaks entered 2011 with about $1.3 million in the bank—and now it's broke? This means the group spent close to twice its 2010 expenditures this year while publishing essentially no new leaks.

So, everyone, head over to Wikileaks' brand new donation page. Not publishing leaks doesn't come free.

[Image via Getty]