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 destructing 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 quizzical after two women accused him of having sex with them without a condom and without their consent.
Assange said he would fight exile 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.
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.
"We have already seen some indications of meetings that used to involve several diplomats and now involve fewer diplomats," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "We're conscious of at least one meeting where it was requested that notebooks be left outside the room."
Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the military had seen foreign contacts "pulling back."
"Believing that the U.S. is not good at keeping secrets and having secrets out there certainly changed things," Lapan said. The latest batch of confidential U.S. cables could strain relations between Washington and Moscow. The documents show that NATO secretly decided in January to defend the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against military attack.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to NATO, said Tuesday that Moscow will demand that NATO drop the agreement, which he argued is clearly aimed at his country.
"Against whom else could such a defense be intended? Against Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland? Against polar bears, or against the Russian bear?" Rogozin said.