Assange: A Self-Proclaimed Foe of Secrecy Who Inspires Both Admiration and Fury – The New York Times

That performance drew voluble praise from her opponent, Donald J. Trump, who regularly read from leaked Clinton campaign emails in his 2016 stump speeches and declared, “I love WikiLeaks.” But months later, while he was president, WikiLeaks posted a collection of classified documents on the C.I.A.’s hacking tools, and Mr. Trump’s first C.I.A. chief, Mike Pompeo, called Mr. Assange “a narcissist” and labeled the organization “a nonstate hostile intelligence service.”

His words were a harbinger of the single charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion against Mr. Assange that the Justice Department unsealed on Thursday.

In some ways, Mr. Assange, 47, has never fully shed the rebellious, secretive ways of the precocious Australian teenager with a complicated family background who, with two pals, formed a hacking collective called the International Subversives. In the 1997 book “Underground,” a lengthy account of the young hackers written by Suelette Dreyfus and crediting Mr. Assange as “researcher,” a hacker with the nickname Mendax clearly resembles the young Julian.

Mendax found the small Australian town where Mr. Assange lived with his mother, Emerald, “dead boring,” the book says. “Sometimes Mendax went to school. Often he didn’t. The school system didn’t hold much interest for him.” A vulnerable computer network in Sydney, the book says, “was a far more interesting place to muck around in than the rural high school.”

In 1991, at age 20, Mr. Assange was charged with a long list of hacking offenses, to which he pleaded guilty and got off with a fine and a warning. “There is just no evidence that there was anything other than sort of intelligent inquisitiveness and the pleasure of being able to — what’s the expression — surf through these various computers,” the judge said at his sentencing, according to an account in The New Yorker.


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