He may by now be one of the most well known whistleblowers of all time. He generates fear and anger in many powerful people, and publicly makes enemies of those who probably would have no compunctions about ordering his assassination.
He leaks and threatens to leak classified and secret information unreported to and withheld from the American public about US Government and military conduct and actions but known quite well to the victims of those actions in other countries that now has the Pentagon and the US Government “gunning” for him.
His bio at TED.com describes him this way:
You could say Australian-born Julian Assange has swapped his long-time interest in network security flaws for the far-more-suspect flaws of even bigger targets: governments and corporations. Since his early 20s, he has been using network technology to prod and probe the vulnerable edges of administrative systems, but though he was a computing hobbyist first (in 1991 he was the target of hacking charges after he accessed the computers of an Australian telecom), he’s now taken off his “white hat” and launched a career as one of the world’s most visible human-rights activists.
He calls himself “editor in chief.” He travels the globe as its spokesperson. Yet Assange’s part in WikiLeaks is clearly dicier than that: he’s become the face of a creature that, simply, many powerful organizations would rather see the world rid of. His Wikipedia entry says he is “constantly on the move,” and some speculate that his role in publishing decrypted US military video has put him in personal danger. A controversial figure, pundits debate whether his work is reckless and does more harm than good. Amnesty International recognized him with an International Media Award in 2009.
Assange studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne. He wrote Strobe, the first free and open-source port scanner, and contributed to the book Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier.
“WikiLeaks has had more scoops in three years than the Washington Post has had in 30.”
— Clay Shirky
Assange recently talked with TED’s Chris Anderson during TEDGlobal 2010 about how the WikiLeaks site operates, about what it has accomplished, and about what drives him.
The interview includes graphic clips of the US airstrike in Baghdad, taken from the “Collateral Murder” video WikiLeaks released earlier this year of the murder of two Reuters journalists and about a dozen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad by a rogue US Military command structure that runs all the way to the Commander in Chief’s office in the White House and an Apache Helicopter gunship crew who have yet to face any justice or sanction for their crimes.
TED.com, July 2010
Full transcript follows…