Julian Assange: The man who exposed the world

Crusader. Hacker. Megalomaniac. Extortionist.

A man of many secrets

Assange calls himself the ‘editor-in-chief’ of WikiLeaks, and says his group has created ‘scientific’ journalism; WikiLeaks’ confidential files are stored in a Cold War bunker in Stockholm | Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images; Banhof AB/Polaris

When Julian Assange was finally arrested in London on Dec. 7, it was on allegations of having had unwelcome, unprotected intercourse with two Swedish women, and not for convulsing global diplomacy with his slow, controversial leak of diplomatic cables that infuriated allies, embarrassed kings and princes, were condemned by Washington for endangering lives, and dismissed by Tehran as a CIA plot. In a story worthy of a bestseller by Stieg Larsson, with its mix of state secrets, sex, and self-righteous computer geeks, it could come to pass that the man at the helm of WikiLeaks, who could not be pinned down by the U.S. Espionage Act, is vulnerable to a Swedish law against “sex by surprise.”

Assange, with his pale Warholian looks, is now a world hyper-celebrity or international super-villain, out of hiding and in custody, but still defiant. The Swedes may be the first to get him, but many more governments would like to get their hands on him. It has been a remarkable journey for someone who started out as a teenage hacker in his native Australia but became one of the most notorious men in the world—an individual who may have drastically altered the rules both in the world of diplomacy and the business of journalism. It is a story that has left people wondering about his motives, and pondering the question: what drives Julian Assange?

Assange’s first encounter with the law, and his first fight for the secrets of a government bureaucracy, trace back to 1990, when the then-20-year-old Australian hacked into the Melbourne computers of the Canadian company Nortel.

Assange had been hacking since he was 16, an escape from a childhood that could charitably be described as unstable. He was born in Townsville, a small city on the northeastern coast of Australia, and grew up, among other places, on Magnetic Island—a coastal island named for its mysterious interference with Capt. James Cook’s ship’s compass in 1770. His mother Christine was a roving, bohemian artist who moved her son through dozens of homes and schools before he was 15 (Assange’s parents split shortly after his birth, and his mother married a fellow artist when he was two).

The Townsville Bulletin reported in July that school friends “described Mr. Assange’s family as very alternative, borderline hippies, adding it was: ‘quite exciting to go to their house, so many different things were happening.’ ” Sometimes Assange went to school, sometimes he didn’t, but he was self-taught in a variety of subjects and had a passion for computers. His mother and stepfather travelled around Australia, putting on theatrical plays—his stepfather directed and his mother designed the sets.

They divorced when Assange was nine, and his mother took up with a musician whom Assange would later describe as “a manipulative and violent psychopath.” By his teens, mother and son were on the run from the abusive ex-boyfriend, criss-crossing Australia, and hiding under assumed names. They finally settled on the outskirts of Melbourne, in a rural town called Emerald. There, when he was 17, Assange married his girlfriend, whom he has described as “an intelligent but introverted and emotionally disturbed 16-year-old he had met through a mutual friend in a gifted children’s program.” A year later, they had a son, Daniel.

It was in Emerald that Assange, under the handle “Mendax,” turned a $700 Amiga computer from his mother into a portal through which his roving mind could reach into the outside world. The details of Assange’s childhood and his hacking exploits are detailed in a 1997 book entitled Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier, by Australian academic Suelette Dreyfus (on which Assange is credited as a researcher).

According to the book, the young Assange worked as part of a trio of young hackers who called themselves the International Subversives, and infiltrated computers around the world. They bragged of carrying out cyber “assaults” on what they called a “who’s who of the U.S. military-industrial complex,” from the 7th Air Force’s command group headquarters in the Pentagon, and Lockheed Martin’s Tactical Aircraft Systems plant in Texas, to corporations such as Motorola and Xerox. On one such occasion, Mendax discovered Pentagon hackers infiltrating military computers on what he surmised to be a practice mission. The possibility disturbed him. “Hackers, he thought, should be anarchists,” wrote Dreyfus. “Not hawks.”

Assange and his friends hacked for sport and bragging rights, following a credo of not damaging the computers they infiltrated and not profiting from the information they found. They used technical prowess and, at times, human deception. On one occasion, Assange resorted to calling a user of a computer system he was trying to hack, posing as a computer technician and asking for his account password, ostensibly to perform maintenance. To make the call credible from his country perch, he recreated the buzz of a Sydney office building by tape-recording a soundtrack of printer noises, his own typing, and the background murmur of his own voice reading out lines from Macbeth.

The undoing of the International Subversives would be Nortel, which sold high-tech equipment that ran some of the world’s largest telephone companies, including Australia’s. Mendax set his sights on Nortel in order to find documents that would help him manipulate telephone exchanges, or to install “back doors” in the company’s software that could enable him to control telephone switches installed by Nortel all over the world. “What power! Mendax thought, what if you could turn off 10,000 phones in Rio de Janeiro, or give 5,000 New Yorkers free calls one afternoon, or listen into private telephone conversations in Brisbane. The telecommunications world would be your oyster,” the book recounts.

Once he hacked into the system, Mendax started playing. One of his first acts was to instruct the computer to make 1,000 telephones all ring at once. He found internal security to be relaxed. “By sneaking in the back door, the hackers found themselves able to raid all sorts of Nortel sites, from St. Kilda Road in Melbourne to the corporation’s headquarters in [suburban] Toronto,” wrote Dreyfus. “One of them described it as being ‘like a shipwrecked man washed ashore on a Tahitian island populated by 11,000 virgins, just ripe for the picking.’ ”

They used a password-cracking software, which they set up on computers they believed to be located in Canada, and cracked 5,000 passwords, giving them access to thousands of Nortel computers across the globe. The hackers mused that they could dig up information on new product development or business strategies or internal memos and sell them to competitors or manipulate stock prices. But they considered themselves explorers, not spies, and such a move would have violated their ethics. And rather than get rich, they got caught—the Nortel hack led to the arrest of Assange and his friends. By May 1995, the three hackers faced 63 charges in total, 31 of them for Assange.

On Dec. 5, 1996, Assange pleaded guilty to charges, and got off with a good behaviour bond for three years and a $2,300 fine. But the consequences were severe. In the months leading up to his arrest, Assange had become paranoid, dreaming about police raids, “of footsteps crunching on the driveway gravel, of shadows in the pre-dawn darkness,” and of gun-toting police bursting in, according to Underground. His personal life fell apart. His wife left him and took their son. While awaiting trial, he fell into a depression and was hospitalized. And once the legal troubles were over, he focused on getting his son back, launching a bruising custody fight that lasted nearly a decade and eventually pitted Assange and his mother Christine against Health and Community Services, the Australian child protection agency.

During that battle, they alleged that Assange’s girlfriend’s boyfriend was a danger to the child, but had trouble getting the bureaucracy to intervene. The custody proceedings involved more than 40 legal hearings and appeals, according to the Brisbane Times. The Assanges started a group, Parent Inquiry into Child Protection, to campaign for changes to Australian law. Their investigations into Health and Community Services included a low-tech rehearsal for WikiLeaks: asking social workers to leak internal documents for the creation of a central database. They were able to obtain some internal documents, including a manual, that helped in their advocacy efforts. “What we saw was a great bureaucracy that was trying to squash people,” Christine Assange told The New Yorker magazine this year. She said the emotional toll left her son’s brown hair drained of colour, and left him scarred by what she called post-traumatic stress disorder. In 1999, he finally got a custody agreement for Daniel.

Whether his child custody battle left him with a permanent hostility to government institutions, only Assange knows for sure. But in 1999, the same year he reached the settlement, he registered the website that would later become WikiLeaks. Through the 1990s, he had been concerned with free speech and technology. In 1993, he’d started a free speech Internet service provider in Australia. In 1997, he co-invented a form of encryption that helps human rights workers protect sensitive data. He studied math and physics at universities in Australia for several years, but became disenchanted, he told the Age newspaper, with how many of his fellow students were conducting research for the U.S. defence system. In 2007, he quit his studies and went to work with an international group of dissidents, mathematicians and academics to create WikiLeaks. “Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East,” the website said. “But we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their own governments and corporations.” Assange was then described in the media as a WikiLeaks official and cryptographer.

According to The New Yorker, the first document posted on the website was a Somali rebel leader’s call to use criminals to assassinate government officials. WikiLeaks went on to post a procedural manual for the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba in 2007. In 2008, it released documents alleging wrongdoing at the Cayman Islands branch of the Julius Bär banking group of Switzerland, internal documents from the Church of Scientology, and the contents of Sarah Palin’s private emails during the 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, it released correspondence relating to climate change research at the University of East Anglia. WikiLeaks was honoured by Amnesty International for the 2008 publication of a suppressed official report about police killings in Kenya.

Assange has often discussed authoritarian conspiracies, but he has not specified whether he considers the United States to be among them. Eventually, though, WikiLeaks did come to focus on American actions—based on a huge cache of hundreds of thousands of secret government documents allegedly downloaded by a low-level military analyst. Last April, WikiLeaks posted a video of U.S. soldiers firing from a helicopter on a group of men in a Baghdad street, in an attack that killed at least 12 people, including two journalists, and injured two children. It was the beginning of a deluge of U.S. documents, all allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning, a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst who confessed in online chats to a former hacker that he downloaded them from army networks.

In July, WikiLeaks released more than 90,000 American documents, most of them classified secret, detailing six years of the war in Afghanistan. Reaction was furious: the U.S., Canada, allied governments and various human rights groups including Amnesty International condemned the release, saying that Afghan informants were endangered. But Assange has insisted there is no evidence the documents led to any harm.

After the Afghan controversy, WikiLeaks released the “Iraq war logs” that detailed the U.S. war effort. This time they were more vigorously redacted, by both the website and a consortium of international news outlets. In a deal that had started with the Afghan documents, the outside journalists would sift through the documents ahead of time, writing articles and posting a sampling of the documents that the journalists had contextualized on their own websites.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former associate of Assange’s who served for several years as the spokesman for WikiLeaks, told Maclean’s that WikiLeaks has evolved its methods through a process of trial and error. “WikiLeaks is working on a very new terrain of society,” he says. “No one has worked in that field in that way.” One decision was to release the leaks only to that small consortium of international news outlets before they were made public—a process that was itself cloaked in secrecy and left the news media of entire countries such as Canada out of the initial loop. “It was a natural consequence of what we learned: if you just put out information, people won’t touch it,” Domscheit-Berg says. “The news media wants exclusive access, they want the scoop, they want to be the first to publish, and so you have to meet that economic consideration.” By making the material exclusive to certain organizations, WikiLeaks was able to “get more resources” dedicated to analyzing the documents, Domscheit-Berg says.

While Wikileaks published all the Iraq documents—albeit heavily redacted by a computer program that left many indecipherable—it is unclear whether or when it will release all of the U.S. diplomatic cables. To date, only a small fraction have been reported on by the press and released by WikiLeaks. According to Assange, he is also in possession of documents relating to corruption in Russia, and is planning another “mega-leak” in 2011 concerning a “big U.S. bank.”

Assange has also said, even before the release of the U.S. cables, that his goal is to expose wrongdoing. At a July conference in Oxford he said that such documents would expose “the true state of, say, what Arab governments are like. They prove human rights abuses.” Asked about his values, Assange once described himself as a “combative” person who seeks to “police perpetrators of crime.” And since the cables have started to be released, he has called on President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to resign, on the grounds that some of the released documents allege they instructed U.S. diplomats to spy on foreign dignitaries at the UN (an accusation U.S. officials deny).

Clinton has called WikiLeaks’ disclosures “an attack on the international community” that puts lives at risk. Defense Secretary Robert Gates played down their impact. “Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes,” he told reporters. “Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.” Gates’s sanguine attitude aside, there is no question that American diplomacy, which the Obama administration had been trying to shore up, has been damaged.

Personal relationships have been strained; relations with the leaders of countries such as Russia and Turkey have become more difficult (some released documents were heavily critical of Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow, while others were critical of the Turkish government). Public opinion in some countries may nurse insults long into the future: witness the angry British reaction after the release of cables with U.S. officials criticizing the effectiveness of British troops in Afghanistan. There is also the cost of time and effort as diplomats scramble to do damage control rather than proceed with their work.

The cables have illustrated some instances of wrongdoing, or, at the very least, grey areas. They showed that the government of Yemen was claiming responsibility for bombings aimed at Islamic terrorists that were secretly carried out by U.S. forces; Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told U.S. Gen. David Petraeus: “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” In Spain, El Pais newspaper reported that the cables showed the role of high-level U.S. officials in trying to stymie Spanish criminal investigations into incidents of alleged torture by the United States, violations of the laws of war in Iraq, or kidnappings in connection with the CIA’s extraordinary renditions program. And Obama was criticized in Israel for telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu it was essential to make progress on the Palestinian issue in order to build up support among Arab states for putting pressure on Iran: in fact, he was already in possession of the cables in which King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called on the U.S. to “cut off the head” of the Persian “snake.”

But the leaks have also shown diplomats doing their jobs, with some instances of success: the Obama administration put together a coalition—including a previously recalcitrant China and Russia—to impose harsh economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The cables suggest U.S. diplomats got Russia on board by moving Bush-era plans for a missile defence system out of Eastern Europe and onto ships closer to Iran. China’s co-operation was achieved by brokering an agreement in which Saudi Arabia guaranteed a supply of oil if the Chinese lost their Iranian energy source.

The cables also showed that the U.S. resisted calls from Middle Eastern leaders to attack Iran. “In the Middle East, we are portrayed as these gunslingers who shoot up Iran and Afghanistan, but what comes across is that we are playing a moderate role,” says Fariborz Ghadar, a senior adviser to the Center for Strategic International Studies, a Washington think tank. “Where Arabs and the Israelis want to bomb Iran, we are basically holding everyone back. The silver lining in the Middle East is that in the public’s eye we are more reasonable than they are.”

On the other hand, the cables and the coverage they have received in the U.S., taken as a whole, paint a grim, Hobbesian picture of a world full of threats, unstable leaders and unreliable allies—some with ulterior motives, as alleged by the cable describing a cozy and lucrative relationship between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Putin. They suggest that no country, not even China, has a reliable window into the regime running North Korea. Foreign policy hawks see in the bleak picture painted by the documents an affirmation of their hardline positions. “The cables show a world with a lot of threats and challenges for the United States,” John Bolton, who served as U.S. ambassador to the UN under president George W. Bush, told Maclean’s in an interview. Bolton added that President Obama’s efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program “have failed badly” and, “absent some pre-emptive military action, Iran will get military weapons.” The cables also show, he contended, that “the whole idea that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons program would somehow cause chaos in the Middle East has not been the correct analysis.”

It is unlikely that Assange’s goal was to embolden American foreign policy hawks. In a letter to the Australian newspaper published on the day of his arrest, he wrote, “People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies.”

It is far too early to judge the full impact of the leaked cables. One unintended consequence may be to make the U.S. more cautious in pressing the issue of press freedom abroad. On the same day Assange was arrested, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley announced that in May, Washington would host a three-day UNESCO meeting to mark World Press Freedom Day. “The theme for this commemoration will be ‘21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers,’ ” announced Crowley. But, he added, “Obviously, we decided upon this before the latest round of news.”

Meanwhile, Manning, 22, the alleged leaker, is being held at the military brig at Quantico, Va., facing a possible 52-year prison term. The U.S. Justice Department is looking for charges to bring against WikiLeaks. But whatever his personal fate, Assange’s work is now bigger than himself. He has distributed the contents of other document caches to his supporters in encrypted form, and has threatened that if something happens to him, he will release the key and they will flood the Internet with their unredacted, and presumably very dangerous, contents.

Moreover, the phenomenon is about to become bigger than even WikiLeaks. Assange’s former associate, Domscheit-Berg, says he is planning to launch his own site next week. It would provide a secure way of sharing leaked documents online without publishing them on the website, he said. “Analogous to the world where you as a journalist can have someone send you a document, you should have the possibility in the digital age to receive documents via an online mechanism,” he said.

Domscheit-Berg—who left WikiLeaks after three years due to differences with Assange over the way the organization was being run—says he wants to see the proliferation of more whistle-blower websites. “I do not believe that there should be a single monolithic website that deals with this need for society to handle information. I believe in decentralization. I think we should have plenty of these sites,” he told Maclean’s.

He says he regrets that WikiLeaks has become what he calls “a pop culture phenomenon.” Public attention should focus on the documents, not the organization, Domscheit-Berg says. “The form is distracting from the content in some way which I think is sub-optimal.” Assange held on to power too closely, he said—putting himself in danger and hurting the organization. “I do not think this should be in one man’s hands—that’s partly why I left.” But as long as the focus is on the group, Domscheit-Berg plans to have his own say. The German says he is writing a book about his WikiLeaks experiences that is to be published in Germany in January.

Assange, meanwhile, is making the high-stakes case that WikiLeaks is a journalistic organization and entitled to the same legal protections as the free press. He pointedly calls himself the “editor-in-chief” of WikiLeaks, and says his group has created “scientific” journalism. “Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on,” he wrote in the Australian. “That way you can judge for yourself: is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?”

But Assange has also distanced himself from the profession. “It’s a worry, isn’t it, that the world’s media is doing such a bad job that a little group of activists is able to release more [classified] information than the rest of the world’s media combined,” he once said. But pressed further by an interviewer who described him as a former teenaged hacker, Assange shot back: “I was a young journalist/activist at an early age. I wrote a magazine and was prosecuted for it when I was a teenager. You have to be careful with ‘hacker.’ ”

According to the account in Underground, the book Assange himself helped author, that electronic magazine he edited, “The International Subversive,” recorded modem numbers and passwords collected by Assange and his two collaborators, and compiled instructions on hacking. Prosecutors used it as evidence of “incitement” to hack. It had a circulation of three.


Julian Assange: The man who exposed the world

  1. Long live Julian Assange!!! Many years to you!!!

    • While I laud the idea of exposing the illegal or immoral behaviours of government or corporations in order to force them to correct their behaviour, this relatively indiscriminate data dump of stolen documents just comes across as childish & vindictive. Governments, in order to operate, have to be able to pass confidential assessments and information.

      To be of value, they have to be frank. That means they have to have confidence that they will be secure and nonpublic.

      I'm no big fan of American foreign policy or diplomacy, but I think Wikileaks has been extremely irresponsible in their behaviour and those who provided the documents are guilty of treason. This is NOT the providing of proof of wrongdoing, as responsible journalists would report; rather, it is TMZ-style self-aggrandizement at the expense of ALL of us. That, in my opinion, make Assange beneath contempt – NOT someone worthy of praise.

      • Well put. I too have mixed emotions. I guess at the end of the day if there is no confidentiality more and more interaction will grind to a halt. On the other hand government has become so intrusive in our daily lives maybe it is long overdue for the electorate to wake up and push back. Currently we are little more than a heartbeat from a police state.

      • 1) How can he be guilty of treason if he is an Australian citizen?
        2) How has Wikileaks been irresponsible? You offer no proof. They have over 250,000 diplomatic cables in their possession and have released less than 2,000. They have done so with the help of news organizations which helped ensure that no one was harmed. As of yet, not a single person has been physically harmed by Wikileaks. Not one.
        3) Is knowing that Shell subverted Nigerian democracy TMZ-style gossip? How about the US intervened in the German judicial process to stop the prosecution of CIA agents who kidnapped and tortured an innocent man? What about the Yemeni President lying to his own people about drone strikes and military attacks? Or Hillary Clinton ordering diplomats to illegally spy and gather biometric data on world officials?

        Nothing about this data dump has been indiscriminate. In fact, it's been exactly the reverse if you actually paid attention to the facts. Carefully releasing the cables with the aid of news organizations is actually quite discriminate.

        • what information the news organizations choose to publish is on their own conscience. WL's own site gives whatever they chose to release. and 2000 is a massive lowball, just the iraqi stuff in october is ~400k.

          in regards to how this hurts world peace, consider countries' comments regarding iran or north korea, comments that would not have been made in the open for fear of destabilizing the area. In effect, WL has reduced the amount of internation cooperation between countries to diffuse these crises.

        • 1) Didn't accuse Assange of treason; accused his source (who, acording to available info, appears to be an American in the military; a clear-cut case of treason if he indeed is the source).
          2) Lots of the material released is embarrassing and has the potential to damage international relations, but in and of itself is relatively trivial and meaningless. It's like my tapping into your email account, finding nasty gossip shared privately between you and your spouse about friends and acquaintances, and sending it to everyone in your mailing list. Chidish, spiteful behaviour that damages relationships and serves no useful purpose. See e.g. the cables on American diplomats' views on Canada and Canadians. I think we Canadians are both thick-skinned and mature enough to laugh it off, but that won't be the case with some other nations. See also Alvin's comments.
          3) The Shell thing is old news. Some of the others I hadn't heard and sound newsworthy, but I frankly started tuning out anything WikiLeaks-related after the first few releases contained nothing worthwhile – a "boy who cried wolf" thing…

          • And because you 'tuned out' you've missed some biggies that are causing upheavals around the world.

          • "Consider the source." I don't have time to waste digging through trash in the hope of turning up something of value.At this point, I'll believe a WikiLeaks story has merit when independently verified. Even the National Enquirer breaks the odd genuine story – but I don't read it, either.

          • Well then, go without.

            Just don't comment on something you can't be bothered following.

          • Don't need to follow what he posts to know that I don't want to give any credibility to someone who has chosen to make a name for himself as a hacker and who is intent on bringing down governments and big business at all costs, just for the sheer delight of doing so. If there was some moral element to what he is doing; some journalistic integrity; that would be a different story.

            He's not an anti-hero; he's an unprincipled A**hole. It's about self-agrandizement, not the greater good.

  2. This is a really biased article. Calling him a super villain? Are you kidding? Anyone with even the basics of reading comprehension and critical thinking can look around and see the good wikileaks is doing for the world. http://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/julian

    • I don't think this article painted him as a super villain at all. very good article.

    • It's cute how you talk about reading comprehension and critical thinking, despite not having made it pass the first two paragraphs. Not to mention your complete failure to understand them.

      • Methinks it has to do with the editors, not with Luiza Ch. Savage, who put together a fine and nuanced article. Btw, it's not the first time Maclean's editors go for trashy just to bring in the readers. That's sad.

      • Wonderful combination of phrasing, I doubt there is a need to put it better than that… so I won't but mention how excellent the reply was – as compliments do so little rummaging in our heads. Good luck with future replies, as I can see you must have had a few (45p)…

  3. In my opinion, its fair for people to know who are their leaders and what are they up to. Yet its like if he was hoping we could do anything, we do have a moral compass, i do think that some actions committed by world leaders aren't the correct ones, but if people doesn't start concerning and speaking loud, this will only would have been a " pop culture phenomenon"…. I think at the end of the day people will turn around and pretend it never happened, let leaders lead, when we should tell them we desagree in many of the secret things they do

  4. Well annon old chum, excuse the rest of us if we fail to see all the wonderful "good" this creepy character is doing. His strange upbringing by dingbat parents is troubling to say the least. I don't see him using his talents to cure cancer, figure out how to keep nukes from the kooks running Iran and North Korea, fixing the tragedy of Haiti or Darfur or much of anything else. His main obsession seems to be embarrassing the west and the states in particular. To do this he has released private conversations he has no business having. Most of what he has released is banal stuff but in all of it he may have outed operatives working for the west and may lead to their deaths. I notice he's not taking on China or some other people as they will just not make an off hand remark about taking him out. They will just send a team out to do it. I gather he will keep some info private…for a price. Some hero you have there bud.

    • Wayne Moores, you totally sound like you're a
      Tory currently working as a political attache at DFAIT.

      Am I right?

      • No, he's not a Tory, just another useful idiot who didn't read the whole article.

  5. “People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies.”

    If this is Julian Assange's core motivation, then I am in his corner. Please do not presume to include me in your "…the rest of us…" remark there Wayne. Not even a little bit.


    • I would encourage people to argue his point I have quoted. Are there not 'just wars' … those where you are engaged in defending you and yours from those who would attack you and take what is rightfully yours? Your life perhaps? Do you perhaps believe it is OK to be deceived by those you vote to speak for you? To the point where you are risking your tax dollars at least (that could go to much better use … hospitals or charity maybe?) or risking your life on a deception at worst?


    • Well Dave, far be it for me to assume to talk for you. However you seem to be talking for Assange and presume to know this "core motivation". Considering the wide swath of what he illegally obtained and illegally released I'm not sure if anyone really knows what motivates him. I don't get a warm fuzzy feeling however that he is some sort of valiant crusader out to save the world. God help us. Most of what he has enlightened us with is banal diplomatic traffic like the assessment by an American diplomat that Canada and the States have good relations and will likely continue. Wow. On the other hand he seems have no problem releasing info that might cost people their lives. Never seems to put himself in the line of fire however. I however work with people who do. Guess who I would want to have my back. Hint: it's not the creepy little computer geek. Blackmail and extortion seem to be included in his bag of tricks. Well, I don't know, perhaps I just don't get it. Cheers.

    • What else is a journalist supposed to do but get at the truth? For too long, governments and corporations have had press secretaries hand out press releases while the news media get an easy story. This way of doing business has had its price: investigative journalism is becoming a thing of the past. But not to worry: diplomats will adapt to WikiLeaks. They will change the way they conduct foreign affairs and it will be business as usual.

  6. Getting sent to prison on an extremely creative sexual misconduct charge could at this point be the best-case scenario for Assange. Given all the powerful entities he's angered, I honestly think a bullet's going to find him sometime soon. Especially if he pulls something like this with the Russians or Chinese.

  7. He published the regular business of government, stuff they're supposed to do like diplomats giving leaders honest assessments. If people are going to use the canard that its 'free speech' then surely these same people wouldn't mind having the private conversations with their real estate agents and property assessors published? Or what they discuss with their bank or physician?

    So go ahead lefties, publish all your personal and business data. Hypocrites.

    The left only likes this guy because he undermines Western governments, especially the United States, if he had published the climategate e-mails that revealed that global warming is based on lies and misinformation, the lefties would hate his guts.

    • What's sad isn't how incredibly ignorant you are, it's how little effort you put into correcting the problem.

      Case in point, had you done as little as read the article you're currently commenting on, you may have noticed this line: " In 2009, it released correspondence relating to climate change research at the University of East Anglia"

      • Well said.

    • I think it also needs to be mentioned that wikileaks and "free speech" objectives fill the need to open the "closed door" of secrecy around the areas of "wrong doing" in organizations and government bodies.

      I can see how maybe someone who might have a professional position's personal life could be "leaked upon" for this sake of free speech and search of "wrong doing"… but I don't see the relevance in bringing up the sarcastic/ironic tone (?) of the real estate, bank, physician… stuff… a bit irrelevant, and I think you think you're a smart guy… So I think you know this (is irrelevant) already.

      So, nice try.

  8. I think Mr. Assange's talents will be utilized by some government entity down the road. ("Catch Me If You Can?") Hopefully, it will benefit the West. I have absolutely no ill will towards this man. As a woman, I'm appalled by the manoeuvres of these two female complainants on the bogus sex charges.

    I hope he is not extradited to Sweden (and what could subsequently be to the USA.)

  9. This comment was deleted.

    • Emily, and I had thought that you were intelligent, if misguided. Silly old me.

      • No, you didn't.

        But you're an American anyway so I don't pay attention to your views.

        • Wow Emily, so what the americans have done to you?

          • Americans as individuals are nice people. Americans collectively are a pain in the ass.

            'American Exceptionalism'….the belief that Americans are especially blessed by God, and called to rule the world is something they learn from the crib.

            It's just now dawning on some of them they may have gotten that bit wrong, and that the other 7 billion people on the planet think differently.

  10. The difference between Assange and (what I would call) "credible" journalists is the sense of objectivity that one should bring to an article or investigation. Assange is obviously a rabid anti-American, anti-authority, conspiracy theory zealot…not some sort of icon of "modern" investigative journalism.

    Looking forward to the Openleaks group starting up and putting the emphasis back on the content instead of the messenger.

    • Where…in all the cables….is there any commentary whatever by Assange?

      • It's not commentary, but the fact that he just keeps throwing up everything of the slightest prurient interest in the hope of embarrassing the Americans. If WikiLeaks were posting ony those documents which clearly indicated wrongdoing, then they would arguably be serving an honourable, journalistic purpose. There may be some worthwhile gems among the trash, but mostly it's gossip aimed at embarrassing the Americans and drawing attention to themselves a la TMZ. I've been tuning out most stories with the word WikiLeaks on principle, after reading the first few.

        • You tuned out, remember?

          So you've missed all the stuff about other countries, and they clearly indicate wrongdoing.

          Your loss.

          • If they have any real meat to them they'll be independently verified by a reputable source and I'll catch up then. In the meantime, I have no interest in furthering Assange's cause.

          • Okay…bye.

        • Again, I point out, do you think he magically has sources inside every government? He's throwing up what he's got. That it happens to be from the US shouldn't be surprising.. it's been well known for years that the US is great at spying, but lousy at protecting its own secrets.

    • I don't think you had to use the word "obviously" there. It got slightly overpowered by the rest of that sentence (see: rabid anti-American, anti-authority… zealot…). Some pretty emotionally charged words, I'd say. Making your point, quite well – steering everyone away from the realm of "modern journalism" quite nicely.

      *shakes head*

      Words have a funny way of manipulating our minds. But I'm not fooled, and I don't think the hundreds of other legitimate critical thinkers are either.

      "Rabid"? I mentally moved that word to the (the writer was too emotionally distracted to think clearly, but gets creative points section of my brain) "Anti-American" -by now, this is has become pretty generalized.

      "anti-authority" – subjective… and really, a lot of us are on some level of relativity able to identify with a bit of this quality… Given the Maclean's history on Assange, it sounds like his "anti-authority" feelings come from a valid place.

      "conspiracy theory-ZEALOT" Ok. I'm going to pause here and collect my thoughts, cause I am lost on this… I don't see the connection to Assange on this one, and it's possible I don't have the information that you have… i could be missing a legitimate boat on this one… so I apologize in adavance for that, I don't see the link between this man, and this label.

      All the best with your Openleaks adventures…. and the marketable market project… I'm sure the movement away from the "by the people for the people" Wikimedia approach is going to be just FANTASTIC! (read into that, how you like) Good God.


      • I'd like to add to the "conspiracy theory ZEALOT" label with the only factual information that I can come up with thus far:

        quote (apparently) July 19, 2010

        "I believe in facts about conspiracies," he says, choosing his words slowly. "Any time people with power plan in secret, they are conducting a conspiracy. So there are conspiracies everywhere. There are also crazed conspiracy theories. It's important not to confuse these two. Generally, when there's enough facts about a conspiracy we simply call this news." What about 9/11? "I'm constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11, when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud."

        Read more: http://chomsky-must-read.blogspot.com/2010/07/wik

  11. Under Criminal Code of Canada (same for UK and USA) section 354 every one commits an offence who has in his possession any property or thing or any proceeds of any property or thing knowing that all or part of the property or thing or of the proceeds was obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from theft.Bradley Manning stole the property of the Departments of Defense and Foreign Affairs who shared the information on Supranet Network.The offence is indictable and Assange has to be criminally charged without any fear to be heckled by so called "journalist-activists".

    • Assange is Australian. American laws don't apply to him.

      • Ignorance on full display today…

        Assange's citizenship is irrelevant. The laws of whatever country he is currently in apply to him. If he sets foot in the US, or in a country with strong relations with the US their laws will be made to apply regardless of his citizenship. After all, it would appear that Swedish law applies – despite being an Australian!

        • The law against espionage in the US applies only to Americans…not to Ozzies currently in the UK.

          Assange has done nothing illegal.

          • Aside from aiding and abetting an American engaging in treason, and receipt of stolen goods…

          • Assange has broken no laws, sorry

            The goods aren't 'stolen', they are right where they've always been.

            Don't blame Manning for this either…this isn't a sole source expose, nor is it solely about America, nor is it solely about the state dept.

            See…you miss things when you don't pay attention.

          • Goods don't have to be physical to steal them; you might want to read up on things like intellectual property laws. And as the information he posted consists of private and confidential documents belonging to a sovereign state, which was made available to citizens of that state, then he HAS in all likelihood broken that counrtry's laws. If he believes otherwise, then such a "principled" man as Assange should have no problem with travelling to the US and arguing his case in court before his accusers.

            Thought not.

            Question for you, Emily: would you feel the same if he posted all your private emails, your financial information, and your bank account # and PIN?

          • You might want to know the US has no laws covering this, and neither does anyone else.

            In fact they are scrambling to make a new, 'retroactive' law, to cover it

            FYI…the govt you pay taxes to support is lying to you. And thousands of people have died for it. Plus they are trying to make a political prisoner out of him.

            Doesn't that bother you?

            If not, that explains your moral code. Luckily other people have one.

          • First, I don't pay taxes in the US.

            It's a given that governments lie – at least by omission – about some things, to prevent others who might use that information against us from having it. I'm actually more of an idealist than most people I know – but I'm also enough of a realist to know there are dangers in absolute honesty.

            Lots of things about US (and other governments') policy bothers me. I don't believe, for example, that the US government thought Husein had WMDs. If WikiLeaks were limiting itself to turning up and exposing evidence of criminal misconduct or of lying to start wars, then I'd be in favour. But cables about Canadians' dislike of Americans based on viewing CBC programming? How is this anything BUT grandstanding? There is no moral element to this.

            And that is why I have no time for Assange: HE has no morals. HE is out to cause as much trouble for as many people as he can, simply because he can.

          • …continuing…

            Don't mistake me for some American sycophant; I've said enough negative things about American policy over the years that Homeland Security probably has me flagged. I just don't believe two wrongs make a right.

            Assange has no more morals or scruples than the people he purports to want to bring down. It's his very amorality and lack of concern for collateral damage that I consider dangerous (and by no means in a heroic sense). He's an anarchist; no different, in my eyes, than the Black Bloc. Only his methods differ. Doesn't THAT bother YOU?

  12. Mr. Assange "has threatened that if something happens to him, he will release the key and they will flood the Internet with their unredacted, and presumably very dangerous, contents". That sounds like black mail to me…There is nothing glamorous about that. With that comment he exposes himself for what he really is…one more terrorist taking advantage of the desire for openness and freedom of speech by nations who try to make democracy work. Just like with 9/11 and border security, because of Mr. Assange we will probably end up with the antithesis of what the internet was created to be.

    • But this ridiculous over-the-top persecution of someone who hasn't done anything illegal is okay with you?

      Don't play chicken and egg games with something where the timeline is known.

      • There is something called abetting a crime…which he obviously did.For the rest, I do not know enough to decide whether he committed a crime, or not. Neither do you. However, this knee-jerk defense of the guy is worrisome, especially since you do not say anything about the fact he is holding the whole world hostage by threatening dire consequences if something is to happen to him…that, dear Emily, is terrorism. If he is innocent of any crime, why worry. (By the way, some of his current associates when member of the German Caos computer club did commit serious crimes (as did he when he hacked the Nortel computers, thus at least in the past his ethics left something to be desired).

        • No, terrorism is when someone like Tom Flanagan goes on national TV to advocate the murder of an individual.

          Assange has done nothing criminal; or why aren't you calling for all those media outlets which published the cables to also be charged as criminals?

          You don't understand that free democracies are supposed to be open and accountable, do you?

  13. I am not sure exactly where I sit on this whole ordeal yet. I do not agree with releasing classified information that could risk our troops or economic interests. I realize that people all want to know what thier government is up to, but some things are just not meant to be public knowledge. If anyone knows an example of a government with an open-book policy that worked, I would like to know about it. I also want to know what they want with this information (the people supporting Assange). How is knowing gov secrets going to benefit them? Sewing more seeds of distrust at a time like this, will only weaken your current government, and then you're on your way to 3rd-world politics. You can try to vote in another gov that you believe to be honest, but you will be mistaken. There are no honest governments, so if you want to know thier secrets, work for them. I work in the military, and I am not biased, I just know that showing your hand in a high stakes game is never a good idea.

    • Had Wikileaks existed when Bush wanted to invade Iraq, everyone would have known he was lying about weapons….and thousands of lives….American and Iraqi….would have been saved.

      • You're probably right Emily. That is one posative outcome that could have happened. But the negative and dangerous outcomes of exposing secrets far outwiegh the posative. I believe in honesty and always will, but we don't live in an honest world. As long as there has been civilized mankind, there has been 'cloak and dagger' activities between rival nations. Believe me, I don't like it any more than you do. I have completed 3 tours to Kandahar with the Canadian infantry, I want peace as much as anyone.

  14. Adding to that: I'll put this whole thing in another context. Say government is our 'boss', and our lives as citizens our 'jobs'. The boss controls finances, transportation, security, ect. so that we can do our jobs. If we expose some dirt on our boss, he can be fired, and who knows who will replace him? Our reputation would be scarred permanently throughout the world. Our jobs would become very unstable. Other nations confidence in us would fall, as would our economy. Even with a new and better boss, the damage is done. If EnRon were to get a new CEO people would line up to invest again? I guess I'm saying that international politics are a murky and dangerous world, one that I wouldn't meddle with.

    • I'd say structuring the relationship of citizens to its government as being the employees to a boss is deeply flawed. Indeed if I was trying to use such terms, which I think is questionable at best, I'd say in a democracy the ideal would be the government as employee to the citizen. If you find your government or in this case the employ stealing, or doing naughty things, or just being a general unproductive screw-up, you fire his ass and hire someone who is competent and trustworthy.

      Second the "Devil you know, rather than the one you don't," requires somewhat contorted logic. If you know it's a devil, get rid of it and you may, or in fact are even more likely, get a worthwhile replacement. And if you get another devil get rid of him too.

  15. the article seem to leave out his early CIA connections….anybody ever heard of the Hegelian dialectic…. Problem reaction solution…… 1. Problem – classified information being released to the public… 2. Reaction: That sensitive information threatens security and diplomacy 3. solution – Espionage act and limitations on free speech…… heres a link to an article written by Naomi Wolf of the Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-wolf/post_139

  16. When governments commit crimes for which "ordinary" citizens would be imprisoned – things such as fraud, illegal surveillance and much darker and more painful activities – they become a boil that must be lanced for their societies to regain their health. It's never a terribly pleasant process, but is a needed one for a society to maintain viability.

    Anyone shocked at the Wikileaks information has been living a delusional life or accepting unquestioned the diet of self-censored pap that comes from US MSM. If this serves as a wake-up call then good – an honestly vigilant media is part and parcel of a robust society that is willing to put up with personal discomfort for the good of the nation. Note: NOT the good of the government of the day – if they are dishonest or dysfunctional they should be replaced. The nation persists.

    … to be continued

    • nice!

  17. …and furthermore…

    Additionally, does anyone think that Assange or anyone in his organization broke into these organizations after hours and stole the information? Leaks are just that – they are made available by someone on the inside who simply cannot put up with duplicity any longer, and who wisely (sad to say) does not believe any government line on supposed protection of whistleblowers. That itself is the biggest psychological honeypot in living memory.

    So then is this process (the "Wikileaks model") actually a form of controlled revolution? Think about it for a while. Is it what people do when they feel powerless and they have no alternative to make their voices heard, but do have the technological knowledge to embarrass their powerful opponents?

    Given the systems in which we live, and with which (all things considered) most of us are for the most part happy, what kind of environment would make this kind of Wikiaction unnecessary?

  18. Julian Assange is putting himself in a very targeted position.

  19. The worlds masses relish the moment that the activities of wrongdoing of powerful political, business interests and hypocritical religious elements are confirmed by good reporting.
    Truth is often so elusive to the average citizen and is extremely costly to prove for most.
    Yet once one takes a political position for or against any group or regimes activities the reporter often becomes a target as well, regardless of how right their moral compass may be and this will require one to be ever more vigilant to adhere to the highest of principles and standards.
    We all want to applaud those who do stand up to serve for the rights and justice of the innocent regardless of whom it may shed or cast in an unfavorable light, even though the rich and powerful may castigate, imprison or excommunicate you.
    At the same time good reporting then must neither be repressed when it exposes deceitful efforts to concealed crimes of any government, business, religion and their agents or employees.

  20. Forgot to add "Rapist" to list of 'ists… .