Wikileaks boss an enigma

2010-12-05 14:46

Is man of mystery Julian Assange a hero or a villain?

A former American presidential candidate has labelled him “an ­anti-American agent with blood on his hands”.

A spokesperson for the US state department says that he is “no journalist and no whistleblower; he is a political actor with a political agenda”.

The lawyer for two Swedish women calls him a sex criminal. His fans describe him as a hacker.

He is the frontrunner in one of the most influential international surveys and Time magazine might soon elect him as its “Person of the Year.”

Yet nobody knows precisely who Assange is.

The 39-year-old founder of WikiLeaks is one of the most enigmatic figures in the cyber world.

Often, nobody knows where he is. Assange has allegedly lived in several countries, ranging from his motherland, Australia, to Tanzania and Iceland.

After Interpol announced that it was on his trail with regard to allegations that he sexually assaulted two Swedish women, however, ­nobody could trace him.

Assange told acquaintances he was in hiding because he feared for his life after leaking a few thousand American diplomatic documents a week ago.

According to UK newspaper The Daily Mail, British police discovered that he was in hiding in the south of Britain.

According to numerous internet sources which have published “the facts” of his unusual life, Assange started his nomadic lifestyle as a child when his mother went into hiding, taking him and his stepbrother with her.

A young genius, Assange studied mathematics, physics, computer science and philosophy.

He continued his nomadic lifestyle while he was studying at ­different universities, and has apparently never had a job.

In the late 80s he built up a reputation as a leading hacker and founded the group The International Subversives.

The group regarded themselves as “ethical hackers” and acted ­according to a set of rules, for ­instance to never damage a computer or alter information.

Since he started WikiLeaks in 2006, Assange has received a number of awards, including one from Amnesty International, for the way WikiLeaks exposed assasinations in Kenya.

Through the years WikiLeaks has caused a lot of embarrassment by revealing all sorts of secrets.

When the Church of Scientology complained in 2008 about the fact that WikiLeaks had published some of its documents, WikiLeaks responded by publishing a few thousand more.

It has also hacked into Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s Yahoo account and published information from it.

This week Palin, writing on facebook, said that Assange was not a journalist, just like the editor of ­Al-Qaeda’s new English magazine, Inspire, was not an editor.

A group of US senators, including Senator Joe Lieberman, this week proposed that legislation be introduced to enable the prosecution of any whistle-blower who publishes the names of American military informants.

» Compiled by Johannes de Villiers

WikiLeaks

» What is WikiLeaks?

A non-profit media organisation that publishes and comments on

leaked documents alleging government and corporate misconduct because mainstream

media has long since lost its independence.

The information and secrets are placed on the internet for everyone

to read.

“We accept, but do not recruit, information from anonymous

sources,” writes WikiLeaks.

» How does it work?

People can leak data on the WikiLeaks website by using an

“electronic box”. Their latest security software is used to direct messages via

many countries to this box, making it virtually impossible to track the

whistleblower. ­

Information contained in CD format can also be send to a postal

address in Australia.

WikiLeaks provides tips on how to guarantee that the serial number

of the CD cannot be traced.

WikiLeaks claims to have a team of journalists and

researchers who investigate all information submitted to establish whether it is

factual before publishing.

» The history of WikiLeaks

The website published 76?900 secret documents on the American war

in Afghanistan under “The Afghan War Diaries”.

In April it published footage

showing American soldiers killing Iraqi civilians.

WikiLeaks was sued for

publishing “secrets” of the Catholic Church and the Church of Scientology.

In 2008 it released information regarding murders committed by the

Kenyan police.

» Mr WikiLeaks and his gang of helpers

Australian internet activist and mathematician Julian Assange (39)

is the face of Wiki­Leaks and lives in Sweden.

He is currently in hiding – not

only due to the current diplomatic storm the latest WikiLeaks documents have

created, but also because he is wanted on an Interpol arrest warrant for sexual

offences.

The charges were laid by two Swedish women who claimed he sexually

assaulted them.

WikiLeaks is supported by five full-time ­personnel and thousands

of volunteers.




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