Julian Assange is the itinerant hacker from the Australian Outback who gave the world the biggest leak of secret documents in history. Seven months into his embassy asylum, the cyber crusade for transparency goes on.
This is not the first time that WikiLeaks has come under attack, Assange tells me.
“We had been through a couple of fights. With a commander at the Guantanamo base. We were sued by a Swiss bank. One of my cryptographer friends was ambushed by intelligence agents in a parking lot in Luxembourg. They tried to make him tell them things about WikiLeaks.”
A cryptographer friend? Does that sound a bit like having a “hobbit friend” to you? Then let this be a warning: If you are not used to a modern Internet vocabulary, the story of Julian Assange is full of characters that may seem like they are out of a science fiction novel: cryptographer friends with vital secrets looking over their shoulders in order not to get caught; eccentric professors about to conjure up a quantum mechanics machine with the power to destroy all of cyberspace if it falls into the wrong hands; tiny torrent files, floating around in abstract space, unintelligible and meaningless when separated, but powerful information packages able to knock down governments if sewn together the right way and delivered to the masses. And they are all real and alive. Just as real and alive as the Swedish prosecutors and their extradition request for Assange or the CIA agents on a mission to stop WikiLeaks from leaking – as real as the heavy wooden door I just opened on my way into the Ecuadorian embassy in London and then shut carefully behind me. Aside from the will of a controversial South American president, that door is now the only barrier between Julian Assange and me on the inside, and the police officer from Scotland Yard (London Metropolitan Police) waiting patiently on the outside with handcuffs, a gun and orders to arrest and deport my interviewee.
Travelers in the Australian Outback
“I do what I do because I saw the opportunity,” Assange says. “Because I was born in a Western country, with the necessary education and material resources. And because I care about these issues.”
Don’t even bother to ask if he became the world’s most famous leaker and the West’s number-one dissident because of his special family background and childhood in the Australian Outback.
“I really don’t like that approach,” he says.