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Julian Assange ( 1971 - )  Category ( Falsely_Accused ) [suggest a correction]
 

Julian AssangeUntil 2006, most people had never heard of Julian Assange. Indeed, the founder of Wikileaks was unknown to many until as recently as 2010. While some of his Web site's activities were well-known thanks to electronic and traditional media, the name and person who went with it achieved prominence only in 2009-2010.

By late 2010, Assange was influential enough to be counted among the nominees for Time magazine's "Person of the Year." Such fame is very new to a man who has lived most of his life in the shadows and behind a computer screen. He was born in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, to Christine, who did not know the identity of her son's biological father. When the child was one year old, Christine married Brett Assange, a theater director, who gave Julian his surname. The family lived on Magnetic Island, in Queensland.

Brett Assange was the first of several "stepfathers," though he spent the most time with young Julian, and remembers him as "a very sharp kid" with "a keen sense of right and wrong...he always stood up for the underdog...he was always very angry about people ganging up on other people." If so, then his behavior foreshadowed his career as a whistleblower the likes of the world has never seen before.

His mother remarried in 1979, this time to a musician. Another son was born to Christine, but the marriage ended in 1982. Due to a difficult custody battle, his mother took her children into hiding, where they stayed for five years. Assange changed schools frequently and was sometimes home-schooled. Julian expressed an early interest in computers, and by the time he was sixteen he was an adept hacker. His code name was "Mendax," which derives from Horace's "slendide mendax," or, "nobly untruthful." He met other young hackers and they formed a group called the International Subversives. The group claimed no malicious attacks on computer systems. In fact, Assange composed rules for hacking, including, "Don't damage computer systems you break into (including crashing them), don't change the information in those systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks), and share information."

In 1991, when Assange was living in Melbourne, Australia, the Australian Federal Police raided his home. They did so based on reports that he had hacked into a wide variety of private, corporate, and governmental computer systems around the world, including that of the United States Pentagon. He pleaded guilty to twenty-four charges, but served no time. Just one year later he was a founder of one of the first public internet service providers in Australia. During this period he worked as a programmer and software developer. He contributed to a book dealing with hacking. Then, in 1999, he registered the domain leaks.org. He later stated that he didn't do anything with it at that time.

From 2003-2006 he undertook math and physics studies at the University of Melbourne; however, he never graduated and did not make good grades. In 2006, he founded WikiLeaks. In his website's manifesto, he stated the following: "To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not." He also wrote in his blog, that "the more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie...Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance."

Assange does not control WikiLeaks alone. He sits on its nine-member advisory board and often speaks publicly on the organization's behalf. Additionally, he does not claim to be the founder of WikiLeaks; rather, he prefers the title of "editor in chief." Assange was the recipient of the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award, the 2010 Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, named number twenty-three among "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010" by the British magazine, New Statesman.

Despite these honors and support from both ordinary citizens and celebrities, Assange is a controversial figure. He has no permanent address, preferring to always be one the move. During 2010 he visited the United Kingdom, Iceland, Sweden, and other countries. Sweden currently claims to have sexual offense charges prepared to file against Assange, charges he flatly denies. Warrants were issued, and eventually Assange turned himself in to the British Metropolitan Police in London. Within a few weeks he was released on bail and placed under house arrest, pending an extradition hearing in January 2011. Upon his release from jail, he said, "I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter....this has been a very successful smear campaign and a very wrong one."


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