A dream come true for WikiLeaks founder

Wednesday December 1 2010

Photo I  AFP WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyer Bjorn Hurtig (left) meets the media after an international arrest warrant was issued on Sunday against Assange, in a rape investigation.

Photo I AFP WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyer Bjorn Hurtig (left) meets the media after an international arrest warrant was issued on Sunday against Assange, in a rape investigation. 

By PATRICK MAYOYO and Agencies

The founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks whose exclusive dossiers have captured the attention of the world is a man who seems to have achieved his dream.

Julian Assange had dreamt that one day the Internet would be used to step government and corporate excesses.

Before he posted the diplomatic cables that have put the US at the centre of a global diplomatic storm, he posted a secret video shot by an American attack helicopter of Iraqi civilians and a Reuters photographer being mowed down, apparently in cold blood.

Recordings of US air crew mocking the dead deeply embarrassed the Pentagon, outraged Iraqi journalists and enhanced the aura surrounding Assange, a figure so elusive that he even refuses to confirm his age: “I prefer to keep them bastards guessing.” he told Sunday Times.

Mr Assange also claims to have influenced the Kenyan presidential election in 2007 by exposing corruption at the highest levels. He published the Kroll report on Anglo Leasing.

Assange who has caused major embarrassment for both the Pentagon and US State Department by the diplomatic cables has announced that his next target will be the private sector and an American bank in particular.

Mr Assange, 39, told The Telegraph in London that he had a new set of secret documents that, when released, will trigger another Enron scandal.

“It will give a true insight into how banks behave in a way that will stimulate reforms,” he told Forbes in an interview published on Monday night.

He said the documents include secret BP files and other energy companies, pharmaceuticals and “industrial espionage.”

Mr Assange has gone underground after Interpol issued an arrest warrant against him over a rape charge and plans by US to level espionage charges.

The output of Assange’s brainchild is massive. Within a yea, the site’s database had grown to 1.2 million documents: now, as many as 10,000 flood in daily.

Thanks to Assange’s army of online dissidents, you can study the design of the Nagasaki atomic bomb or a report on how Britain acquired its nuclear weapons capability.

The one secret WikiLeaks has failed to divulge is Assange’s background. But his parents ran a touring theatre company in Australia and he went to more than 30 schools.

WikiLeaks went public in January 2007. The website stated vaguely that it was “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa”.

Assange described himself merely as a member of the site’s advisory board and was later referred to as the founder.

With a budget of £175,000 (Sh22 million) a year, the site relies on donations and free legal support.

WikiLeaks has no shortage of critics. Assange’s stance that all leaks are good leaks, means he would never censor anything that is militarily sensitive. That has caused alarm.

Asked who gets the final call, he replied: “Me, actually. I’m the final decision if the document is legit.

Stop killing

“When governments stop torturing and killing people, and when corporations stop abusing the legal system, then perhaps it will be time to ask if free-speech activists are accountable.”

Assange’s parents met at a demonstration against the Vietnam War and instilled in their son a sense of rebellion. He left home at 17 and spent some time sleeping rough in Melbourne.

But the Internet was his one true passion and he became part of the computer underground, learning to hack into email accounts belonging to the rich and influential, and mining their secrets. He found WikiLeaks in 2007.

He has no home address, preferring to travel with a lap top and clothes in his rucksack, often popping up in Sweden or Iceland, countries whose laws protect Internet anonymity.