Founder of WikiLeaks
Julian Paul Assange (né Hawkins) (3 July 1971) is an Australian journalist,
publisher, cyberpunk activist and founder of news-leaking website WikiLeaks . He was convicted for hacking in Australia in 1996 and founded
WikiLeaks 10 years later in 2006. WikiLeaks came to international attention
in 2010 after publishing several leaks provided by US Army
intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, after which the US Government
launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks .
Assange was born on 3 July 1971 in Townsville (Queensland, Australia) and was
educated at many schools and at home. He attended the universities of
Queensland (1994) and Melbourne (2003-2006) but did not complete a degree .
By 1987, aged 16, Assange had become a skilled hacker under the name Mendax.
According to WikiLeaks and various news organisations, he was Australia's most
accomplished ethical computer hacker, exposing thousands of systems,
including those of the Pentagon. He might also have been involved in the
WANK hack at NASA in 1989, although this has never been proven .
In 1993, Assange provided technical advice and support to help the Victoria
Police Child Exploitation Unit to presecute individuals responsible for
publishing & distributing child pornography.
This helped him to stay out of prison when he was arrested in 1996
for large scale hacking.
In December 1996, Assange struck a plea bargin by pleading guilty to 24
hacking charges whilst the others were dropped. He was ordered to
pay a fine of A$ 2,100 and was released on a good behaviour bond.
Ten years later, in 2006, Assange and a few others established WikiLeaks
with its legal seat in Iceland.
He became editor-in-chief and member of the advisory board.
In the years that followed, WikiLeaks published on a variety of subjects
including internet censorship lists, classified media from anonymous sources
and other leaks, like the 'Petrogate' oil scandal in Peru.
In 2008, WikiLeaks rose to international fame after publishing bank records
of the Swiss Julius Baer Bank, which the bank unsucessfully tried to block.
Assange received extensive legal support from free-speech and civil rights
groups and commented that financial institutions operate outside the
rule of law. Similar news leaks continued to be published
in the following years.
➤ Julian Assange on Wikipedia
In 2010, WikiLeaks published nearly 750,0000 classified documents that had been
leaked by Chelsea Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst .
The leaks included information and detainee assessment briefs (DABs)
on people that were held at Guantanamo Bay, an internationally disputed
American prison system on the coast of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba .
Manning was arrested for the leaks and was convicted by court-martial in
July 2013 for violating the Espionage Act and other offences, and
sentenced to 35 years.
She was in prison from 2010 until 2017 after which her sentence was
commuted by US President Barack Obama.
➤ Chelsea Manning on Wikipedia
On 5 April 2010, WikiLeaks released the so-called Collateral Murder video
in which US soldiers fatally shoot 18 civilians from a Helicopter in
a suburb of New Bagdad (Iraq),
including Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh.
Two children were seriously wounded.
previously requested the video under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
but had been denied. It took Assange and others a week to break the US
military's encryption of the video.
➤ See the video
In October 2010, WikiLeaks published 391,832 US Army field reports from the
Iraq War covering 2004 to 2009, followed in November 2010 by around 250,000
US redacted diplomatic cables — an event that became known as the 'Cablegate' files — revealing [US] espionage against the United
Nations and other world leaders, tension between the US and its allies, and
corruption in countries throughout the world, some of which is believed to
have sparked the Arab Spring.
The unredacted Cablegate files were released in 2011 by both
the Cryptome website and WikiLeaks. 1
The unredacted files were released after a series of security incidents
involving The Guardian, followed by a series of cyber-attacks on WikiLeaks.
Assange then decided to release the unredacted files. They were first
published by Cryptome, followed a day later by WikiLeaks.
Criminal investigation in the US
United States authorities began investigating WikiLeaks and Assange soon
after WikiLeaks had published the Chelsea Manning leaks in 2010.
Although it was denied by the FBI, it is known that FBI, NSA
and probably other agencies were actively investigating WikiLeaks and Assange.
The NSA even put Assange on their Manhunting Timeline, an annual account
of efforts to capture or kill terrorists and others, whilst discussing
categorising WikiLeaks as a milicious foreign actor .
During the tenure of President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice
did not indict Assange as it was unable to find evidence that his actions
were different from those of a journalist. This changed however when
President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, after which CIA
director Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepped up the
persuit of Assange.
On 20 August 2010, two women who volunteered with WikiLeaks accused
Assange of sexual assault that alledgedly had occured earlier that month.
On 30 August, whilst being questioned by the Stockholm police, Assange
denied the allegations. The preliminary investigation was
1 September 2010, but was later resumed. Assange subsequently
left Sweden on 27 September 2010 after which Sweden issued an international
warrant for his arrest.
At the time, it was speculated that the allegations had been orchestrated
by the US in order to get Assange.
On 8 December 2010, Assange gave himself up to British police. On 16 December
2010 he was released on bail after his supporters had paid GBP 200,000 in
cash and GBP 40,000 in sureties. Although
the court ruled that Assange could be extradited to Sweden, this was later
upheld by the High Court (on 2 November 2010) and later also by
the Supreme Court (on 30 May 2011).
Fearing extradition to the United States after he had been extradited to Sweden,
Assange applied for political asylum at the Embassy of Ecuador, located
just behind the famous department store Harrods in Central London.
On 19 June 2012, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said
that his request was being considered and that Assange was currently staying
at the embassy.
On 16 August 2012, Patiño announced that Ecuador had granted Assange
political asylum because of the threat represented by the US secret
investigation against him. On 18 August 2012, Ecuadorian President
Rafeal Correa confirmed that Assange was allowed to stay at the embassy
indefinitely. An office converted into a studio appartment, complete with
threadmill and sun lamp, became his home
until 11 April 2019.
From this location, Assange held regular press meetings and continued his work
for WikiLeaks. He even made a statement from the balcony.
During the course of 2012, Assange offered to come to Sweden
voluntarily to face the sexual assault allegations, on the precondition that he
would not be extradited to the United States, which the Swedes refused.
To Assange this was a prove that the allegations were orchestrated and were
a pretext for extradition to the US.
He subsequently breached his bail by not appearing
in court, as a result of which he faced arrest when he would leave the
From that moment on, officers of the Metropolitan Police Service were stationed
outside the embassy from June 2012 to October 2015 1 to arrest
Assange if he left the building. The police later confirmed that the total cost
of the operation for the period was GBP 12.6 million.
Ecuador spent at least an additional USD 5 million (GBP 3.7M) on the protection of Assange, hiring an
external company and undercover agents to monitor visitors, embassy staff and
the British police.
The police officers were withdrawn in October 2015 on the grounds of cost,
whilst overt and covert measured remained in force.
On 23 June 2013, Sarah Harisson of WikiLeaks and former CIA/NSA
contractor Edward Snowden took flight SU213 from Hong Kong to
Moscow, after Snowden had leaked between 9,000 and 10,000
files to the press, disclosing details about the US' mass surveillance
program PRISM, which potentially targets every US citizen.
The disclosures prompted the US to charge Snowden with three criminal
complaints for theft of government property and violation of the Espionage
Although it was Snowden's intention to travel on from Moscow
to a South American country, he got stuck in Moscow as the US has
meanwhile revoked his passport.
On 1 August 2013 he was granted a temporary asylum by Russia,
which was extended in 2014.
➤ More about Edward Snowden
Assange's nearly seven year stay at the Embassy of Ecuador was not without
incidents. His work for WikiLeaks and his communications on social network
Twitter, prompted the Ecuadorian authorities to cut his internet access.
In addition, they hired the Spanish security firm
UC Global to conduct surveillance on
Assange and on any of his visitors.
It was even suggested that he had fathered two
children during his stay at the embassy, something that later appeared to
The CEO of the security firm was later arrested on suspicion of violating
Assange's basic rights, and sharing the surveillance data (video, audio and
scanned documents) with the CIA. This operation, internally known as
Operation HOTEL, was later confirmed by a former employee.
On 11 April 2019, following a series of incidents at the Ecuadorian Embassy
in London, Assange's asylum was revoked by the new Ecuadorian President
Morena, after which British police was invited to enter the building and
The video on the right shows the moment that Assange is carried away from
the embassy .
Although the Swedish sexual assault charges had meanwhile been dropped,
the British authorities insisted on persecuting him for violating his bail
conditions, despite the fact that the grounds for the initial arrest
in Sweden no longer existed.
After a short hearing, Assange was found guilty of breaching bail
and was sentenced on 1 May 2019 to 50 weeks imprisonment at Belmarsh Prison.
The judge said he would be
released after serving half his sentence, subject to other proceedings,
if no further offences were committed.
On the day of Assange's arrest – 11 April 2019 – the US indictment against
him was unsealed. 1
In the following month, on 23 May 2019, Assange was indicted on 17 new charges
relating to the Espionage Act. These charges alone carry a maximum sentence
of 170 years in prison.
During the course of 2021, the extradition to the United States was challenged
several times, until finally the High Court ruled in favour of the United
States on 10 December 2021. On 20 April 2022, the extradition was approved
and referred to Home Secretary Priti Patel, who on 17 June also aprroved
the extradition. On 22 August 2022, Assange's legal team lodged a
Perfected Grounds of Appeal before the High Court, challenging
an earlier decision of 4 January 2021 with new evidence.
He is currently awaiting extradition to the United States.
On 6 March 2018, a federal grand jury for the Eastern District of Virginia
(USA) had issued a sealed indictment against Assange. In November 2018,
US prosecutors accidantally revealed the indictment.
In mid-June 2013, during routine work on the wiring at the Ecuadorian
Embassy in London (UK), Ecuadorian technicians discovered a
covert listening device (bug) that was hidden inside one of
the mains wall sockets in the office of the ambassador, Mrs. Ana Alban.
It was able to pick up any conversation in the room and could be controlled
remotely by means of a GSM cell phone .
The bug consists of a GSM module with a SIM card, a digital recorder and
a power supply unit (PSU) that was connected directly to the mains. An outside
party could call the bug on its GSM number and listen directly to any
conversation in the room. Apparently it could also be used to playback any
previously recorded conversations.
The discovery of the bug was shared with the international press by Ecuadorian
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño at a press conference in Quito (Ecuador).
According to Patiño, the bug had been planted at their London embassy by the
British company The Surveillance Group Ltd.
The company, based in Worchester and Hereford (UK) denied the allegations
and Patiño did not make it clear why the Ecuadorians thought that this company
was responsible for placing the bug . Surveillance experts told The
Guardian later that day, that it was not a professional bug and that it was
unlikely that it was the work of a western security service like GCHQ
or the CIA.
According to them, security services would have used much more
sophisticated devices — most likely purpose built — that would be far more
difficult to discover during a routine check .
At the press conference, Patiño held up a photograph of the
bug, a close-up of which was shared on Twitter later that day by WikiLeaks .
The discoverd bug is an off-the-shelf product that anyone could have purchased
from a local spy shop or from an international vending site such as eBay or
AliExpress. Bugs like this are commonly offered, for example, for spying on
disloyal employees or unfaithful husbands.
Whilst it is true that security services
— in particular the ones from the UK and US —
use far more sophisticated bugs, it is also true that such services
sometimes hide multiple cheap off-the-shelf easily-discoverable bugs in the
same room as a bait, in the hope that it will satisfy a sweep team.
As the bug was found in the office of the ambassador and not in one of the
rooms that were used by Julian Assange, it is unclear whether it was
planted there with the intent to spy on him.
It is also unclear how long the bug had been present, how effective it had
been and whether it had actually been used to gather intelligence.
The Ecuadorian Government said they had called upon the UK authorities to
help them with the investigation of the device .
Around the time of the Snowden Revelations in mid-2013,
WikiLeaks members started using highly secure
CryptoPhone IP-19 devices
made by the
company GSMK in Berlin (Germany), for confidential conversations between
London and Berlin. The CryptoPhone
at the London office of WikiLeaks
was used until March 2018, when it was taken back to Germany to be repaired.
When it was opened, a sophisticated listening device (bug) was discovered,
that is attributed by experts to the CIA or a similar agency.
➤ Detailed analysis of the bug
During Julian Assange's stay at the Embassy of Ecuador in London (UK),
the Ecuadorians hired the Spanish firm UC Global
for securing the premises. Camera's (with microphones) were installed at
stragic locations inside and outside of the embassy building at 3 Hans Cres
in Central London.
In addition, the passports of Assangle's visitors were scanned and data on
them was collected by the firm. Apart from sharing this information with the
Ecuadorian authorities, the Spanish firm also shared their data with the
American CIA, enabling the latter to get a good picture of the social
network around the WikiLeaks founder .
The image on the right shows Asssange's friend Stephen Woo, walking into the
embassy carrying a child on his chest. As Assangle was suspected to be the
father of the child, the surveillance images were also used to support this
On 10 April 2019, WikiLeaks said it had uncovered an extensive surveillance
operation against Assange, involving video, audio, copies of private legal
documents and a medical report . It had surfaced in Spain and had been used by
individuals in Madrid in an extortion attempt .
A day later, on 11 April 2019, Assange was arrested by British Police
and taken from the embassy.
David Moralis, CEO of the UC Global
— the company that had been hired
for surveillance of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London — was later arrested by
the Spanish police. Accused of sharing the information with the CIA,
he would be investigated for violating
Assange's privacy, attorney-client privilege, misappropriation, bribery,
money laundering and illegal possession of arms .
A former employee of UC Global confirmed that the
company had indeed been spying on behalf of the CIA and that the
surveillance operation was internally known as Operation HOTEL.
On 11 April 2020, the Daily Mail revealed that Assange had indeed fathered
two children during his stay in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, with his
37 year old lawyer Stella Morris . The couple confirmed this and
said they were in a relationship since 2015 and were engaged since 2017.
Their two children were born in 2017 and 2019 .
On 23 March 2022 the couple married in Belmarsh Prison, where Assange was held
since being expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy.
1971-07-03Born in Townsville, Queensland, Australia
1987Arrested for hacking at age 16
1996Guilty of hacking, fined A$ 2,100
2006WikiLeaks founded in Iceland
2008WikiLeaks published bank records of Swiss Julius Baer Bank
2010Chelsea Manning leaks 750,000 documents about the Iraq War
2010US starts criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and Assange
2010-04WikiLeaks releases the Collateral Murder video
2010-08-20Assange charged with sexual assault in Sweden
2010-08-30Questioned by Stockholm police
2010-09-01Preliminary investigation discontinued (later resumed)
2010-09-27Assange leaves Stockholm
2010-09-28Sweden issues international warrant for arrest of Assange
2010-10WikiLeaks publishes 391,832 US Army field reports (2004-2009)
2010-11WikiLeaks publishes 250,000 redacted diplomatic cables (Cablegate)
2010-12-08Assange give himself up to British police
2010-12-16Assange release on bail (GBP 240,000)
2011Cryptome and WikiLeaks publish the unredacted Cablegate files
2012-04Edward Snowden starts collecting information about PRISM
2012-06-19Assange seeks asylum at Ecuadorian Embassy in London
2012-08-16Assange granted political asylum by Ecuador
2013Chelsea Manning convicted for violating US Espionage Act
2013-05-20Edward Snowden escapes to Hong Kong
2013-06Edward Snowden leaks information about NSA PRISM surveillance
2013-06-05First article on PRISM by Gleen Greenwald (The Guardian)
2013-06-09Edward Snowden's identity revealed
2013-06-23Edward Snowden flies to Moscow with Sarah Harisson of WikiLeaks
2013-06GSM bug found in the office of the Ecuadorian Ambassador in London
2015Assange and lawyer Stella Morris involved in secret relationship
2017Assange and Morris secretly engaged
2017Chelsea Manning released from prison
2019-04-10WikiLeaks reveals massive surveillance operation agains Assange
2019-04-11Assange arrested by British police inside Ecuadorian Embassy
2019-04-11Sealed US indictment of 6 March 2018 unsealed.
2019-04-2317 new charges filed against Assange by United States
2020-04-11Daily Mail reveals that Assangle father two children at the embassy
2022-03-23Assange and Morris married in Belmarsh Prison
2023Assange awaiting extradition to the United States
- Wikipedia, Julian Assange
Visited 26 March 2023.
- Wikipedia, WikiLeaks
Visited 26 March 2023.
- Ecuador says London embassy bug hidden in socket
Haroon Siddique and agencies.
The Guardian, 4 July 2013, 09:48 BST.
- Ecuador embassy bug unlikely to be work of security services, says experts
Robert Booth, Vikram Dodd and Sam Jones.
The Guardian, 4 July 2013, 14:07 BST.
- WikiLeaks, Here's the inside of the bug that Ecuador found at their London embassy
Twitter, 4 July 2013.
- A visual guide to Ecuador's Julian Assange spy operation
Luke Harding, Dan Collyns, Niko Kommenda, Josh Holder and Cath Levett.
The Guardian, 16 May 2018.
- José María Irujo, The US trial of the man whose security firm spied on Julian Assange
EL PAÍS. Madrid, 8 November 2019.
- José María Irujo, Spanish firm that spied in Julian Assange
tried to find out if he fathered a child at the Ecuadorian embassy
EL PAÍS. Madrid, 15 April 2020.
- Wikipedia, Surveillance of Julian Assange
Visited 27 March 2023.
- WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange fathered two children inside the Ecuadorian embassy with lawyer, 37, who fell in love with him while helping his fight against extradition to the US
Daily Mail (Mail Online), 11 April 2020. Updated 16 September 2020.
- Ben Quinn, Spanish police 'recover Julian Assange surveillance footage
The Guardian, 10 April 2020.
- Wikipedia, Chelsea Manning
Visited 27 March 2023.
- Wikipedia, Guantanamo Bay detention camp
Visited 27 March 2023.
- CBS Mornings, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, arrested in London
Via YouTube. 11 April 2019.
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