Julian Assange Biography

Journalist, Computer Programmer, Activist(1971–)
Julian Assange came to international attention as the founder of the whistle-blowing Web site, Wikileaks.

Synopsis

Born on July 3, 1971, in Townsville, Australia, Julian Assange used his genius IQ to hack into the databases of many high profile organizations. In 2006, Assange began work on Wikileaks, a Web site intended to collect and share confidential information on an international scale. The information his organization released earned him strong supporters and powerful enemies. For his efforts, the internet activist earned the Time magazine "Person of the Year" title in 2010. After arriving at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in June 2012, seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden, Assange was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorean government in August 2012.

Early Life

Journalist, computer programmer and activist Julian Assange was born on July 3, 1971, in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. Assange had an unusual childhood, as he spent some of his early years traveling around with his mother, Christine, and his stepfather, Brett Assange. The couple worked together to put on theatrical productions. Brett Assange later described Julian as a "sharp kid who always fought for the underdog."

The relationship between Brett and Christine later soured, but Assange and his mother continued to live a transient lifestyle. With all of the moving around, Assange ended up attending roughly 37 different schools growing up, and was frequently homeschooled.

Founding of Wikileaks

Assange discovered his passion for computers as a teenager. At the age of 16, he got his first computer as a gift from his mother. Before long, he developed a talent for hacking into computer systems. His 1991 break-in to the master terminal for Nortel, a telecommunications company, got him in trouble. Assange was charged with more than 30 counts of hacking in Australia, but he got off the hook with only a fine for damages.

Assange continued to pursue a career as a computer programmer and software developer. An intelligent mind, he studied mathematics at the University of Melbourne. He dropped out without finishing his degree, later claiming that he left the university for moral reasons; Assange objected to other students working on computer projects for the military.

In 2006, Assange began work on Wikileaks, a Web site intended to collect and share confidential information on an international scale. The site officially launched in 2007 and it was run out of Sweden at the time because of the country's strong laws protecting a person's anonymity. Later that year, Wikileaks released a U.S. military manual that provided detailed information on the Guantanamo detention center. Wikileaks also shared emails from then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that it received from an anonymous source in September 2008.

Sexual Assault Controversy

In early December 2010, Assange discovered that he had other legal problems to worry about. He had been under investigation by the Swedish police since early August, in connection with sexual assault allegations including two counts of sexual molestation, one count of illegal coercion, and one count of rape. After a European Arrest Warrant was issued by Swedish authorities on December 6, Assange turned himself in to the London police.

After a series of extradition hearings in early 2011 to appeal the warrant, Assange learned on November 2, 2011, that the High Court dismissed his appeal. Still on conditional bail, Assange made plans to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court, in regard to the case.

According to a New York Times article, Assange came to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in June 2012, seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden. Nearly two months later, in August 2012, Assange was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorean government, which, according to the Times, "protects Mr. Assange from British arrest, but only on Ecuadorean territory, leaving him vulnerable if he tries to leave the embassy to head to an airport or train station." The article went on to say that the decision "cited the possibility that Mr. Assange could face 'political persecution' or be sent to the United States to face the death penalty," putting further strain on the relationship between Ecuador and Britain, and instigating a rebuttal from the Swedish government.

In August 2015 the lesser sexual assault allegations from 2010 — with the exception of rape — were dropped due to statute of limitation violations by Swedish prosecutors. The statue of limitations on the rape allegations will expire in 2020. 

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