Cryptome, a site dedicated to publishing documents about freedom of speech, cryptology, spying, and surveillance, has published an excellent essay by Robert Manne, a professor of politics and international relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, on the development of Julian Assange’s socio-political development and education. After giving extensive background, Manne sums up the three key forces lead to WikiLeaks’ inception.
In arriving at this position, Assange had drawn together three different personal experiences. From his custody battles in the 1990s he had become interested in the political potency of leaks. From his cypherpunk days he had become interested in the political possibilities of untraceable encrypted communication. And from his involvement in the free software movement he had seen what collective democratic intellectual enterprise might achieve. In essence, his conclusion was that world politics could be transformed by staunching the flow of information among corrupt power elites by making them ever more fearful of insider leaks. He believed he could achieve this by establishing an organisation that would allow whistleblowers from all countries to pass on their information, confident that their identities would not be able to be discovered. He proposed that his organisation would then publish the information for the purpose of collective analysis so as to empower oppressed populations across the globe.
He goes on to write about the early days of WikiLeaks. It’s a long read and not a light one (15,000 words), but well worth the read if you want to know the answer to the questions “Who is Julian Assange?” and “Why does WikiLeaks exist?”