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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is pictured through the heavily tinted windows of a police vehicle as he arrives at Westminster magistrates court in London, on December 14, 2010. (CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is pictured through the heavily tinted windows of a police vehicle as he arrives at Westminster magistrates court in London, on December 14, 2010. (CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

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Who is Julian Assange? Add to ...

Eventually the police also arrived on Assange's doorstep, arresting him and charging him with 31 counts of computer-related crime. However, after years of pre-trial litigation, when the case finally came to court, even though he pleaded guilty to 25 counts, he got away with paying a small sum in compensation.

EVERYONE AND NO ONE WANTS TO SAVE THE WORLD

Burned out by his epic legal battles, Assange toured Asia, took on freelance work as a computer consultant and studied physics at the University of Melbourne. He also began blogging his thoughts to the world on matters both technical and metaphysical. His blog entries, which can still be found on the web, are a mixture of pseudo-scientific and philosophical gibberish, cultural and literary observations ("Kurt Vonnegut is dead."), extremely technical computer coding sequences and often jumbled political statements. But they also contained germs of ideas that seem to offer insights into Assange's psyche and signposts to his future pursuits.

In one lengthy September 23, 2006 post, he reprints an essay by somebody named Grady Towers musing about the late William James Sidis, a math prodigy who had a brief but spectacular academic career but suffered an equally rapid decline into destitution.

According to the essay, Sidis had an IQ somewhere between 250 and 300 and by age three had become a New York Times reader and had taught himself Latin and Greek. He matriculated at Harvard at age 11, became the youngest professor in history and propounded some of the earliest theories about the existence of black holes. But he subsequently had a psychic meltdown, drifted between menial jobs, rarely bathed and died a virgin at age 46.

The essay uses this woeful tale as the touchstone for a meditation on gifted children, concluding that despite Sidis' unhappy end, science subsequently demonstrated that, as Towers put it: "The gifted are not weak or sickly, and ... they are generally thought to be better looking than their contemporaries: they are not nerds."

But it also quotes a dark observation Aldous Huxley made about the Sir Isaac Newton: "The price Newton had to pay for being a supreme intellect was that he was incapable of friendship, love, fatherhood and many other desirable things. As a man he was a failure; as a monster he was superb."

In an essay entitled "Jackboots," Assange describes how he felt that his own personal travails were comparable to the experiences of Gulag prisoners in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel "The First Circle" - the story of a brilliant mathematician imprisoned by Stalin and forced to choose between aiding the state or being transferred to a Siberian camp.

"To feel that home is the comraderie (sic) of persecuted, and infact (sic) prosecuted, polymaths in a Stalinist slave labor camp! How close the parallels to my own adventures!" Another essay, this one almost incomprehensible, is headlined: "Everyone and no one wants to save the world."

Also featured in Assange's blog are postings like a 2006 item entitled "What are the origins of hactivism," in which he talks about how U.S. government networks in 1989 had been penetrated by a worm whose source Assange claims to have traced to Melbourne, Australia, his own backyard.

From these and other more technological ruminations Assange began to create the concept, and later the physical and electronic architecture, of what became WikiLeaks. According to his web-postings, he was deeply affected by the incident in Somalia involving the American military helicopter that was the inspiration behind the film "Black Hawk Down." Blog entries from December 2006 include an item headed: "Black hawk down, white wash (sic) up" and another entitled: "The pending total annihilation of the US regime in Somalia."

Around this time, the fledgling WikiLeaks posted its first purported leak: some kind of secret edict from a Somali rebel leader. Soon, Assange was touting the merits of his website to a conference of left-wing activists in Kenya, where he stayed for several months.

By December 2007, Assange was plugged in deeply enough into the world of international computer outlaws to find himself at the annual conference of the Chaos Computer Club, a German hacker group with a pedigree going back to 1981, the cyberspace equivalent of the Stone Age.

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