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Close Up: Julian Assange

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Julian Paul Assange, founder, and editor of WikiLeaks the international non-profit media organization. Taking the risk of initiating a site which would leak secretive documents, was not an easy job. What thought proved Julian to establish WikiLeaks? Expect the success of WikiLeaks what are other achievement accomplished by Julian? What difficulties were faced by Assange? Who is Julian Assange? All these questions would be answered in the following article. Here is the journey of Julian Assange.

Birth and Education

Julian Assange was born at Townsville, Queensland, Australia on July 3rd, 1971. Assange had an unusual childhood, as he spent some of his early years traveling around with his mother, Christine, and his stepfather, Richard Brett Assange. The couple worked together to put on theatrical productions. Brett Assange later described Julian as a “sharp kid who always fought for the underdog. The relationship between Brett and Christine later soured, but Assange and his mother continued to live a transient lifestyle. With all of the moving around, Assange ended up attending roughly 37 different schools growing up and was frequently homeschooled. Since his early teens, he demonstrated uncanny aptitude in computers. Using the hacking nickname “Mendax,” he infiltrated a number of secure systems, including those at NASA and the Pentagon. He was charged under 31 cybercrimes in 1991 by Australian authorities, he pleaded guilty to most of them. At sentencing, however, he received only a small fine as punishment, and the judge ruled that his actions were the result of youthful inquisitiveness and in 1996 he got away with a fine. He studied programming, mathematics, and physics at Central Queensland University and graduated in 1994.

The initial start of his career

Assange started to work as a computer security consultant soon. He embarked on a career as a programmer and software developer. In 1994 he started working on the Transmission Control Protocol scanner strobe, which was completed in 1995. During this time he also worked on the open-source database PostgreSQL, Usenet caching software NNTPCache and the Rubberhose deniable encryption system. He spent three years as a researcher working with the academic, Suelette Dreyfus, who was researching on the subversive side of the internet. Their intensive research culminated in the publication of ‘Underground’ (1997), a book about Australian hackers that became a bestseller in the computing fraternity. Assange registered the domain leaks.org in 1999 and publicized a patent granted to the National Security Agency in August 1999 for voice-data harvesting technology. He felt that the common man should be concerned about the patent as it meant that everyone’s overseas phone calls could be tapped by foreign spy agencies. He enrolled at the University of Melbourne to study mathematics in 2003 but dropped out without completing his degree in 2006.

Establishing WikiLeaks

In early 2006, Assange started to work on a website which is intended to share secret information and news leaks on an international scale. This lead to the foundation of WikiLeaks and in 2007 WikiLeaks was officially launched. Assange ran the site from Sweden, leveraging the country’s strong laws protecting a person’s anonymity. Over the next few years, Assange traveled extensively all over the world visiting countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. During this time WikiLeaks released a U.S. military manual that provided detailed information on the Guantanamo detention center and shared emails from the vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, in 2008. Even though his initial reports generated some curiosity, he gained international attention in 2010 when WikiLeaks started publishing documents sent by Chelsea Manning. The Manning material included the Collateral Murder video (April 2010), the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010). In 2010 WikiLeaks posted almost half a million documents—mainly relating to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While much of the information was already in the public domain.

This was a huge success for Assange and also for WikiLeaks as the whole. The idea behind WikiLeaks was stated by Assange as that, “I looked at something that I had seen going on with the world, which is that I thought there were too many unjust acts. And I wanted there to be more just acts, and fewer unjust acts.”

Awards, Achievements, Documentaries, and movies

With the growing popularity, Assange is awarded many awards. One of these awards was delivered from the Sam Adams Award in October 2010. Assange also worked as a journalist.  For which he was awarded as the Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal for Peace with Justice in February 2011. The same year he also won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, Walkley Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism and Voltaire Award of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties.

There are various documentaries and movies on Assange. Some of them are: We still the secrets, the story of WikiLeaks, Mediastan (story and production were done by Assange), Collateral Murder (produced by Assange).

Assange’s interview TV show, named ‘the World Tomorrow’ was very popular. The show started in 2012.

Prosecution faced by Assange

The Swedish police were interrogating him in connection with two sexual assault cases and a European Arrest Warrant was issued by Swedish authorities. Assange turned himself into the London police. He spent several months in house arrest in London and in June 2012 he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorean government. Nearly two months later, in August 2012, Assange was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorean government, which, according to the Times, “protects Mr. Assange from British arrest, but only on Ecuadorean territory, leaving him vulnerable if he tries to leave the embassy to head to an airport or train station.” The article went on to say that the decision “cited the possibility that Mr. Assange could face ‘political persecution’ or be sent to the United States to face the death penalty,” putting further strain on the relationship between Ecuador and Britain and instigating a rebuttal from the Swedish government.

In August 2015 the lesser sexual assault allegations from 2010 — with the exception of rape — were dropped due to a statute of limitation violations by Swedish prosecutors. The statue of limitations on the rape allegations will expire in 2020.

Major work up till now

Julian Assange is best known as the founder, editor-in-chief, and director of the website WikiLeaks which publishes secret information. He gained international prominence after the site published controversial documents and footage from the War in Afghanistan not previously available to the public. He received widespread support from several prominent personalities including the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Recent activities

Assange and WikiLeaks returned to the headlines during the summer of 2016 as the U.S. presidential race was narrowing to two main candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. In early July, WikiLeaks released more than 1,200 emails from Clinton’s private server during her tenure as secretary of state. Later in the month, WikiLeaks released an additional round of emails from the Democratic National Committee that indicated an effort to undermine Clinton’s primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, leading to the resignation of DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In October, WikiLeaks unveiled more than 2,000 emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, which included excerpts from speeches to Wall Street banks. By this point, U.S. government officials had gone public with the belief that Russian agents had hacked into DNC servers and supplied the emails to WikiLeaks, though Assange repeatedly insisted that was not the case. On the eve of the election, Assange released a statement in which he declared no “personal desire to influence the outcome,” noting that he never received documents from the Trump campaign to publish. “Irrespective of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election,” he wrote, “the real victor is the U.S. public which is better informed as a result of our work.” Shortly afterward, Trump was declared the winner of the election.

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