WikiLeaks has finally made good on a months-old pledge to contribute financially to the defense of 23-year-old Bradley Manning, according to a group raising money for the imprisoned Army private suspected of providing WikiLeaks its most important U.S. releases.
But the sum, $15,100, is less than half the $50,000 WikiLeaks originally promised. It’s also less than the group pledged in December, when WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said WikiLeaks would immediately transfer $20,000 to Manning’s defense fund.
The Bradley Manning Support Network, which expressed frustration last month that it had not received the promised pledge, praised WikiLeaks’ contribution Thursday. ”This donation from WikiLeaks is vital to our efforts to ensure Bradley receives a fair, open trial,” wrote Mike Gogulski, the network’s founder, in a press release.
Combined with funds that the Support Network has already raised for Manning’s defense, the total amounts to more than $100,000, the flat fee that defense attorney David Coombs had originally agreed to charge for defending Manning. Gogulski noted in his e-mail that the expected expense for Manning’s defense has now risen to about $115,000.
Manning was arrested last May in Iraq, and briefly held in Kuwait before being transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Manning is believed to be the source who provided WikiLeaks with a classified U.S. Army video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack on civilians in Iraq, 250,000 U.S. State Department cables, and logs containing about 500,000 U.S. military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
WikiLeaks highlighted Manning’s plight after his arrest, writing on Twitter, “We do not know if Mr. Manning is our source, but the U.S. military is claiming he is so we will defend [him].” In a fundraising e-mail last June, the organization said it needed more donations in part because it was “flying a legal team to Kuwait,” where Manning was being held. “Any financial contributions will be of IMMEDIATE assistance.” The group subsequently promised to send $50,000 to the Bradley Manning Support Network.
But while salaries were paid out to founder Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks members, the promised support to Manning failed to materialize. Assange recently received about $88,000 in retroactive salary for his work with WikiLeaks in 2010. He also recently signed a $1.5 million book deal to publish his memoir.
Loraine Reitman, a member of the Support Network’s steering committee, shied away from placing blame on WikiLeaks. “WikiLeaks is the reason we’ve been able to get so much money and donations,” she told Threat Level last month. “They’ve been linking to us and tweeting about us, and every time they do it, donations come in.”
WikiLeaks has received at least $1.2 million in donations since it began accepting contributions via PayPal and bank transfer payments. The donations have been handled for WikiLeaks by the Berlin-based Wau Holland Foundation since October 2009.
The organization initially spent these contributions frugally, tapping just $38,000 between October 2009 and July 2010. But by December, its costs swelled to nearly half of its nest-egg, about $495,000. A Wall Street Journal story last month said that around $133,000 of that money was paid out as salary for WikiLeaks staffers who’d submitted invoices requesting compensation for their 2010 work.
Hendrik Fulda, vice president of the foundation, says Wau Holland will soon release a report detailing all the donations and expenses it has handled for WikiLeaks. “Our report on the money paid out is in the final stages, we’re now putting text to the numbers. So it should be out in the next week or two,” said Fulda in an e-mail. “We’re still on the legal / tax issue from our end, which seems to be complicated, but expect this to be sorted by end of January.”
The long overdue Wau Holland report will be the first public disclosure of WikiLeaks’ finances. The organization and founder Assange have been criticized by supporters and others for failing to provide a transparent accounting of donations and expenses. According to the Telegraph, the Wau Holland Foundation was issued two official warnings by charity regulators in Germany for failing to file the required financial reports.
Last month, PayPal and Bank of America cut off the mechanism to provide donations to WikiLeaks through their services, amid mounting U.S. pressure against the organization for releasing diplomatic cables. Assange claimed in a recent interview that his group has been losing about $620,000 a week since it began publishing the cables. He did not, however, provide any information to substantiate the claim.