The recent detention of Julian Assange is likely to end his long-term career as an online activist. This does not mean, however, that we should erase his achievements from memory. Contrary to appearances, this man did quite a lot of good.
I admit that Assange is not one of those people who immediately arouse sympathy. The picture painted by the author of his biography, Carsten Göring, is rather the opposite of this description. Assange from his childhood considered himself wiser and better than his peers, which probably quickly turned into a whole range of his anti-social behavior. First things first.
Julian Assange - teenage hacker
Assange, as befits a teenager-recluse with access to a computer, very quickly became interested in its possibilities. One of the unverified stories described in his biography says that he was the author of WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers, for the meaning of the abbreviation I refer to urban dicitonary ), which allegedly infected the network of the US Department of Energy and the NASA Space Agency. This event took place in 1989, that is, in times when the history of the network has not yet been documented too closely.
Many people associated with the hacking community believe that WANK was the first malicious software created to promote ideological content. Not very sophisticated, admittedly, because Assange was 17 years old at the time. If at all he was the author of this software. The hardships point to this - WANK was sent from around Melbourne, where just as a 17-year-old Assange moved after leaving his family home.
Six years later, in 1995, the court proved several dozen computer intrusions to the Nortel telecommunications network and - which was quite common practice in those days - punished him with a not-too-excessive fine. In the same year, our hacker-activist also created his first open source license program. Strobe was a simple port scanner.
Breaking into servers at that time often came down to finding an unsecured port that some sensitive service was using, so Strobe quickly became quite a popular tool among novice hackers. The second, documented work under the open source Assange license was the introduction of several patches in PostgreSQL. In those days, Assange was known in the network as Mendax. It sounds funny in Polish than it should.
Fight for freedom of information exchange
Most teenage hackers in the 1990s were more or less involved in the fight against the establishment and freedom of speech. It is enough to read the cryptanarchist manifest published in those times by Timothy May, which probably appeared on every mailing list, bbs forums and other strange places that no one remembers. Assange also, of course, fought.
The first significant manifestation of this fight was the establishment of the Suburbia website, which saw the light of day in 1993. At about the same time, Assange also created the e-zin The International Subversive, in which he described useful tricks and ways to break into servers.
There were a lot of such zines at that time, so TIS went down without any echoes. The fate of the Suburbia site, on which Assange published internal scientologist materials, changed a little differently. He must have felt quite an important person at the time - the scientist religious movement very much dislikes sharing this type of material, so he hired some private investigators who tried to persuade him to remove sensitive materials. It worked.
For a man who spent most of his time in the virtual world, such harassment in the real world had to be a new and quite terrifying experience. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but a few years later, after the adventure with Scientologists, Assange created a very effective way to encrypt computer data called Rubberhorse, which would secure the recorded information even if the person who published it would be forced to provide their password.
An adult anarchist
With his many years of online experience and unwavering beliefs about freedom of speech, Assange decides to create his life project. WikiLeaks is being created in 2006. Assange is obviously not the only author of this platform. At first, he becomes the editor-in-chief of the portal and a member of the advisory board.
Publishing secret information is in full swing. Assange travels around the world on business, visiting most continents and establishing contacts with people with similar views. Work pays off basically - there are more leaks and classified information from around the world on WikiLeaks.
In 2009, Assange receives the Media Award from Amnesty International for unveiling the story behind the murders and mysterious disappearances of Kenyan citizens in which the government was involved.
The site is slowly attracting interest to the mainstream, but it becomes a real hit only in 2010. At that time, WikiLeaks released recordings from 2007, showing American soldiers firing at civilians in Baghdad. In the attack, among others, Reuters journalist died, and two children were injured. The case was called accidental murder, but many specialists said it directly - it was a war crime. This is the beginning of the whole affair and the moment when he heard about the whole world about Julian Assange.
The source of the leak - Bradley Manning quickly goes to prison, but the recordings themselves remain publicly available on WikiLeaks. The US government decides to take the role of editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks - Julian Assange. The matter is getting very serious. Google, at the request of the FBI, is forced to disclose the contents of Assange's mailboxes and his colleagues.
Chief WikiLeaks begins to understand the seriousness of the situation, when, at about the same time, Interpol, at the request of Sweden, issues a warrant, which means seeking Assange to arrest and extradite him in connection with accusations of sexual extortion and rape.
The whole thing is quite ... quite unusual. Initially, it was not meant for rape in the traditional sense of the word. In August 2010, two women came to the Stockholm post to refuse any indictment, just ... contact the Assassian police and convince him to test for venereal diseases. The women claimed that they had sex with him voluntarily, but the content of this message must have changed. The Swedish prosecutor, after receiving the police report, decided to accuse Assange of rape and harassment.
Our hero obviously denied everything, claiming that it is an international plot for which the United States stands, wanting to punish him for revealing a serious war crime committed by American soldiers. Realizing that the direct fight against the superpower is doomed to failure, Assange handed over to the British police in early December 2010. He spends less than a week in detention, after which he is transferred to a house arrest at Elingham Hall in Norfolk. Effectively avoiding extradition to Sweden, he remains in seclusion until 19 June 2012.
At that time, the then president of Ecuador decided to grant political asylum to Assange at the embassy of Ecuador in London. There Assange spent exactly 6 years and 10 months. We know little about this period of our hero's life. Only on the day of Assange's arrest by the British police, current president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, revealed that Assange undertook to comply with strictly set rules that were to assume, among others, that he will not run any illegal activity on the network. Moreno claims that Assange broke this ban, publishing on WikiLeaks m.in. secret documents of the Vatican, which was allegedly one of the main reasons for repealing the decision to give him shelter at the embassy.
On April 11, 2019, the Ecuadorian authorities gave the British police permission to enter his London embassy in order to arrest Assange. The official reason is that the detainee did not attend the hearing, which took place on 29 June 2012 and referred to the allegations of rape and harassment on two Swedish citizens mentioned above. The case itself is about to expire, but the advocate of one of the victims has already announced in the media that if this happens he will ask the court to resume it.
The second reason (also given to public information) is, of course, the extradition request filed by the US authorities. This thread is so interesting that it is virtually unknown what threatens Assange on this account. Or titles, because in addition to the case concerning the disclosure of recordings provided by Manning (who changed her gender and is a woman ) in 2016, the issue of the disclosure of the correspondence of the American Democratic Party has come. Some political scientists say that the publication had a huge impact on the course of the last presidential election in the United States.
It is not known, however, whether Assange will be issued to the US authorities. By repealing Assange's political asylum, Lenin Moreno asked the British authorities for a written guarantee that Assange would not be expelled to the state where the death penalty still applies. I suspect that soon we will witness a spectacular legal battle in which the US government will demand Assange's release despite a written guarantee from the British. But this is only my dream. We have to wait for a while to further develop the situation.
From a teenage hacker to an activist sought by a superpower. Who is Julian Assange?