WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested and jailed without bail Tuesday in a sex-crimes investigation, but his organization scarcely missed a beat, releasing a new batch of the secret cables that U.S. officials say are damaging America's security and relations worldwide.
A month after dropping out of public view, the 39-year-old Australian surrendered to Scotland Yard to answer a warrant issued for his arrest by Sweden. He is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of having sex with them without a condom and without their consent.
Assange said he would fight extradition to Sweden, setting the stage for what could be a pitched legal battle. And as if to prove that it can't be intimidated, WikiLeaks promptly released a dozen new cables, including details of a NATO defense plan for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that made Russia bristle.
The Pentagon welcomed Assange's arrest.
"That sounds like good news to me," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on a visit to Afghanistan.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson insisted Assange's arrest and the decision Tuesday by both Visa and MasterCard to stop processing donations to the group "will not change our operation."
Hrafnsson said the organization has no plans yet to make good on its threat to release en masse some of its most sensitive U.S. documents if it comes under attack.
There appeared to be no need.
To protect WikiLeaks, scores of individuals and organizations ó including the office of Bolivia's leftist Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera ó have created websites that either partially or fully duplicated WikiLeaks' main site. WikiLeaks said more than 1,000 such "mirror" sites had gone up by evening.
At a court hearing in London, Assange showed no reaction as Judge Howard Riddle denied him bail while he awaits an extradition hearing Dec. 14. The judge said Assange might flee if released. When the judge asked him whether he would agree to be extradited, Assange said: "I do not consent."
It was not publicly known which jail Assange was sent to, since British police never reveal that for privacy and security reasons. Some prisoners occasionally get Internet access, though only under close supervision.
The U.S. government is investigating whether Assange can be prosecuted for espionage or other offenses. On Tuesday, Pentagon and State Department officials said some foreign officials have suddenly grown reluctant to trust the U.S. because of the secrets spilled by WikiLeaks.
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