Founder of Wikileaks. Born on July 3, 1971, in Townsville, Australia. Julian Assange has emerged as one of today's most controversial figures. He helped found Wikileaks, a website devoted to unearthing and sharing confidential information from world governments and businesses alike. Some believe these disclosures to be threats to the security and stability of nations and organizations while others commend the organization for bringing crucial information to the public. Assange, however, has recently made his own headlines as a result of Swedish investigation into possible sexual assault charges.
From most reports, Assange had an unusual childhood. He spent some of his early years traveling around with his mother Christine and his stepfather Brett Assange. The couple worked together to put on theatrical productions. Brett Assange later described Julian as a "sharp kid who always fought for the underdog."
The relationship between Brett and Christine later soured, but Assange and his mother continued to live a transient lifestyle. With all of the moving around, Assange ended up attending roughly 37 different schools growing up. He also homeschooled at times.
Assange discovered his passion for computers as a teenager. At the age of 16, he got his first computer as a gift from his mother. Before long, he developed a talent for hacking into computer systems. His 1991 break-in to the master terminal for Nortel, a telecommunications company, got him in trouble. Assange was charged with more than 30 counts of hacking in Australia, but he got off the hook with only a fine for damages.
Assange pursued a career as a computer programmer and software developer. An intelligent mind, he studied mathematics at the University of Melbourne. He left without finishing his degree, later claiming that he left the university for moral reasons. Assange objected to other students working on computer projects for the military.
In 2006, Assange began work on Wikileaks, a website intended to collect and share confidential information on an international scale. The site officially launched in 2007 and it was run out of Sweden at the time because of the country's strong laws protecting a person's anonymity. Later that year, Wikileaks released a U.S. military manual that provided detailed information on the Guantanamo detention center. Wikileaks also shared emails from then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that it received from an anonymous source in September 2008.
Some of the site's most dramatic releases, however, came in 2010. In April, Wikileaks posted a video showing U.S. military personnel killing civilians, including two reporters, in Iraq in 2007. More war materials were made available later that year, providing detailed information on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The biggest headlines came from the November leak of 250,000 diplomatic cables from the U.S. Embassy. With this massive information leak, Assange found himself the target of international outrage. There was some discussion about having Assange brought to the United States to face prosecution for distributing the information.
In early December, Assange had other legal problems to worry about. He had been under investigation by the Swedish police in connection with two sexual assault cases since August. After a warrant was issued on December 6, Assange turned himself in to the London police the following day. He is currently fighting his extradition back to Sweden.