Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

Julian Assange: The Man Behind the Curtain

WikiLeaks growing notoriety has paralleled the notoriety of its leader: Julian Assange. A more intriguing person to lead a shadowy, morally complex organization couldn't have been invented by a novelist or Hollywood screenwriter. The Australian Assange looks like the enigmatic protagonist he is. Tall, with a deep voice and a shock of white hair usually slicked-back, he resembles the actor Julian Sands, who made his career playing shady and mysterious characters.

Julain Assange
Julain Assange
He had a childhood that set him up well for his roving, on-the-run lifestyle. According to Mother Jones, Assange had moved 30 times by the time he was a teenager. His teens were

 spent coding on a Commodore 64, and by the time he was 18 he was an accomplished hacker who went by the name Mentax as part of a group called International Subversives. By the time he was in his early 20s, he'd already been charged for his hacking handiwork by the Australian government. Though he is frequently labeled a hacker by the media, and he even coauthored a book, Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier, hacking is not how Assange defines himself.

Assange's public image is that of a prickly, difficult character, indignant and smarter than most of his adversaries. He is a cunning character—who has been cast as a villain by some in the media, even as he helps the media to documents they would have never seen without his organization.

John Burns, the London Bureau Chief of The New York Times, described Assange on NPR: "He's certainly not the easiest person to deal with, especially when you write about him. And he struck me as being, yes, brilliant, capricious, arrogant, but not terribly self-knowing and not gifted, I have to say, with much of a sense of irony."

Assange, even as he is being vilified, doesn't do much to help his public image. In one of his rare public interviews in October with CNN, his scorn for the somewhat hapless journalist nearly seared the television screen. When she asked him a question he didn't like, his response was to walk out. Gawker called him a "petulant man-child," for his behavior.

"This interview is about something else. I'm going to walk if you're going to contaminate us revealing the deaths of 104,000 people with attacks against my person," he said to the interviewer.

The question he objected to had to do with his sex scandal. Because an international story of intrigue like WikiLeaks wouldn't be perfect without a sex scandal would it?


We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'