Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

The secret life of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

Nikki Barrowclough | June 14, 2010
Julian Assange Julian Assange, the man behind the world's biggest leaks, believes in total openness and transparency - except when it comes to himself. Nikki Barrowclough tracked him down.

"You're not swept up in the trivialities of a nation. You can concentrate on the serious matters. Australia is a bit of a political wasteland. That's OK, as long as people recognise that. As long as people recognise that Australia is a suburb of a country called Anglo-Saxon.''

Could he ever live in one place again? A brief silence. ''I don't think so,'' he says finally.

''I don't see myself as a computer guru,'' he remarks at one point. ''I live a broad intellectual life. I'm good at a lot of things, except for spelling.''

At one point, thinking about some of the material leaked on Wikileaks, I ask Assange how he defines national security. ''We don't,'' he says crisply. "We're not interested in that. We're interested in justice. We are a supranational organisation. So we're not interested in national security.''

How does he justify keeping his own life as private as possible, considering that he believes in extreme transparency?

''I don't justify it,'' he says, with just a hint of mischievousness. ''No one has sent us any official documents that were not published previously on me. Should they do so, and they meet our editorial criteria, we will publish them.''

Assange isn't paid a salary by Wikileaks. He has investments, which he won't discuss. But during the 1990s he worked in computer security in Australia and overseas, devised software programmes - in 1997 he co-invented ''Rubberhose deniable encryption'', which he describes as a cryptographic system made for human rights workers wanting to protect sensitive data in the field - and also became a key figure in the free software movement.

The whole point of free software, he comments, is to ''liberate it in all senses''. He adds: ''It' s part of the intellectual heritage of man. True intellectual heritage can't be bound up in intellectual property.''

Did being arrested, and later on finding himself in a courtroom, push him into a completely different reality that he had never thought about - and eventually in a direction that eventually saw him start thinking along the lines of a website like Wikileaks, that would take on the world?

''That [experience] showed me how the justice system and bureaucracy worked, and did not work; what its abilities were and what its limitations were,'' he replies. ''And justice wasn't something that came out of the justice system. Justice was something that you bring to the justice system. And if you're lucky, or skilled, and you're in a country that isn't too corrupt, you can do that.''

 

Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Next Page 

Sign up for MIS Asia eNewsletters.