Image: Denis Simonet shows WikiLeaks site
SEBASTIEN FEVAL  /  ASSOCIATED PRESS
Swiss Denis Simonet, right, president of the Pirate Party, and vice president Pascal Gloor left, pose prior to a press conference in Biel, Switzerland on Friday. Simonet announced the moving of WikiLeaks to Switzerland.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 12/6/2010 7:16:24 PM ET 2010-12-07T00:16:24

British police were negotiating to meet with Julian Assange on Monday as the renegade WikiLeaks founder came under more international pressure for leaking secret U.S. government diplomatic cables.

Mark Stephens, attorney for Julian Assange, told NBC News that a place and time are being negotiated for Assange to meet with Scotland Yard. It's unclear whether he will be arrested.

No representation from Sweden will be in that meeting, Stephen said.

"We are in the process of making arrangements to meet with the police by consent in order to facilitate the taking of that question and answer that's needed," Stephens said.

Scotland Yard has already received a European arrest warrant from Sweden where the 39-year-old computer hacker is wanted for questioning after allegations of sex crimes made by two women in August.

In another development, the Swiss postal system stripped Julian Assange of a key fundraising tool.

The Swiss accused Assange of lying and shut down one of his bank accounts. The swift action by Postfinance, the financial arm of Swiss Post, came after it determined the "Australian citizen provided false information regarding his place of residence during the account opening process."

Assange had told Postfinance he lived in Geneva but could offer no proof that he was a Swiss resident, a requirement of opening such an account.

Postfinance spokesman Alex Josty told The Associated Press the account was closed Monday afternoon and there would be "no criminal consequences" for misleading authorities.

"That's his money, he will get his money back," Josty said. "We just close the account and that's it."

Video: WikiLeaks founder remains defiant (on this page)

The setback leaves Assange with only a few options for raising money for his secret-spilling site through a Swiss-Icelandic credit card processing center and accounts in Iceland and Germany.

WikiLeaks has been under intense international scrutiny over its disclosure of a mountain of classified U.S. diplomatic cables, after previously releasing tens of thousands of classified U.S. military documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The unprecedented disclosures have embarrassed the U.S. and other governments worldwide and prompted U.S. officials to pressure the WikiLeaks site and its facilitators.

Servers under attack
A Swiss website, wikileaks.ch, has been handling much of the traffic from WikiLeaks after other Internet service and online payment providers began severing ties with the organization.

WikiLeaks' Swedish servers came under suspected attack again Monday, the latest in a series of online computer assaults that have knocked the secret-spilling group across the Web.

WikiLeaks, in a tweet to its followers, confirmed it was having difficulty with its PRQ severs but did not elaborate.

"We are investigating the cause," it said.

Meanwhile, in a briefing with reporters on Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he "didn't want to get into" what the U.S. government's capabilities were for shutting down WikiLeaks sites.

Story: WikiLeaks publishes list of worldwide infrastructure 'critical' to security of U.S.

"At this point I will say we have a very serious criminal investigation that is under way looking at all the things we can to try and stem the flow of this information," Holder said.

Assange has accused the United States of mounting persistent online attacks in an effort to stop WikiLeaks' disclosures.

While U.S. officials are investigating whether they can charge Assange, the 39-year-old Australian faces sexual misconduct allegations connected to his stay in Sweden over the summer.

The Swedish case has been described by his British lawyer Mark Stephens as a political stunt, but it could eventually lead to his extradition from Britain to Sweden. A European arrest warrant was issued for Assange last week and it is currently working its way through the British legal system.

Extradition experts say such warrants can take weeks or even months to lead to an arrest, although high profile cases tend to move faster. The BBC said the Swedish warrant was now with London's Scotland Yard — suggesting that matters were developing quickly.

The broadcaster didn't cite its source, and the police force declined comment.

Stephens, Assange's attorney in Britain, told the British Press Association he would fight any move to extradite his client.

Scotland Yard still must seek a warrant at Westminster and City Magistrates' Court, which handles extradition cases, before Assange is detained.

'Poison pill'
If arrested or the WikiLeaks is shut down, Assange has warned that an avalanche of national and commercial secrets would be revealed, a so-called "poison pill."

An encrypted cache of uncensored documents — an "insurance file" — has been sent to tens of thousands of supporters across the Internet to ensure the disclosure of those secrets, The Sunday Times of London reported.

"If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically," Assange said in a live chat with readers of the Guardian newspaper this week.

The Sunday Times said the U.S. Defense Department was unsure what was in the file, and computer experts said it was unlikely that the U.S. could defeat its encryption.

Assange is known to possess documents on a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan that killed civilians and Bank of America documents.

Supporters say Julian Assange, an Australian living in Britain, 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 U.S. and other countries.

Interactive: WikiLeaks timeline (on this page)

Assange has been widely praised and criticized. Supporters view him 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 will be prosecuted for the "enormous damage" the disclosures have done to the country and to its relationship with its allies.

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But even as governments put pressure on Assange, WikiLeaks lives on. The Swiss Pirate Party said Sunday that wikileaks.ch was receiving about 3,000 visitors a second.

'Copies of the website everywhere'
The party also said supporters are creating "mirrors" of the WikiLeaks site on their own servers, meaning 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 on Sunday.

"There are hundreds of mirrors of WikiLeaks now," he said. "It's a test for Internet censorship. Can governments take something off the Net? I think not. There are copies of the website everywhere."

PayPal, a subsidiary of U.S.-based online marketplace operator eBay Inc., said it cut off the WikiLeaks website because it was engaged in illegal activity.

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Amazon previously stopped hosting WikiLeaks' website and governments and hackers were continuing to go after the organization.

In an online chat with El Pais in Spain, Assange said the hunt for him was tough.

"We have hundreds of specific death threats from U.S. military militants. That is not unusual, and we have become practiced from past experiences at ignoring such threats from Islamic extremists, African kleptocrats and so on," he said.

"Recently the situation has changed with these threats now extending out to our lawyers and my children," he added. "However, it is the specific calls from the elites of U.S. society for our assassination, kidnapping and execution that is more concerning."

Australia says Assange can come home
Assange is wanted in Sweden to face allegations of sexual offenses against two women, charges he denies, but neither the United States nor any other country has lodged any charges against him over the leaked documents.

Australia would give consular help to Assange if he is arrested abroad and he is entitled to return home as well, Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland said Monday. But he also condemned the leaks as harming security and said Australia is obligated to help the criminal investigation of Assange's activities.

"Free speech is one thing, we all respect that, but we also respect the freedoms and the rights of people to live without fear," McClelland told reporters.

In the Swedish case, Assange is the target of a European extradition process which normally takes months to produce an arrest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Stakes raised in WikiLeaks investigation

  1. Transcript of: Stakes raised in WikiLeaks investigation

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There are new developments tonight in the WikiLeaks investigation with word that the wanted man at the center of all this, the founder of WikiLeaks , Julian Assange , is talking to authorities; but at the same time warning of the havoc that he could unleash if he is arrested or harmed. We get the latest on all of this from NBC 's Peter Alexander who is at London 's Scotland Yard tonight. Peter , good evening.

    PETER ALEXANDER reporting: Brian , good evening to you. Tonight, Julian Assange 's lawyer tells NBC News that he and Assange were negotiating with British authorities a time and place to meet, perhaps as early as tomorrow, to discuss allegations of sex crimes in Sweden , allegations Assange denies. It is unclear whether Assange will be arrested at the time of that meeting. Still, the WikiLeaks founder has issued a strong new warning. It's become a high stakes international standoff between defiant computer hacker Julian Assange and the American government . The latest release marked by the government "not for Internet distribution" reveals what the State Department calls "critical infrastructure" and "key resources" overseas, including factories, pipelines and oil terminals "so vital" that if they were destroyed, it would "immediately affect the public health, economic security , and/or national and homeland security of the United States ." The catalog spans the globe from a cobalt mine in the Congo to an insulin plant in Denmark , as well as the sole provider of snake anti-venom in Australia .

    Mr. ERIC HOLDER (United States Attorney General): We have a very serious criminal investigation that's under way and we're looking at all the things that we can do to try to stem the flow of this information.

    ALEXANDER: Facing arrest for the allegations of sexual misconduct, Assange is threatening to release what his attorneys refer to as a thermonuclear device in the electronic age, a secret cache of uncensored documents that Assange says he'll exposed if he's arrested or his Web site is shut down. He told online readers of a British newspaper that he's distributed heavily encrypted files, believed to include documents on BP , Bank of America and Guantanamo Bay , to more than 100,000 people worldwide. They're coded for now, but Assange warned, "If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically." One file is reportedly named "insurance," locked by a 256-digit password. This evening, Assange 's own attorney was more measured.

    Mr. MARK STEPHENS (Lawyer for Julian Assange): There's been no implied threat in relation to the Swedish arrest warrant. WikiLeaks is an organization of many thousands of journalists across the planet, and the scheduled release of information from the bank of cables will continue.

    ALEXANDER: Assange is being isolated both physically and electronically, with a Swiss bank the latest financial institution to freeze assets or block donations to WikiLeaks . The site servers have been shut down in the US and France , but hundreds of mirror sites set up by WikiLeaks supporters have popped up online. Also tonight, NBC News has learned that jihadists with links to al-Qaeda have begun an online discussion about how to use the latest WikiLeaks information to exploit US security vulnerabilities . Brian :

    WILLIAMS: Thanks for that report tonight from London .

Interactive: WikiLeaks timeline

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