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Posted at 8:54 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Julian Assange arrested: Is he a 'scientific journalist' or 'megalomaniac'?

By Melissa Bell
The Interpol "Wanted" page for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Julian Assange (pronounced Ah-Sanj) is currently under arrest in England, but his message still seeps out. An op-ed by Assange appeared Tuesday morning in The Australian, asserting the need for WikiLeaks:

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

Assange will remain in custody until at least Dec. 14.

Meanwhile, detractors of WikiLeaks continue to speak out against his method. Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate that Assange is an "unscrupulous megalomaniac with a political agenda."

The cunning of Julian Assange's strategy is that he has made everyone complicit in his own private decision to try to sabotage U.S. foreign policy.

For a staunch supporter of full transparency, Assange is not very open about his own personal life. He does not confirm his birth date, and he rarely says in which country he lives. Assange is reportedly 39, born in Townsville, Australia. He reportedly moved 37 times by his 14th birthday, a Time magazine two-minute biography reports. In a TED interview, he says his parents were running from a cult.

In 1991, he was arrested for 31 counts of hacking and related crimes but was only asked to pay a small fine in Australia.

He also was locked in a bitter custody fight in the late '90s over his son that finally ended in 1999.

The New Yorker profile in June 2010 said that after the custody battle, Assange honed his personal philosophy:

He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. As a student of Kafka, Koestler, and Solzhenitsyn, he believed that truth, creativity, love, and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by "patronage networks"--one of his favorite expressions--that contort the human spirit.

In 2006, Assange launched WikiLeaks, a Web site that would anonymously publish confidential data. Over the years, it released the "Climategate" e-mails, Sarah Palin's private Yahoo! e-mails, and the 2007 footage of a U.S. military attack that killed a Reuters photographer. This summer it released 400,000 records of war logs from Iraq and 91,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan.

The New Yorker profile talks about how he is quick to anger in his writing, lashing out at critics, particularly on Twitter, but as the face of WikiLeaks on television programs, he comes across as suave and other-worldly:

Under the studio lights, he can seem--with his spectral white hair, pallid skin, cool eyes, and expansive forehead--like a rail-thin being who has rocketed to Earth to deliver humanity some hidden truth. This impression is magnified by his rigid demeanor and his baritone voice, which he deploys slowly, at low volume.

Here's Julian Assange speaking at TED in July. The interview includes graphic footage of a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad:

As the Assange's trial unfolds in London, the Guardian is live blogging the events here.

By Melissa Bell  | December 7, 2010; 8:54 AM ET
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Or is he the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy by Jesus Christ himself?

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops."

--Jesus, in Luke 12:1-3

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | December 7, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Well after the last few days and some of the documents being released and the threat of a doomsday file if anything happens to the wimpy leader I have come to the conclusion that this guy is a complete moron. It seems his only agenda is to cause chaos and stir up war. I'm glad they have pulled him out of the hole he was hiding in to face reality.

At first some people were misled to think "hey good on this guy" for releasing some things we didn't realize but I think most people have now seen through the fake motives of this idiot and his organization. I hope they get to the bottom of the rape charges too.

I'm all for free speech and exposing bad things that go on in Governments and behind the scenes of large corporations. I'm not much of a believer in the system myself and grew up in the 60's and 70's following the Beatles and anti war protesters etc. But this whole Wikleaks thing stinks of self serving fame, a lack of cause, trying to cause conflict and basically just a load of s stirring. Well that is my view anyway. There is no sense of them trying to be doing anything for a good cause!

Don't be fooled, this is not about doing what's right or peace or anything like that. This is about trying to cause WAR!


Posted by: politicalforum | December 7, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

1. We are not learning the proper lesson from the Wikileaks scandal
2. the scandal was caused by PFC manning and LAX security controls in a war zone that stretched us too thin.
3. Assange is an opportunist journalist. Of course there are enemies of the us who will seek to use our information against us. The trick is to not let it happen. How do we do that?

By not getting involved in places that WE DONT NEED TO be in the first place (iraq) with NO information secuirty and poor access controls.

DONT BLAME THE MESSENGER, it just makes us look even worse.

Posted by: citizenp77 | December 7, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Do English jails offer therapy sessions on Assanger Management???

Posted by: bkline_99 | December 7, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps I am growing more cynical as I grow older, but after drawing the ire of international governments and corporations for exposing embarrassing, damaging, but apparently quite authentic documents, it seems a remarkable that now Mr. Assange is being charged with "sex crimes". In one fell swoop he is smeared with the taint of sex criminal and faces extradition to Sweden, a country which in turn has extradition treaties with the US. It seems like the plot of a cheap dime store spy novel but after the Valerie Plame affair and the exposure of patent lies by our government as reported by Assange's own Wikileaks it gives me pause.

Sadly my cynicism extends to the quality of media coverage as well. This blog, I suppose we must assume that blog means journalism lite, focuses on several seemingly banal points. His family moved 37 times before he was fourteen. Are we supposed to draw conclusions on his veracity based on how often his parents moved before he was fourteen? Assange was involved in a custody battle over a child. "He can seem--with his spectral white hair, pallid skin, cool eyes, and expansive forehead--like a rail-thin being who has rocketed to Earth."
I read the news seeking enlightenment. This sort of weird but true reporting on a serious news subject has no place in the Washington Post. What has this to do with Assange's journalistic credibility or ethics? Eliminate every journalist or activist who has been involved in domestic turmoil or experienced a less than normal childhood and who will be left?

Finally, I fear the confusion of personality and news. Assange may be guilty or innocent of the charges. That has no bearing on whether WikiLeaks is right or wrong to expose government and corporate documents. A good man can be wrong and a flawed human being can occasionally do good.

Posted by: Teviot74 | December 7, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

JA has hurt USA more than its enemies with his boatloads of stolen information about US govt operations, including names of US officers, friends, families, contacts, actions taken and methods used. JA is a thief, accused rapist and as threatening to the wellbeing of US as a nuke!! It would be mad if somebody releases account numbers and passwords of individuals bank accounts. What JA has done is something of a much greater magnitude.

Posted by: vk1537 | December 8, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

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