WASHINGTON - PayPal is releasing all of the remaining funds in an account set up to raise money for WikiLeaks, but it will no longer accept donations for the site.
John Muller, PayPal's general counsel, announced the move in a blog post in which he said PayPal's decision to restrict the WikiLeaks account was not the result of any pressure from the US government.
Besides PayPal, Mastercard and Visa have also suspended WikiLeaks accounts, choking off donations to the website that has been releasing confidential and embarrassing US diplomatic cables.
The move has triggered cyber attacks in recent days on the websites of the internet payment and credit card companies by supporters of WikiLeaks.
Muller said "media reports" had "created confusion about PayPal's decision to permanently restrict the account that was raising funds for WikiLeaks."
He said PayPal is obliged to comply with international law and company policy bars use of the service "if it encourages, promotes, facilitates or instructs others to engage in illegal activity."
"In 2008 and 2009, PayPal reviewed and restricted the account associated with WikiLeaks for reasons unrelated to our Acceptable Use Policy," Muller said. "As soon as proper information was received from the account holder, the restrictions were lifted.
"The account was again reviewed last week after the US Department of State publicised a letter to WikiLeaks on November 27, stating that WikiLeaks may be in possession of documents that were provided in violation of US law," he said.
"PayPal was not contacted by any government organisation in the US or abroad," he said. "We restricted the account based on our Acceptable Use Policy review."
"Ultimately, our difficult decision was based on a belief that the WikiLeaks website was encouraging sources to release classified material, which is likely a violation of law by the source," Muller said.
"While the account will remain restricted, PayPal will release all remaining funds in the account to the foundation that was raising funds for WikiLeaks," he said.
"We understand that PayPal's decision has become part of a broader story involving political, legal and free speech debates surrounding WikiLeaks' activities," Muller said.
"None of these concerns factored into our decision," he said. "Our only consideration was whether or not the account associated with WikiLeaks violated our Acceptable Use Policy."