, PARIS, Dec 3 – Pressure grew on Friday to silence WikiLeaks as the whistleblowing website was briefly forced off the Internet by cyber attacks and the government in Paris called for it to be banned from French servers.
While the diplomatic storm caused by its decision to publish some 250,000 US diplomatic cables caused further embarrassment to Washington, the lawyer for WikiLeaks\’ elusive head accused a "state actor" of trying to take down the site.
The website had to find a new Swiss domain name Friday after its original wikileaks.org address was shut down as it was suffering the massive attacks.
Lawyer Mark Stephens said the "sophisticated" efforts to take down the site may be part of a general bid to silence WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, after Sweden said it was issuing a new arrest warrant for him on sex assault charges.
"Somebody, probably a state actor, has taken control of literally hundreds of thousands of vulnerable computers across the world and got them all to dial in to the WikiLeaks website simultaneously," Stephens told AFP.
"It\’s very sophisticated and we know that Julian has suffered a number of such attacks, we know there have also been some odd other things going on in Sweden," added Stephens, who is based in London.
Assange is reportedly in hiding in Britain. Stephens would not reveal his client\’s location but he said British police and Swedish authorities know where the 39-year-old Australian is and how to contact him.
The whistleblower site came back online with its new Swiss address – wikileaks.ch – on Friday, six hours after its previous domain name was shut down by a US system provider following a series of attacks.
"WikiLeaks moves to Switzerland," the group declared on Twitter, although an Internet trace of the new domain name suggested that the site itself is still hosted in Sweden and in France, after it was kicked off Amazon\’s US servers.
But France\’s Industry Minister Eric Besson called Friday for WikiLeaks to be banned from French servers, where the whistleblower website ended up after being kicked out of the United States.
"This Internet site… is apparently since Thursday partly hosted by French host OVH," Besson wrote to the CGIET, the highest body governing the Internet in France. "This situation is unacceptable."
"France cannot host Internet sites that violate the confidentiality of diplomatic relations and put in danger people protected by diplomatic secrecy," Besson wrote, asking the CGIET to find a way to remove the site.
Amazon had booted WikiLeaks from its computer servers on Wednesday following pressure from US politicians, and a day later a group of senators introduced legislation to make it illegal to publish the names of informants serving the US military and intelligence community.
The legislation, which would amend the US Espionage Act aimed at punishing the disclosure of secret information, could help to stop such leaks from happening again.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has described the leaks as "an attack on the world" and on Thursday expressed her regret to Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari over their content.
Russia has also been upset by the leaks in which it has been branded a virtual "mafia state" and President Dmitry Medvedev derided as a "Robin" to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin\’s "Batman".
At a press conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday, Medvedev said the cables illustrated the "cynicism" of US foreign policy.
"They show the entire extent of the cynicism of these evaluations, these judgements that prevail in the various governments\’ foreign policies – and in this case I am talking about the United States."
But Medvedev tempered his comments by saying that he understood that these things were written in private and that Russian diplomatic correspondence sometimes uses language that is no more forgiving.
"God forbid if there is ever a leak of what our foreign ministry is saying or the foreign intelligence service," Medvedev said.