The Whistleblower

Assange was the winner of the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award (New Media), awarded for exposing extrajudicial assassinations in Kenya with the investigation The Cry of Blood Ð Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances.

The Whistleblower
In these times, it is commendable to know of people who are attempting to bring forward the facts on such sticky situations as the war in Afghanistan and the (prior, but on-going) war in Iraq.

Very recently, Wiki Pedia released another 400,000 documents on top of the prior 70,000 documents which deal primarily with Iraq and Afghanistan, resulting in serious implications for US and British foreign policy. Just what has gone on in the name of national security and how real are the grave concerns about the way people are being treated in these two theatres of war.

Being a whistleblower organisation must take a lot of guts, or a foolhardy sense of wanting to be the focus of attention on the world stage. Julian Assange, at present, cannot be judged for his and his organisation Wiki LeaksÕ actions.

To know that so much inhumane suffering has occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan is so obscene that it warrants cleaning up, accountability and responsibility taken for the supposed actions.

Meet Julian Assage.

Julian Assange is an Australian internet activist, best known for his involvement with Wikileaks, a whistleblower website. Assange was a physics and mathematics student, a hacker, and a computer programmer, before taking on his current role as Wikileaks’ spokesperson and editor-in-chief.

He has been described as being largely self-taught and widely read on science and mathematics. From 2003 to 2006, Assange studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne but does not claim a degree. On his personal web page Assange described how he represented his University at the Australian National Physics Competition around 2005. He has also studied philosophy and neuroscience.

In the late 1980s he was a member of a hacker group named “International Subversives,” possibly going by the handle “Mendax” (derived from a phrase of Horace: “splendide mendax,” or “nobly untruthful”). He was the subject of a 1991 raid of his Melbourne home by the Australian Federal Police. He was reported to have accessed various computers belonging to an Australian university, Canadian telecommunications company Nortel, and other organisations via modem to test their security flaws. In 1992 he pleaded guilty to 24 charges of hacking and was released on bond for good conduct after being fined AU$2100.

In 1989, Assange started living with his girlfriend and soon they had a son. She separated from him after the 1991 police raid and took their son. They engaged in a lengthy custody struggle.

Career as computer programmer
Starting in 1994, Assange lived in Melbourne as a programmer and a developer of free software. In 1995, he wrote Strobe, the first free and open source port scanner. He contributed several patches to the PostgreSQL project in 1996. He helped to write the 1997 book Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier which credits him as researcher and reports his history with International Subversives. Starting around 1997 he co-invented the Rubberhose deniable encryption system, a cryptographic concept made into a software package for Linux designed to provide plausible deniability against rubber-hose cryptanalysis, which he originally intended “as a tool for human rights workers who needed to protect sensitive data in the field.”

Other free software that he has authored or co-authored includes the Usenet caching software NNTPCacheand Surfraw, a command line interface for web-based search engines. In 1999, Assange registered the domain leaks.org; “but,” he says, “then I didn’t do anything with it.”

WikiLeaks
Wikileaks was founded in 2006. Assange now sits on its nine-member advisory board, and is a prominent media spokesman on its behalf. While newspapers have described him as a “director Òor “founder Òof Wikileaks, Assange has said “I donÕt call myself a founder,” but he does describe himself as the editor in chief of Wikileaks, and has stated that he has the final decision in the process of vetting documents submitted to the site. Like all others working for the site, Assange is an unpaid volunteer.

Awards
Assange was the winner of the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award (New Media), awarded for exposing extrajudicial assassinations in Kenya with the investigation The Cry of Blood Ð Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances. In accepting the award, he said: “It is a reflection of the courage and strength of Kenyan civil society that this injustice was documented. Through the tremendous work of organizations such as the Oscar foundation, the KNHCR, Mars Group Kenya and others we had the primary support we needed to expose these murders to the world.” He also won the 2008 Economist Index on Censorship Award. Assange says that Wikileaks has released more classified documents than the rest of the world press combined: “That’s not something I say as a way of saying how successful we are Ð rather, that shows you the parlous state of the rest of the media. How is it that a team of five people has managed to release to the public more suppressed information, at that level, than the rest of the world press combined? It’s disgraceful.”

In September 2010, Julian Assange was voted as number 23 among the “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures 2010” by the British magazine New Statesman. In their November/December issue, Utne Reader magazine named Assange as one of the “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.”

Public appearances
Assange has said he is constantly on the move, living in airports. He has lived for periods in Australia, Kenya and Tanzania, and began renting a house in Iceland on 30 March 2010, from which he and other activists, including Birgitta J—nsd—ttir, worked on the ‘Collateral Murder’ video. He has appeared at media conferences such as New Media Days ’09 in Copenhagen, the 2010 Logan Symposium in Investigative Reporting at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism,[  and at hacker conferences, notably the 25th and 26th Chaos Communication Congress. In the first half of 2010, he appeared on Al Jazeera English, MSNBC, Democracy Now!, RT, and The Colbert Report to discuss the release of the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike video by Wikileaks.

On 3 June He appeared via video conferencing at the Personal Democracy Forum conference with Daniel Ellsberg. Daniel Ellsberg told MSNBC “the explanation he [Assange] used” for not appearing in person in the USA was that “it was not safe for him to come to this country.” On 11 June he was to appear on a Showcase Panel at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Las Vegas, but there are reports that he cancelled several days prior. On 10 June 2010, it was reported that Pentagon officials are trying to determine his whereabouts.

Based on this, there have been reports that U.S. officials want to apprehend Assange. Ellsberg said that the arrest of Bradley Manning and subsequent speculation by U.S. officials about what Assange may be about to publish “puts his well-being, his physical life, in some danger now.”

In The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder called Ellsberg’s concerns “ridiculous,” and said that “Assange’s tendency to believe that he is one step away from being thrown into a black hole hinders, and to some extent discredits, his work.” In Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald questioned “screeching media reports” that there was a “manhunt” on Assange underway, arguing that they were only based on comments by “anonymous government officials” and might even serve a campaign by the U.S. government, by intimidating possible whistleblowers.

On 21 June this year Assange took part in a hearing in Brussels, Belgium, appearing in public for the first time in nearly a month. He was a member on a panel that discussed Internet censorship and expressed his worries over the recent filtering in countries such as Australia.

He also talked about secret gag orders preventing newspapers from publishing information about specific subjects and even divulging the fact that they are being gagged.

Using an example involving The Guardian, he also explained how newspapers are altering their online archives sometimes by removing entire articles. He told The Guardian that he does not fear for his safety but is on permanent alert and will avoid travel to America, saying “[U.S.] public statements have all been reasonable. But some statements made in private are a bit more questionable.” He said “politically it would be a great error for them to act. I feel perfectly safe but I have been advised by my lawyers not to travel to the U.S. during this period.”

On 17 July, Jacob Appelbaum spoke on behalf of WikiLeaks at the 2010 Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in New York City, replacing Assange due to the presence of federal agents at the conference. He announced that the WikiLeaks submission system was again up and running, after it had been temporarily suspended. Assange was a surprise speaker at a TED conference on 19 July 2010 in Oxford, and confirmed that WikiLeaks was now accepting submissions again. On 26 July, after the release of the Afghan War Diary Assange appeared at the Frontline Club for a press conference.

Assange advocates a “transparent” and “scientific” approach to journalism, saying that “you canÕt publish a paper on physics without the full experimental data and results; that should be the standard in journalism.” In 2006, CounterPunch called him Australia’s most infamous former computer hacker.” The Age has called him “one of the most intriguing people in the world” and “internet’s freedom fighter.” Assange has called himself “extremely cynical.” The Personal Democracy Forum said that as a teenager he was “Australia’s most famous ethical computer hacker.” He has been described as thriving on intellectual battle.

Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg said that Assange “is serving our [American] democracy and serving our rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations, which are not laws in most cases, in this country.” On the issue of national security considerations for the U.S., Ellsberg added that “any serious risk to that national security is extremely low. There may be 260,000 diplomatic cables. ItÕs very hard to think of any of that which could be plausibly described as a national security risk. Will it embarrass diplomatic relationships? Sure, very likelyÑall to the good of our democratic functioning.”

Against this Daniel Yates, a former British military intelligence officer, believes Assange has jeopardised the lives of Afghan civilians: “The logs contain detailed personal information regarding Afghan civilians who have approached NATO soldiers with information. It is inevitable that the Taliban will now seek violent retribution on those who have co-operated with NATO. Their families and tribes will also be in danger.” to the criticism,
Assange said in August 2010 that 15,000 documents are still being reviewed “line by line,” and that the names of “innocent parties who are under reasonable threat” will be removed. This was in response to a letter from a White House spokesman. Assange replied to the request through Eric Schmitt, a New York Times editor. This reply is what Assange claimed to be an offer to the White House to vet any harmful documents, however, Schmitt told the Associated Press that “I certainly didn’t consider this a serious and realistic offer to the White House to vet any of the documents before they were to be posted, and I think it’s ridiculous that Assange is portraying it that way now.”

 

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