Whistle-blower-turned fugitive Julian Assange manged to stay off limits to the Interpol on Friday to do a live chat on The Guardian; and he was reportedly flooded with messages brimming over with admiration, fulsome praise and offers of donations and other help.
Here are some details about Julian Assange:
Assange was born in 1971, the year in which Daniel Ellberg's 'Pentagon Papers' rattled the establishment and set off an unprecedented political controversy in the U.S. Ellberg, who like Assange's source-apparent Bradley Manning, was a U.S. military analyst, had leaked to The New York Times a top-secret Pentagon paper on the Vietnam War.
Media reports describe him as a complicated person' whose parents were footloose and suggest that he lived his early life as a sort of 'new age Tom Sawyer'. He was a reputed teenage computer hacker whose attacks on an Australian telecom company's systems nearly landed him in jail. He got married at 18 and became a teenage father. His son Daniel has been estranged from him since 2007 and he fought a hard legal battle for his son's custody.
Wikipedia says he was a physics and mathematics student as well as a computer programmer before he set up the whistle-blower website. He has always been on the move, traveling from city to city and decamping at all gate, in Nietzschean terms. Being in exile is a boring routine for Assange, who has said he moved 37 times by the time he was 14, mostly because he wanted to steer clear of an allegedly abusive stepfather.
His official profile says he is editor-in-chief and the spokesperson for WikiLeaks.
Assange, who is known as a mathematics and computer wizard, emerged as a hacker of renown in the mid 90s using the moniker Mendax. His more serious contributions include writing Strobe, the first free and open-source port scanner, and the co-authoring of the book Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier. In 1991 the Australian government charged him with hacking the computers of an Australian telecom company.
He founded Wikileaks in 2006 to tear through the cloak of secrecy shrouding governments and large organizations. The first post of his website was a paper supposed to be signed by a Somali rebel leader that called for the killing of Somali government functionaries. Later on his site brought out details of extrajudicial killings in Kenya and toxic waste dumping on the African coast. He then published classified documents on America's Iraq and Afghan wars before releasing last week U.S. diplomatic cables that shamed some world leaders.
He peddles in secrets and, fittingly his organization too is as secretive as it can get. The WikiLeaks organization has no base and is operated from several different countries, he has acknowledged. He has said he has a small team of dedicated and overworked people besides about 800 volunteers. However, there is an extended network people numbering about 10,000 that work for his site. He has claimed that his organization’s digital infrastructure is more secure than those used in the banking industry.
The Australian and US governments were the first to slap criminal charges on Assange. The U.S. law enforcement agencies have said he will be charged under the Espionage Act for the publication of classified US diplomatic cables. We have an active, ongoing criminal investigation with regard to this matter, US Attorney-General Eric Holder said earlier in the week.
In Australia a federal police probe has been ordered into his activities and the government has also formed a task force to study the leaked cables. The Attorney General has said Assange might face an unpleasant welcome if he returned to Australia.
Early in November, a Stockholm court issued an international arrest warrant against Assange in a sexual harassment case and Interpol issued a Red Notice for him subsequently.
On Friday a Swedish court upheld an arrest warrant on him. He has denied the accusations and said the he had a consensual relationship with the woman who accused him of rape. This is a persecution and not a prosecution, his lawyer Mark Stephens has said.
WHERE IS HE?
According to Britain's The Independent newspaper, Assange had arrived in the UK in October and had provided the police with information on his whereabouts. The paper said he could be in southeast England. Meanwhile, UK's Telegraph newspaper said that Assange could be hiding in a secret location in London.
Assange and his inner circle have maintained that he faced death threats and was forced to stay under radar. They have also said his staying away from media attention was a deliberate act so that the rape charges and the consequent legal proceedings would not dilute the focus on his real work - the leaks.
Earlier in the week Ecuador made an offer of asylum, and then retracted the offer. President Rafael Correa said the offer was approved neither by the by foreign minister nor himself.
Coinages and phrase such reputational tax on unethical companies, 'conspiracy as governance', 'patronage networks' are attributed to Assange.
He packs powerful punch into his staccato-laden speeches highlighting the significance of his organization’s works. The real story of this material is that it's war, it's one damn thing after another, it's the continuous small events, the continuous deaths of children, insurgents, armed forces, he said while releasing documents on U.S. wars.
And he believed in the worth of his fight against what he terms as government conspiracies. He argued that, when a regime's lines of internal communication are disrupted, the information flow among conspirators must dwindle, and that, as the flow approaches zero, the conspiracy dissolves. Leaks were an instrument of information warfare, according to The New Yorker's Raffi Khatchadourian who did a gripping profile on Assange earlier this year.
This, if you like, is the beginning, the end and the middle, Assange said about the Afghan documents. This is the whole context, with some exceptions, of the Afghan war, and if anything can give us some kind of intellectual understanding, surely this is it.
SENSE OF HUMOR
On a live chat on Friday on The Guardian, a questioner asked him if there have been documents forwarded to him which dealt with the topic of UFOs or extraterrestrials. He answered: Many weirdos email us about UFOs or how they discovered that they were the anti-christ whilst talking with their ex-wife at a garden party over a pot-plant.
He however, used the question to espouse the two pillars of his 'publishing rules.' The rule no. 1 is that the documents should not be self-authored and the rule no. 2 is that it should be original.