Julian Assange

Founder of WikiLeaks
Julian Assange

BIOGRAPHY SUMMARY

In 2006, Australian computer programmer Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks, the website that would eventually gain worldwide fame for publishing Chelsea Manning’s leaked Afghan and Iraq war files. Assange remains a controversial figure, currently residing in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London under fear of extradition to the United States.
Julian Assange Overview ‧ read
Who is Julian Assange?
The world-famous founder of WikiLeaks is currently under asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, avoiding extradition to the United States. But who is Julian Assange, and how did he get there?

Background in ethical hacking

The son of anti-war activists, Julian Assange showed an early aptitude for hacking. At 16, he formed a hacking group with two friends in Melbourne, calling themselves the “International Subversives.” Together they successfully hacked into a number of high-profile targets, including the Pentagon, Citibank, Lockheed Martin, and several universities.

In 1991, Australian Federal Police raided Assange’s home, eventually charging him with 31 counts of hacking and related crimes. He pleaded guilty to 25 and was released with a fine because of his age and lack of malicious intent. Two years later, Assange would cooperate with local law enforcement, providing technical assistance and helping prosecute child pornographers.

WikiLeaks

Assange and others started WikiLeaks in 2006, releasing a document that implicated a Somali political figure in an attempt to assassinate government officials, and soliciting similar leaks with a secure online drop box to protect whistleblowers. Anticipating pushback from powerful organizations, Assange assumed a nomadic existence, traveling all over Asia, Africa, and Europe to make WikiLeaks more difficult to track down and attack.

WikiLeaks finally gained international attention in 2010 when U.S. Army intelligence analyst used the website to leak the largest set of classified documents ever released, including 400,000 files’ worth of Afghan and Iraq war logs, hundreds of thousands of U.S. State Department cables, and a particularly damning video of an airstrike in Baghdad, which WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder.”

Since the Manning leaks, WikiLeaks has continued to publish more secret documents including the Guantanamo Bay files, the Syria files, and emails from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta.

How WikiLeaks keeps sources anonymous

WikiLeaks uses “high-end security technologies ” to keep its sources anonymous and beat censorship. They include:

  • Encrypted electronic drop boxes that allow sources to submit information anonymously
  • Submission from neutral locations like net cafes and wireless hotspots, so sources can’t be traced even if WikiLeaks is infiltrated by an external agency
  • Cover domains that get past government blocks on websites that include the WikiLeaks name and defend against denial of service (DoS) attacks
  • Hosting on multiple servers owned by hosting companies that support WikiLeaks
  • Tor and PGP anonymity software anonymity software

Accolades

Many people see Julian Assange as a heroic figure, who has defended the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know the truth at great personal cost. In 2010, Time magazine readers voted him Person of the Year. In his home country of Australia, Assange was awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal for Peace with Justice.

Legal troubles

The Manning leaks of 2010 earned Assange many enemies, especially in the U.S. government, with the attorney general announcing soon after that the Justice Department was pursuing an active, ongoing criminal investigation into WikiLeaks.”

Around the same time, Swedish authorities opened a case against Assange over allegations of rape and sexual assault. Assange denied the allegations, and the investigation was eventually dropped, but not before Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he still resides today.

Despite the lack of formal charges from the U.S. or Sweden, Assange and his supporters believe that if he set foot outside the embassy, he would be swiftly detained by law enforcement on an outstanding British arrest warrant, whereupon he could be extradited to the U.S.

In 2017, the embassy granted Assange Ecuadorian citizenship and attempted to appoint him to a diplomatic position at its embassy in Moscow, a move that was blocked by British authorities.
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