Julian Assange is the Editor, Publisher and Activist who found WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks gets information from around the world whistleblowers or say anonymous people and publish them on their website.
The information is usually against the government or some confidential information which should not be known to the world.
Julian Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006 and assigned himself as it’s editor-in-chief.
Julian had a disrupted childhood since his mom went through 2 marriages and a partner, they had to keep on shifting their location until his mid-teens.
At the age of 16, in 1987, Julian made a hacking group along with two other friends known as “the International Subversives ”. Julian Assange hacked under the name “Mendax”, Latin for liar.
His interest in programming & cryptography grew at this age. In 1993, he was among one of the first public Internet Service Providers in Australia. In 1996 he ran a website giving advice on how to keep one’s computer secure and had nearly 5000 subscribers.
At the age of 20, the Australian police tapped Assange’s phone and caught him hacking. Eventually, after a few years, he was charged with 31 accounts of hacking and similar crimes but was released with a nominal bail amount and on a good behaviour bond.
It is believed Assange was involved in the Worms Against Nuclear Killers (WANK) hack, which Assange has denied.
Wikileaks and its Foundation
Assange had registered the domain leaks.org in 1999 but he didn’t have any motive at that time to use it.
In the year 2006, Assange and his team founded Wikileaks with Assange as the editor-in-chief of the website. In 2015, Wikileaks claimed they have released more than 10 million documents in their first 10 years of publications.
What is Wikileaks?
Before going into the technicality of Wikileaks I would like to explain you the use and necessity of Wikileaks in common terms.
Say you have come to know a very important information, an information which is a secret and can’t with passed on to someone or in general anyone.
Following may be some the reasons for not being able to pass on the information:
- It’s related to someone’s death or life.
- If you reveal the information you have, you get jailed.
- The information is related to a scandal and you don’t want to be involved in it.
- The information is related to a government official or a top bureaucrat or a big businessman.
As a good citizen you want to let out the information and a good way of doing it is by being anonymous. So, you can either tell to police or a journalist or a news agency but what are the odds that your identity won’t be revealed. You can’t trust the government because they don’t want their “Top Secret Information” to be revealed. Therefore, you can’t trust the police too because it works for the government. And Publishers and news agency are always looking out for making money so in the process your name could leak out.
Now here comes the role of WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks assures you that by no means it reveals your name. They publish your top-secret information with the necessary proofs and claim that they will keep the source of information anonymous.
James Ball, an ex-WikiLeaks employee says that Wikileaks is an “Intelligence agency for people” and is open for public.
Maintaining the anonymity of the source is the key principle of WikiLeaks because only then the public will have courage to bring up the secrets they have been knowing. And by far Wikileaks claims it is successful in doing so.
WikiLeaks publishes internet censorship lists, the unsanctioned release of confidential information to news media and classified media provided by anonymous sources.
Famous Leaks by WikiLeaks.
Sarah Palin Email Hack
The Leak that brought WikiLeaks into international attention was the Sarah Palin email hack in 2008 during the United States Presidential Campaign. An anonymous hacker got access to her personal Yahoo email account of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
WikiLeaks published the data hacked from the account.
British National Party Membership List
The website of British National Party mistakenly posted for a brief time its membership list. Some anonymous people snapped a copy of it and published it on WikiLeaks.
Killings by Kenyan Police
WikiLeaks published the report The Cry of Blood — Report on Extra-Judicial Killings and Disappearances written by the activists Oulu GPO and Oscar Kamau Kingara.
Two of the above Human Rights activists were killed by Kenyan Police without sanction from the government.
Peru Oil Scandal, 2008
WikiLeaks published 86 telephone recordings of peruvian politicians and businessmen involved in the “Petrogate Oil Scandal”.
Nuclear Accident in Iran
The head of Iran’s Atomic Research Energy Organization resigned after 12 years under mysterious circumstances. This lead to the suspicion of a Nuclear Accident at Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.
The Minton Report
Toxic dump by Singaporean based oil and commodity shipping company at the Ivory Coast, Africa. Harmful chemicals must have effected more than 1 Lakh people with effects including skin burns, eyes burns, diarrhea, vomiting and even death.
Iraq War Logs
WikiLeaks claimed that it had 400, 000 classified US documents about the war in Iraq. The secret files showed how the details of torture to the common civilians of Iraq was ignored by US authorities.
US and UK quoted Iraq War Logs as the largest leak in the US military history.
Chelsea Manning gave WikiLeaks a video of the Garnai Airstrike in Afghanistan, Baghdad Airstrike, Iraq War Logs, Afghan War Diaries etc. The Garnai air strike had killed more than 80 Afghan Civilians.
And many such revelations were published by WikiLeaks under Assange’s control.
Honours and Awards Given to Julian Assange
Below are the few Awards and Honours given to Julian Assange for his work to bring the right information to the public.
Assange describes himself as an advocate of information transparency.
Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet is a book written by him in 2012.
The New Media Award by The Economist, 2008
Time Person of the Year, Reader’s Choice, 2010
Sam Adam’s Award, 2010
Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, 2011
Big Brother Award Italy 2012 “Hero of Privacy”, 2012
Gavin MacFadyen Award, 2019
Catalan Dignity Prize, 2019
Arrest Of Julian Assange
The United States District Court investigated Julian Assange related to computer related crimes in the year 2012. The Embassy of Ecuador in London accepted Assange’s request for asylum since 2012 and he had been staying there until 2019.
Assange was accused of rape and sexual harassment by two Swedish women in 2010 though Assange has denied these allegations.
A formal investigation was held on Assange related to the documents released by Chelsea Manning and Assange feared that he could be extradited to the U.S. officials.
Sweden dropped Rape allegations against Assange, saying there is no hope in getting answers from him. But Assange faces arrest in Britain if he leaves the embassy because he refuses to appear in the court.
In April 2019, Assange’s right to asylum was detained by Ecuadorian authorities due to some disputes and the police were called to arrest him.
The United States government has charged Assange for violating the Espionage Act and also related to documents leaks by Chelsea Manning.
Assange is imprisoned in HM Prison Belmarsh and is reported to be severely ill may be due to medical neglect and torture.
When asked by the Judge whether he accepts the extradition, Assange replied “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people”.
Julian Assange is the biggest whistleblower of all time because he gave a platform to other whistleblowers to reveal the secrets they know. He wanted to create transparency between the government and its people without secrets.
Julian Assange’s trial was postponed till May due to the ongoing Pandemic, which Assange could not attend due to illness.