The life of WikiLeaks editor-in-Chief Julian Assange has never been normal. Even from a young age, the Australian computer hacker led a nomadic life with his mother Christine. Assange’s childhood largely consisted of hopping states and schools in secrecy, in what would serve as a platform of preparation for the soon to be hacker. However, nothing could prepare Assange for what would eventually arise; becoming one of the most wanted people in the world for his organization’s release of classified war logs and documents.
Assange was born in Townsville, Queensland, Australia on the 3rd July 1971, to Christine Assange and John Shipton, the latter whom Assange was estranged from until he was 25. Assange’s life on the move began during his mother’s second marriage to Richard Brett Assange in 1972, when the family began a touring theatre company. Things took an even more peculiar path in 1979, when Assange’s mother re-married to Leif Hamilton, whom reportedly had connections to the cult ‘The Family’, infamous for the abduction of children. The couple had a son, however the marriage didn’t last, causing a bitter custody battle, resulting in the pair travelling around Australia, this time on the run.
Early on Assange became used to an alternative lifestyle, where he reportedly had no access to television, collected a variety of animals, and was homeschooled by his mother, who was a social activist herself, and encouraged within Julian the sense of protest and rebellion.
In Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography, Assange is quoted, “I consider myself lucky to have been born to curious people who filled the air around me with questions.”
”My first word was ‘Why?’ It was also my favourite.”
This desire for knowledge manifested itself in the International Subversives, which Assange formed with two others in the early 1990’s. Computer systems from The Australian National University, and the US military’s secret defence data network, MILNET, were breached by this group. However, Assange imposed strict rules including, “Don’t damage computer systems you break into; don’t change the information in those systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks); and share information.” The screen name Mendax, meaning “nobly untruthful”, was adopted by Assange, demonstrating his well-grounded principles that echo strongly several years on.
Peter Graham, school friend of Assange, in an interview with The Age, confirmed his respectable personality,
“He was the sort of kid who moved a spider and let it free when the others wanted to kill it…He was always a nurturing sort of fellow.”
This was an enduring time for Assange; who joined a squatter’s union in Melbourne with his then girlfriend, and at 18 the couple married and had a son, but this would prove to be too fatiguing. In 1991 his girlfriend left with their son, and Assange was arrested. However, he was later acquitted for “good conduct”, and his “disrupted childhood”, concluding Assange’s first escape from the law.
In 2006 Assange formed WikiLeaks, a whistle-blower organization, however nothing major was achieved until 2010, with the release of the video, ‘Collateral Murder’, depicting an attack on Iraq by the US in 2007, where innocent journalists and civilians are targeted.
Since the release of this video, Assange has become a wanted man. The United States declared him a “high-tech terrorist”, with some calling for his assassination, and the Australian government has withdrawn all support.
Furthermore, since December 2010, Assange has been wanted for alleged sexual assault in Sweden, from where it’s possible Assange can be further extradited to the US, where supporters argue he won’t receive a fair trial.
Currently, Assange is trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy within London, granted diplomatic asylum, but unable to leave for fear of being arrested, completely deadlocked. On Saturday, August 18th, Assange gave this historic speech from the Ecuadorian embassy balcony, his firt public appearance since fleeing to the embassy for diplomatic asylum.
Mary Kostakidis, member of GetUp!, an Australian advocacy organization, had this to say on Assange, “I am greatly disturbed by what’s happening to Julian Assange. It overturns centuries of historic and legal precedent protecting freedom of the press, and exposes journalists around the world to the vengeance and tyranny of governments anywhere.”
What does the future hold for Assange? One cannot be sure. Even on house arrest during 2011, Assange conducted a television show, appeared in The Simpsons, and even now trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange dines with individuals such as Lady Gaga, and has time to consider suing Julia Gillard and run to be a senator. It can be certain at least; Assange is not going down without a fight. In his own words, “Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them.” (“Witnessing”. 2007-01-03)