The Cable

State Department: We did not ask PayPal to cut off WikiLeaks

The State Department denied a report today that it contacted the online money transfer service PayPal and asked them to cut ties with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, who remains behind bars in the United Kingdom.

"It is not true," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable. "We have not been in touch with PayPal."

Osama Bedier, vice president at PayPal, told an audience Wednesday at Paris' tech conference Le Web'10 that PayPal had shut down its business with WikiLeaks, which used the electronic money transfer service to collect donations, at the request of the State Department.

"The State Department told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward. We first comply with regulations around the world making sure that we protect our brand," Bedier reportedly said..

Crowley said that PayPal made the decision based on a publicly available letter sent last week to Assange and his lawyer from State Department counselor Harold Koh, which called the disclosure of 250,000 diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks an "illegal dissemination" of classified documents and said the leaks "place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals -- from journalists to human rights activists and bloggers to soldiers to individuals providing information to further peace and security."

A reporter from the TechCrunch blog confirmed with Bedier after his speech that he was in fact working from the Koh letter that State had sent to WikiLeaks.

Crowley also responded to the remarks of Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who seemed to alter his country's position on Assange, who is an Australian citizen, "Mr. Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorized release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network," said Rudd Tuesday. "The Americans are responsible for that."

"He's correct in that the primary responsibility for the leak existed within the United States government," Crowley said, being careful not to criticize Rudd and create yet one more diplomatic problem.

As for whether the United States will seek to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917 or some other U.S. laws, Crowley said that decision would be made by the Justice Department and the Defense Department. But he was clear about the State Department's position on the matter.

"Certainly, we believe that what Mr. Assange has done in the aftermath of that leak has put the interests of our country and others at risk, and put the lives of people who are reflected in these documents at risk," Crowley said. We haven't changed our view."

AFP / Getty Images

The Cable

Obama 'confident' New START will receive a vote this year, Kyl not so sure

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he had discussed holding a vote on the New START treaty with Russia this year with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and that he expected this to happen.

"I confident that we are going to be able to get the START treaty on the floor, debated and completed before we break for the holidays," Obama said after his bilateral meeting today with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. "That's not linked to taxes; that's something that on its own merits is supposed to get done, needs to get done."

As of last Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told The Cable that a deal with Republicans to move the treaty this month was close at hand. But if the Senate GOP leader on this issue, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), is close to striking a deal, he is keeping that information to himself.

"There's a lot going on," Kyl told reporters after a meeting Wednesday with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). "We're trying to make sure that there is adequate time for each of the things that have to be done. And senators don't want to feel like they're being cheated of that adequacy of time. They don't want to be jammed."

Kyl had linked the New START vote to a resolution of the tax debate last week, saying that debate on New START can't go forward until the tax issue was resolved. Kyl has also said that the Senate needs at least two weeks to work on the treaty and address GOP senators' concerns about nuclear modernization, missile defense, and verification.

Meanwhile, virtually everybody who hasn't yet weighed in on the treaty is now chiming in. A group of GOP House members (who can't vote on the pact) sent a letter on Tuesday calling for the treaty to be delayed until next year.

Now, The Cable has learned that House Democrats, led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), have sent their own letter calling for swift ratification.

Former President George H.W. Bush issued a one line statement Wednesday in support of the treaty. But he declined to say that the treaty should be ratified this year, similar to the stance former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took Tuesday.

"I urge the United States Senate to ratify the START treaty," Bush 41's statement read.