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The Hamilton Spectator
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010
As Julian Assange entered Wandsworth prison tonight, WikiLeaks faced the greatest challenge in its four-year history. Already stretched as it wrestles with the release of the US embassy cables the biggest leak of government documents in recent history the organisation must now find a way to operate without its founder.

WikiLeaks is so reliant on his leadership that there is no natural replacement. Tonightplans were even being drawn up to allow him to manage the organisation from a prison cell if his incarceration proves prolonged.

Critics say Assange's imprisonment has highlighted a key weakness of WikiLeaks its over-reliance on one person.

"I am the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organiser, financier and all the rest," Assange reportedly told a colleague who questioned his judgment in September. "If you have a problem with me, piss off."

There was a damaging schism in the organisation in September and now WikiLeaks faces a rival start-up group.

In the shorter term the threats to the organisation are coming into clear focus. With about 250,000 US embassy cables still to release, WikiLeaks's network of volunteers, interns, activists and paid staff face intensifying assault from financial institutions. The embassy cables are due to be published well into the new year and WikiLeaks is sitting on several document caches, including files about the Bank of America, which it has to clear before accepting any new information. Meanwhile WikiLeaks is facing a widening shutdown by internet service providers.

Its inability to accept new material is already drawing criticism from others in the wider global transparency movement who believe that represents an abdication of the original aims. Continued...

WikiLeaks: What happens next?
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