What You Need to Know Julian Assange

Who is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?

We have heard the name Julian Assange, but how did he become a household name?

Assange was born on July 3, 1971, in Townsville, a city in the Australian state of Queensland, according to Biography

He traveled with his mother Christine and stepfather Brett Assange, who were in the theater.

After his mother and stepfather broke up, Assange moved around the world with his mother, attending about 37 different schools, as well as being homeschooled.

His love for computers started when he was a teenager with his first computer he received as a gift in 1987 from his mother, a Commodore 64, CNN reported. Assange was 16.

Two years later, when he was 18, Assange married and had a child, but his wife left him with their son, CNN reported.

In 1991, he broke into the master terminal of a telecommunications company. He was charged with more than 30 counts of hacking, but was only fined for the damage he caused.

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He followed his passion as a computer programmer and software developer. He studied mathematics at the University of Melbourne, but left the school without graduating for what he said were moral reasons. He didn’t like working on computer projects for the military, Biography reported

In 2006, Assange started working on WikiLeaks to collect and share information internationally, officially launching it in 2007 from Sweden. That same year, the website released a procedure manual for the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, CNN reported. In 2008, he shared emails from Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor, who was the vice presidential running mate of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during his bid for the White House, CNN reported.

In 2010, Assange was under investigation by Swedish police for alleged sexual molestation, illegal coercion and rape. He turned himself in to London police for a warrant from Sweden. All but the rape allegations were dropped in 2010 and the statute of limitations on those were set to expire in 2020. They were eventually dropped in 2017.

When news of his 2010 arrest was released, U.S. officials responded positively, since he had been releasing classified U.S. intelligence documents, including more than 90,000 related to the war in Afghanistan, with additional documents related to the Iraq War, CNN reported. Many government officials in the U.S. and all over the world had called for his arrest for releasing classified information, but Assange’s supporters said it was freedom of speech and that he was shining a light on injustice, CNN reported.

In 2011, WikiLeaks released more classified U.S. documents, including details from within the walls of the U.S. Navy detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, as well as a quarter-million U.S. diplomatic papers, CNN reported.

In 2012 he went to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to prevent his extradition, after fighting it for more than a year. 

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy Of Ecuador on May 19, 2017 in London, England. Julian Assange, founder of the Wikileaks website that published US Government secrets, has been wanted in Sweden on charges of rape since 2012. He sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and today police have said he will still face arrest if he leaves.
Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

He was granted political asylum by the government of Ecuador. But if he were to leave the embassy he could be arrested by the British authorities. The reason given for the asylum “cited the possibility that Mr. Assange could face ‘political persecution’ or be sent to the United States to face the death penalty.”

In August 2012, he called the investigation into WikiLeaks a “witch-hunt” demanding that the case be dropped. A month later, he addressed the United Nations asking again that the U.S. end its investigation against him and WikiLeaks, CNN reported

Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship last December, but the country cut his internet access three months later, saying that Assange’s actions could damage “the good relations that the country maintains with the United Kingdom, the rest of the states of the European Union, and other nations.”

While taking refuge under the umbrella of the Ecuadorian government, WikiLeaks inserted itself in the 2016 presidential election. In July of that year, the website released more than 1,200 emails from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton curated from a private server she used as she served as secretary of state. Other emails from the Democratic National Committee were released by WikiLeaks that showed that the DNC tried to undermine Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic primary field, Bernie Sanders. The leak lead to the resignation of DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Biography reported.

WikiLeaks then released 2,000 more emails, this time from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. The U.S. government said that Russian hackers gave the emails to WikiLeaks. Assange denies the government’s claims.

As for the emails themselves, Assange said he had no “personal desire to influence the outcome” of the election and did not get the emails from now-President Donald Trump’s campaign. 

Assange said that no matter who won the vote, “the real victor is the U.S. public which is better informed as a result of our work.”

U.S. politics and government have not been his only focus. Assange has also exposed killings in Kenya, toxic waste dumping on the Ivory Coast, manuals for the Church of Scientology and documents of large banks, The Telegraph reported.

Two films have been made about Assagne’s life -- the documentary “We Steal Secrets” and “The Fifth Estate,” a feature film starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

In October, Assange filed a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian government, claiming officials are “violating his fundamental rights” saying that the embassy officials are limiting his contact with those on the outside and that they are censoring.

Embassy officials gave Assange a memo that tells him the rules for living at the government location, including cleaning his quarters and looking after his animals, The New York Times reported. The memo was released by an Ecuadorian news outlet. It also spelled out who can visit Assange and what rules they need to follow to get permission to see him. The memo specifies what services the embassy will provide, including electricity, water, heat and Wi-Fi. The embassy will no longer pay for Assange’s medical, food, laundry or other expenses as he lives at the embassy, according to the memo. He has lived there for more than six years, 150 days, according to a countdown started by The Telegraph.

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