How WikiLeaks Keeps Its Funding Secret

The controversial website WikiLeaks, which argues the cause of openness in leaking classified or confidential documents, has set up an elaborate global financial network to protect a big secret of its own—its funding.

Some governments and corporations angered by the site's publications have already sued WikiLeaks or blocked access to it, and the group fears that its money and infrastructure could be targeted further, founder Julian Assange said in an interview in London shortly after publishing 76,000 classified U.S. documents about the war in Afghanistan in July. The move sparked international controversy and put WikiLeaks in the spotlight.

In response, the site has established a complex system for collecting and disbursing its donations to obscure their origin and use, Mr. Assange said. Anchoring the system is a foundation in Germany established in memory of a computer hacker who died in 2001.

WikiLeaks's financial stability has waxed and waned during its short history. The site shut down briefly late last year, citing a lack of funds, but Mr. Assange said the group has raised about $1 million since the start of 2010.

WikiLeaks's lack of financial transparency stands in contrast to the total transparency it seeks from governments and corporations.

"It's very hard work to run an organization, let alone one that's constantly being spied upon and sued," Mr. Assange said in the interview. "Judicial decisions can have an effect on an organization's operation. … We can't have our cash flow constrained entirely," he said.

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