In light of Sweden’s decision to drop rape charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Berning Media has asked me to review the impact of the man who, at one time or another, has been both a hero or a villain in the eyes of both major American political parties.
In doing so, I’ve made heavy use of the sources listed in the Wikipedia entry about Assange. Note that I’ve checked each individual source for accuracy instead of just relying on the entry itself. Much like WikiLeaks, the function of Wikipedia cannot be forgotten.
Though Assange is most famous for his 2006 role in creating WikiLeaks, he has a life story that goes back much further.
First, the Courier Mail reports that Assange was born in Townsville, Queensland. His birth father, John Shipton, left his mother, Christine Ann Hawkins before Julian was ever born.
A year after his birth, his mother married actor Richard, Brett Assange. They divorced around 1979, which was before Julian was even 10 years old. Following her divorce, Christine got involved with an Australian cultist named Leif Hamilton and had a son with him before breaking up in 1982.
Fast forward to his mid-teens, and Assange had lived in over thirty Australian towns. Needless to say, a settled lifestyle is not the kind he is accustomed to.
Think Assange’s foray into illegal digital activity began in WikiLeaks? Think again.
Before he was even twenty years old, Assange began hacking under the pseudonym “Mendax”. With no Youtube tutorials or other resources to learn from, his foray into hacking resulted in hacks of no less than MILNET, NASA, the U.S Navy, Citibank, Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon, Motorola, Panasonic, Xerox, the Australian National University, La Trobe University, and Stanford Universities SRI International.*
In 2006, Assange and unnamed others founded WikiLeaks, which began to publish news leaks and classified documents from unnamed leakers. By 2015, more than 10 million documents were published under the domain.
Information in WikiLeaks wildly varied both in which organization faced whistleblowing and what the whistleblowing revealed about their activities.
Case in point, the leaking of DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign e-mails during the 2016 campaign heavily contrasts with WikiLeak’s first published document, which revealed documents indicating that Somalian Sheik Hassan Dehir Aweys planned to assassinate government officials.
Not all leaks, however, were created equal. The leaks that gave Wikileaks its worldwide mix of notoriety and praise came from Army private Chelsea Manning, whose 35-year prison sentence was commuted by former President Barack Obama this year.
Within those leaks, one of which displayed soldiers shooting 18 people from a helicopter in a video glamorously dubbed “Collateral Murder”, Manning revealed many secrets about the war in Iraq that the U.S Government would have preferred to keep under wraps.
In the present day, WikiLeaks is still up and running as the self-described “protective intermediary” between leakers and the press that Assange claims it is. Now, however, there is a narrative that WikiLeak’s reporting of the DNC e-mails was the result of collusion with the Russian Government to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and hand off the U.S Presidency to the less hawkish Donald J Trump.
If true, this collusion would undermine WikiLeaks’ reputation as a non-partisan leak depository that simply speaks truth to power.
That being said, any collusion between WikiLeaks, Trump, and Russia would not have automatically guaranteed a Trump victory. FiveThirtyEight reports that the relationship between the emails and Clinton’s loss is indeterminate at best, so those looking for an autopsy of Clinton’s defeat should not be content with blaming it on WikiLeaks.
Though Assange is officially no longer being prosecuted for rape, his legal troubles are not over yet. As the New York Times reports, simply leaving the protection of London’s Ecuadorian Embassy could subject him to arrest and possible extradition to the United States to stand trial.
In Britain, he could be arrested for jumping bail. In the U.S, however, it’s possible that the government would prosecute him for providing technical help to Chelsea Manning in order to aid her leaking of government secrets.
Any other charges would prove difficult to apply, as the Supreme Court has protected journalists who published classified materials from being subject to arrest because of the first amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press.
Right now, at least, Assange seems to be stuck managing WikiLeaks from his small space in the Ecuadorian Embassy. In the future, he may be extradited to Ecuador and live his life in asylum. Only time will tell what awaits the rogue informant