A new website backed by Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, and free Internet advocate John Perry Barlow is raising funds for embattled WikiLeaks, Julian Assange's controversial site that publishes secret governmental documents without permission.

Assange, an Australian, is currently living in the embassy of Ecuador in London seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he has been charged with rape and molestation. Assange, 41, has denied the charges. He said Sunday he's also fearful of extradition to the U.S. if he's deported to Sweden first.


After WikiLeaks divulged millions of classified government documents in November 2010 involving the U.S. and other countries, its online fundraising was blocked by Visa (NYSE:V), Mastercard Inc. (NYSE:MA) and the PayPal unit of eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY). Then the charges against Assange were brought in Sweden.


Now, through the new Freedom of the Press Foundation, Ellsberg, Barlow, actor John Cusack and others have created a new site, www.pressfreedomfoundation.org, to funnel cash to WikiLeaks and other groups including the National Security Archive, Muck Rock News and The UpTake, all of which support disclosure of classified materials.


“WikiLeaks has suffered under a financial blockade” by the other online payment sites, the foundation said. It hailed the site's release of classified government cables exposing the “collateral murder” of civilians in 2008 in Iraq, more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables “which revealed the agendas of powerful groups throughout the world,” and more than 2 million e-mails from Syrian political leaders from 2006 through 2012.


The foundation also said it plans to create a newsletter to advocate for “transparency journalism” and other journalism issues.


Nominally operated by the Foundation for National Progress in San Francisco, the website reminds prospective donors that their identities will likely become known to their payment processor, so it also provides an address to which “anonymous contributions” can be mailed.


“Although we make good faith efforts to store information” securely, it said, “we cannot guarantee complete security.”


The foundation doesn't provide an online indicator of receipts since it went live on Dec. 16.


Shares of Visa rose 68 cents to $149.81, while those of Mastercard rose $1.08 to $490.40 in Tuesday trading.