Monday, September 26, 2011

My Response To Charlie Beckett

When I get really, really, REALLY pissed off with yet another Assange-bashing load of drivel, I wade into the comments:
You say "THEY are out to get" Assange then you join the hunt. You say "the tone of this accidental memoir speaks volumes about the personality of the man" and yet the tone of this article speaks volumes about yourself. You say the latest book "should be treated with caution as evidence" but then you use it as evidence for your character assassination of Assange.

You say this book "gives us the voice of the man" without mentioning that Assange himself did not want it published. In fact he was so unhappy with it that he walked away from the deal, declaring: "All memoir is prostitution".

You say Assange's "world-view is extremely simplistic" and "he has no sense of how people or institutions actually work". You do not even bother trying to justify such a shallow ad hominem attack.

What's strange is that your Slideshare praises WikiLeaks for "exposing the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out". How's that possible without understanding "how people or institutions actually work"? Assange just got lucky, did he?

You say Assange has "no room left for moral scruples, tactical considerations or accountability". In fact, Assange's commitment to Truth is more moral than any successful modern journalist's realpolitik, his tactical considerations have brought WikiLeaks to where it is today, and he faces accountability on all sides - from ankle bracelet checks at the local police station to ridicule in the court of public opinion - every day.

You say he "blunders into Africa, then the Middle East with limited knowledge and almost no self-awareness". Did you know he once lived in Cairo at the house of a former Miss Egypt? Are you going to deny the influence of WikiLeaks on the Arab Spring revolutions? Even those who have complained that WikiLeaks was given too much credit do not pretend that it was not a powerful motivating force.

ENOUGH! I am only halfway through destroying your article. Why should I bother with the rest?

The real question here is Charlie Beckett's agenda.

What's especially pathetic is that Beckett published his nonsense on HuffPo but then posted a different version of his article (on the POLIS site, where I left my comment) after criticism from The Guardian's David Leigh.

And this is a guy who pretends to be a WikiLeaks supporter? Hmmnn.

Seems to me a lot of similar people are suddenly changing their tunes. I cant help wondering if a fair bit of money is not being thrown around, ahead of the UK extradition decision, with a US Grand Jury still on Julian Assange's case.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thoughts On Assange And Asperger's

I am not a psychologist and I've never met Julian Assange, so I have no idea whether he has Asperger's Syndrome or not. But it's something I have pondered for some time. After many years working with computer programmers and testers (statistically the most popular job for "Aspies"), I was forced to learn more about the condition when my teenage boy's behaviour became maddeningly difficult to understand. Perhaps that explains why I've been less inclined than others to criticise Assange's supposedly "erratic" behaviour.

The enigmatic Australian is clearly not severely afflicted. But interminable misunderstandings with business partners and colleagues, a sometimes monotone voice, and the occasional social faux pas are typical "Aspie" traits. So too are Assange's unflinching determination, his precise, logical thinking, his apparent lack of fear when confronting very powerful enemies, and even his quirky sense of humour.

In a new book being touted as his "unauthorised autobiography", Assange reportedly makes this half-hearted admission:
"I was beginning to get the hacker's disease: no sleep, bottomless curiosity, single-mindedness, and an obsession with precision. Later, when I became well known, people would enjoy pointing out that I had Asperger's or else that I was dangling somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I don't want to spoil anyone's fun, so let's just say I am – all hackers are, and I would argue all men are a little bit autistic."
I tend to agree. If the human brain is a complex electrical wiring system, autism is a physical condition where a bunch of wires are not connected properly. Individuals with Asperger's are at the lower end of the autism spectrum, where only a few wires (typically connected with imagination and human interaction) are wrongly connected. Nature being what it is, I'm sure the perfect brain is as elusive as the perfect body.

Medical arguments over how to diagnose and treat Asperger's Syndrome are endless. It wasn't recognized as an official diagnosis in the US until 1994, and some still argue that it should be treated like any other autism spectrum disorder. Some regard it as a "disability" while others call it a "difference" which does not necessarily require treatment.

The problem is that every Asperger's sufferer exhibits different symptoms, and for every rule there are countless exceptions. Some Aspies are intensely sensitive to light, while others cannot stand contact with certain fabrics. Most, but not all, have problems with eye contact. People with high IQ's tend to be at the lower end of the spectrum, but then there are high IQ people like Dustin Hoffman's "Rain Man" at the other extreme. Low IQ cases can also exhibit only mild symptoms.

If medical experts are still struggling to understand the condition, legal minds are even further behind. Gerry Smith in HuffPo points out that several famous hackers have used Asperger's diagnoses as part of their defence in court, with mixed results. Cases of interest include:

- Ryan "Topiary" Cleary, alleged Lulzec hacker,
- Adrian Lamo, who was found guilty of hacking The New York Times in 2003, then became a friend of US government agents and eventually snitched on alleged Cablegate source Bradley Manning,
- Gary McKinnon, who was arrested for hacking NASA and the Pentagon in 2002 and has been fighting extradition from the UK to the US ever since.

Smith's article is titled: "Is Having Autism A Defense For Hacking?" It's a bit of a stupid question to anyone familiar with Asperger's, let alone full-scale autism. Surely any medical condition which affects a person's behaviour must be taken into account when judging that person's actions? The only question is the extent to which that condition influenced the action. And when it comes to Asperger's, that's sometimes a very difficult call to make.

For example, Julian Assange has been widely criticised for allegedly suggesting that names did not need to be redacted from leaked US cables because informants ‘deserved to die’. In the new book he reportedly explains:
"This is just nonsense: I said some people held that view, but that we would edit the documents to preserve their essential content and not throw harm in people’s way if we could avoid it... In actual fact, we had been burning the midnight oil on redactions from early on."
Is it possible that this much-hyped "bombshell" moment was just a lack of communication? Asperger's sufferers typically have difficulty picking up on non-verbal communication, non-literal language, and emotions. Is it possible Assange - if he does have Asperger's - didn't even realise that he needed to explain his words a bit better? I don't know, I wasn't in the room. But having experienced dozens of similarly baffling moments of miscommunication at home over the past few years, often leading to major dramas with my child, I am willing to keep an open mind.

In the end, it really shouldn't matter too much whether Julian Assange has Asperger's or not. We should judge others by their actions, preferably with a degree of generosity, and be particularly understanding where disabilities are concerned. We shouldn't condemn people whose personalities don't match our own. Likewise, journalists should not prejudice their reporting because they find Julian Assange "difficult", and the public should not base their opinions about WikiLeaks on such relentlessly hostile media attitudes.

But this is the world we live in. Even newspaper editors are human beings, and the dynamics of our daily lives are a swirl of colourful emotions and complex interactions. In such a world, which frequently leaves those with Aspberger's Syndrome wounded, angry and bewildered, is it possible for the cold, hard logic of Truth to prevail?

As a bit of an Aspie myself, I certainly hope so. The world needs WikiLeaks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Julian Assange book: a few more tidbits

From some random website:
Assange on being fair game for criticism:

From the start, of course, being a whistleblowing website, as they call us, certain people were keen to blow the whistle on us and that hasn’t changed. My response was, ‘Fair enough. We should eat our own dog food and see how it tastes.’ We were a group of committed, idealistic people who were trying to get something done. We could take what flak was on offer, but our basic position was strong and ethical, and I couldn’t see what rubbish could be thrown at us.

On the Collateral Murder video:

It is a famous document of our times. But when I first saw the footage, it wasn’t at all clear what was going on; the images were jagged and the sequence lacked drama and impact, though what it depicted, eventually, was truly devastating.

On his disappointment in how the media reacted to it.

The storm that blew up about that title was depressing and surprising, even given what I knew about the attitude of much of the Western media to the official US government line. So puffed up are they with a sense of their own importance that, on seeing the video, the first debate they wanted to have was about our title, not about the contents.

On claims that he said that informants named in the cables shouldn’t be protected because they deserved to die.

Another erroneous report emerged at this time that had me saying we weren’t responsible for the welfare of informants and that ‘they deserved to die’. This is just nonsense: I said some people held that view, but that we would edit the documents to preserve their essential content and not throw harm in people’s way if we could avoid it. … In actual fact, we had been burning the midnight oil on redactions from early on.

Julian Assange: 'I am – like all hackers – a little bit autistic'

From the UK Independent:
The thrill of getting into top-secret websites quickly became addictive for Julian Assange. Here he describes all-night hacking sessions, a cat-and-mouse game with a computer administrator and the arrival of the police...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

When I started hacking you were just one layer above the bare metal. You were typing into this wonderful emptiness, waiting to be populated with minds. A few of us were interested in projecting our thoughts into the computer to make it do something new. We began writing codes and we began cracking them, too.

The thrill was exorbitant. It was like the first time you beat an adult at chess. I'm amazed when I run into people who don't understand the pleasure in this, for it is the pleasure of creation itself, of understanding something intimately and making it new.

Every hacker has a handle, and I took the name Mendax, from Horace's Splendide Mendax – nobly untruthful, or perhaps "delightfully deceptive". I liked the idea that in hiding behind a false name, lying about who or where I was, a teenager in Melbourne, I could somehow speak more truthfully about my real identity. By now, the computer work was taking up a great deal of my time. I was beginning to get the hacker's disease: no sleep, bottomless curiosity, single-mindedness, and an obsession with precision. Later, when I became well known, people would enjoy pointing out that I had Asperger's or else that I was dangling somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I don't want to spoil anyone's fun, so let's just say I am – all hackers are, and I would argue all men are a little bit autistic. But in my mid- to late teens I could barely focus on anything that didn't seem to me like a major breakthrough.

It was certainly addictive. You'd dive down into a computer system – typically, for me at the time, the Pentagon's 8th Command Group computers. You'd take it over, projecting your mind all the way from your untidy bedroom to the entire system along the halls, and all the while you're learning to understand that system better than the people in Washington. It was like being able to teleport yourself into the interior of the Pentagon in order to walk around and take charge.

It sounds ridiculous, but we found our own keyholes into the inner workings of vast corporations, and we installed others, until we found we would be able to control their whole system. Turn off 20,000 phone lines in Buenos Aires? No problem. Give New Yorkers free telephone calls for an afternoon with no good reason? Do it.

You would bump into your adversaries inside the system. Like meeting strangers on a dark night. There were maybe 50 people in the world at that time, adversaries and brethren, equally part of an elite group of computer explorers, working at a high level. On a typical night, you would have, say, an Australian computer hacker talking to an Italian computer hacker inside the computer system of a French nuclear complex.

As experiences of young adulthood go, it was mindblowing. By day you'd be walking down the street to the supermarket, meeting people you know, people who have no sense of you as anything other than a slacker teenager, and you'd know you had spent last night knee-deep in Nasa. We were even able to hack into the police's systems. There we first came across a policeman called Sergeant Ken Day, who appeared to be obsessed with our activities – and who would later turn out to be our nemesis.

One night, as I explored Nortel's network, I realised I was being watched. It was 2.30am and a system administrator was on to us. I tried for an hour to circumvent his inspections, block his way, all the while deleting the incriminating directory and walking backwards, clearing the path of my footprints. The administrator had been logged on from home, but after a break he appeared at the main Nortel console. He had gone into work.

I was now in trouble: you can only obfuscate for so long. He had me. I made a message appear on the administrator's screen:

I have finally become sentient.

Then, a little later:

I have taken control.

For years, I have been struggling in this greyness.

But now I have finally seen the light.

The administrator kept cool. He began checking all the modem lines. The scene could only play out to his advantage. I typed:

It's been nice playing with your system.

Pause. Nothing. Pause. Like cyber-Pinter. I typed again:

We didn't do any damage and we even improved a few things. Please don't call the Australian Federal Police.

I was alone and sad on the night that they came. My wife and child had just left, and I had come to the end of my rope... Our squat was a mess, and I sat on the sofa reading – a vision of things to come – the prison letters of George Jackson, kept in the toughest US prisons at the pleasure of the authorities. I was broken. I was listening, half-listening, to a telephone fault signal that was sounding through my stereo speakers.

At 11.30 that night there was a knock at the door and a play of shadows outside. The police announced themselves and I thought of all the times I had expected them, all the times I dreamt they were coming. I opened the door and found about a dozen federal officers with battering equipment. A man at the front looked me in the eye as if he always knew we would meet. At that moment it occurred to me that the disks with stuff I had found in the Pentagon system on them weren't in their usual hiding place. They were on my desk in full view of the cops. "I'm Ken Day," the head policeman said. "I believe you've been expecting me."

Julian Assange Book: 'I knew my life would never be the same'

From the UK Independent:
Once the decision was made to target governments and institutions, Assange found himself lonely and tired, as his organisation grew into a global movement

Thursday, 22 September 2011

In 2006 I decided that I wanted to tackle institutions and governments, wherever they led their dark lives. I'm not an original political thinker, never claimed to be, but I know the technology and I understand the structures of government; and I was ready to throw the latter, where possible, into a bath of acid and boil them down to the bone.

We had the activist experience and the will to disempower. We had the gumption. We had the philosophy. Game on. I registered on 4 October 2006. Our philosophy was, from the beginning, fundamentally anti-bastard, and, coarse as that seems, it's also got a certain honesty. I guess I knew that my ordinary life, if I'd ever had one, would never be the same again.

Before the launch, the finance for registering domain names and so on came from me. Everybody else contributed their time for free. I tried to bring in friends, but friendship, in my experience, will only buy you about nine hours of free labour. And there was an unbelievable amount of work. I had worked through the ideas over many years, but the programming and the logistics had to be done quickly and effectively. I was going from Kenya to Tanzania to Cairo, building the site all the way, and that's when I really began to live out of a small rucksack. I must say I had never been one for belongings. I didn't have many clothes. I spent or gave away whatever money I had almost instantly. I had a bag of socks and underwear, and a bigger bag of laptops and cables. That was it.

In Paris in the spring of 2007, I felt completely crushed, knowing WikiLeaks could be great, but that I was just ailing under the sheer volume of work required to make it happen. I had a girlfriend who would come round. She just brought food and I stayed at the computer. She spoke Russian, and would sometimes lend a hand with that, but it was a lonely time.

I was constantly searching for voluntary labour and holding online meetings that I'd scheduled with supporters. Once or twice, though, quite comically (though not at the time), I turned out to be the only person at those online meetings. And of course the whole thing was right on the border of schizophrenia: I'd be there, tapping away, being the Chair and the Secretary and bringing the next thing on the agenda and calling the vote. Mad.

In the same spirit of self-reinforcement, I would sometimes decide that a particular piece of work would demand that I wore clothing that suited the gravity of the occasion. Imagine me sitting in a hot poky flat in Paris, unshaven, typing away, but wearing exactly the right sort of jacket. I know. But I felt I had to go on as if the whole thing were possible, and that way it would really happen.

Julian Assange Book: 'I did not rape those women'

From the UK Independent:
In the first extract from the book, Julian Assange gives his version of the background to accusations of sexual assault that have led to his battle against extradition to Sweden

Thursday, 22 September 2011

I arrived in Sweden on the 11 August last year. Just at the point of arrival, I received some news from one of our contacts in a Western intelligence agency, confirming what had already been hinted at by the Pentagon press office.

The word was that the US government acknowledged privately that I would be difficult to prosecute but were already talking about "dealing with you illegally", as my source put it. The source specified what that would mean: gaining evidence about what we had in the way of information; unearthing, by whatever means, some sort of link between Private Manning and WikiLeaks; and, if all else failed, deploying other illegal means, such as planting drugs on me, "finding" child pornography on my hardware, or seeking to embroil me in allegations of immoral conduct.

One evening soon after, I went to dinner with a few friends and their associates. The Swedish journalist Donald Böstrom, a friend and very experienced news man of about 50 was there, along with another Swedish journalist and an American investigative journalist and his girlfriend. The American had possibly murky connections, but the girl was nice, and I was chatting her up with Donald frowning across from me. Donald later said I should watch what I was doing: he said the threat of a "honeytrap" was high at that moment, and I remember he went into detail about how Mossad had captured Vanunu. I guess I must have been up for affection, to put it coyly, because I didn't think very seriously about what Donald was saying.

I was supposed to be staying at the flat of a political worker called A——, who was away from her apartment. I went there, and after a few days she returned early. Ms A—— was a political spokesperson for the party and was involved in the arrangements to bring me over. I had no reason not to trust her, and no reason, when she pointed out that there was only one bed and would I be cool sleeping with her, to believe that this was naught but a friendly suggestion. I said yes, anyhow, and we went to bed together that night.

These political engagements are stressful and I was glad of the attention, when it came, of these smiling and affectionate women. It's embarrassing to say so, given that even a single man, as I was, is liable to be thought ungallant even for mentioning what went on with a woman in private. Or more than one woman. But the situation seemed not at all unusual and felt like part of something nice in an otherwise dark time. Speaking honestly, I would have to say I thought A—— was a little neurotic. But our night together was unremarkable. We had sex several times and the next day everything seemed fine between us.

A couple of nights later, A—— had arranged a crayfish party, a traditional occasion at that time of year in Sweden, and I went along to meet up with her. This was the day after the day she later claimed I had raped her. A—— was there at the party and seemed totally happy, laughing and drinking with me and my friends and her friends until late. We were sitting outside the party and she sent a tweet saying she was "with the coolest people in the world". It became obvious she had told people about us sleeping together and it emerged, later, that she had taken a picture of me when I was asleep in her bed and pasted it on her Facebook page... She said it was cool to stay at hers and I went back with her. And that was how the situation remained for the next five nights.

On another occasion, I met a woman called W—— at a press conference. I remember she was wearing a nice pink sweater. After an awards party, I met up with W—— and went back with her to her house in Enkopping, which is about 50 miles outside Stockholm.

My behaviour sounds cold, and no doubt was, which is a failing of mine, but not a crime. I'd spent long enough at A——'s and could see that it would be a bad idea to stay longer. Remember, I was feeling especially paranoid: I didn't like being in one place for too long and the affair with A—— was becoming public, which appeared to be something she wanted.

The thing with W—— was going nowhere, either. She was a little vague, but the night in Enkopping was fun and I thought we'd had a perfectly nice time, albeit one that probably wouldn't be repeated. She didn't seem too fussed herself, as we had breakfast together the next morning and then rode together on her bicycle to the railway station. She kindly paid for my ticket – my bank card was still on the blink, though I'm always skint – and she kissed me goodbye and asked me to call her from the train. I didn't do that, and it has already turned out to be the most expensive call I didn't make.

At one point, I did have a short conversation with W——, when she called me, but the phone was low on charge and it ran out while we were still talking. The international situation had me in its grip, and although I had spent time with these women, I wasn't paying enough attention to them, or ringing them back, or able to step out of the zone that came down with all these threats and statements against me in America. One of my mistakes was to expect them to understand this... I wasn't a reliable boyfriend, or even a very courteous sleeping partner, and this began to figure. Unless, of course, the agenda had been rigged from the start.

After a strange few days of contact with the women, one of whom said she wanted me to do an STD test, I needed some time and space to myself, so I booked into a hotel for the night and began writing a newspaper column. I had just written a line about the first casualty of war being truth when, about 6.30pm, I checked on Twitter and saw there was an arrest warrant out for me for double rape, and my entire belief system temporarily collapsed.

I did not rape those women and cannot imagine anything that happened between us that would make them think so, except malice after the fact, a joint plan to entrap me, or a terrible misunderstanding that was stoked up between them. I may be a chauvinist pig of some sort but I am no rapist, and only a distorted version of sexual politics could attempt to turn me into one. They each had sex with me willingly and were happy to hang out with me afterwards.

That is all.

Julian Assange book: 'We just kept moving'

From the UK Independent:
In further exclusive extracts from his unauthorised autobiography, Assange describes a childhood on the run, his memories of school and his experience in Wandsworth prison

Friday, 23 September 2011

My own father was missing from my life, and only became part of it again when I was grown up. But it meant that Brett Assange was the male figure I related to, the good father. Brett was one of those cool 1970s people who were into guitars and everything that went with the music scene. I've got his name – Assange – an unusual one which comes from Mr Sang, or ah-sang in Cantonese: his great-great-great-grandfather was a Taiwanese pirate. Brett and my mother divorced when I was nine. He had been good to me, and was good in general, but not so good to himself, and the end of their relationship represents the end of a kind of innocence in my life.

My stepfather's place in our family was usurped by a man called Leif Meynell. I remember he had shoulder-length blond hair and was quite good-looking; a high forehead, and the characteristic dimpled white mark of a smallpox injection on his arm. From the darkness at his roots, it was obvious he bleached his hair. And one time I looked in his wallet and saw that all his cards were in different names. He was some sort of musician and played the guitar. But mainly he was a kind of ghost and a threatening mystery to us.

I was opposed to him from the start. Perhaps that's normal, for a boy to resist a man like that, or any man, in fact, who appears to be usurping his father or stepfather. Leif didn't live with us, though my mother must have been besotted with him at first. But whatever her feeling for him was, it didn't last. She would see him off, but he had this ability to turn up and pretend it was otherwise. Eventually, it was a matter of us escaping from him. We would cross the country and only then suffer this sinister realisation that he had found us. He'd suddenly be back in our lives and this grew to be very heavy. He had this brilliant ability to insinuate himself. He punched me in the face once and my nose bled. Another time, I pulled a knife on him, told him to keep back from me; but the relationship with him wasn't about physical abuse. It was about a certain psychological power he sought to have over us.

In 1980, my mother became pregnant by Leif and, seeing the possible impact of my opposition, he tried at first to be reasonable, pointing out that he was now the father of my brother and that my mother wanted him around. "But if you ever don't want me around," he said, "then I'll leave immediately." He wanted to stay with us, and did, for a time, but I was conscious of wanting to look after my mother and the baby.

My mother was in love with Leif. And I was too young to understand what sexual love was all about. I just knew that he wasn't my father and that he was a sinister presence. He tried, again and again, to make the case that I should not reject him and he had this thing with my mother and he was my brother's father and everything. But a time came when I told him I no longer accepted this deal. He had lied to us in a way that I hadn't known adults could lie. I remember he once said all ugly people should be killed. He beat my mother from time to time, and you felt he might be capable of just about anything. I wanted him to leave, as he had promised me he would, but he denied that the conversation had ever happened.

And so we started moving. Nomadism suits some people; it suits some people's situations. We just kept moving because that's what we did: my mother had work in a new town and we would find a house there. Simple as that. Except that the moving in these years, because of Leif, had a degree of hysteria attached, and that, in a sense, took all the simplicity away and replaced it with fear. It would take time for us to understand what the position was, and it was this: Leif Meynell was a member of an Australian cult called The Family. On reflection, I can now see that his obsessional nature derived from that, as well as his egocentricity and his dark sense of control.

The Family was founded by a woman called Anne Hamilton-Byrne in the mid-1960s. It started in the mountains north of Melbourne, where they meditated, had meetings and sessions where they used LSD. The basic notion was that Anne happened to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, but with elements of Eastern philosophy thrown in, such that her followers beheld a karmic deity obsessed with cleansing their souls. Anne prophesied the end of the world, arguing, quite comically, though not to her, that only the people in the Dandenong Ranges of mountains east of Melbourne would survive.

Leif Meynell was part of that cult. And everything he did relating to us was informed by his association with The Family. It was so tiring. Just moving all the time. Being on the run. The very last time, we got some intelligence that Leif was drawing close; they told us he was near us in the hills outside Melbourne. My brother and I showed a lot of resistance that final time: we just couldn't bear the idea of grabbing our things again and dashing for the door. As a bribe, my mother and I told my little brother he could take his prized rooster, a Rhode Island Red, a very tall, proud, strong-looking bird, and also an extremely loud one. To match that, I insisted on taking my two-storey beehive. Picture the scene: a by-now hysterical mother and her two children, along with the pride of their menagerie, stuffed into a regular station wagon and heading up the dirt track. On the run, we learnt a little bushcraft. We learnt how to get by on very little money and not enough normality. Being unsettled was our normality and we became good at it.

My mother changed her name. We worked out that Leif must have had contacts within the social security administration – that was how The Family is thought to have worked – so it seemed best to change the names that would be held inside the government computer system. But he was quite a gifted talker and would get friends to supply him with information about our whereabouts and he would always catch up. It was a private investigator who eventually came and told us about his close relationship with the Anne Hamilton-Byrne cult. We were living in Fern Tree Gully, and I was now 16 years old. We'd come to the end of the road. Also, I was feeling almost a man myself and was ready to front-up to him. Masculinity and its discontents could be addressed here, but let's just say I knew I could waste him and he appeared to know it, too. He was lurking round the bounds of the house and I walked over and told him to fuck off. It was the first and the last time, and something in the way I said it ensured that we would never see him again.

On being locked up:

'It was hard to go back to my cell'

My bail hearing took place at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on Horseferry Road on 14 December 2010. The court was packed and so was the street outside as I approached in a police van. Someone said the roads around Victoria were treacherous, and I smiled, thinking, "I've known treachery, so let the roads be at peace with themselves."

It was interesting – it was alarming – to see how much the prosecution followed the press and allowed a sense of justice to be confused by the many fantastical headlines surrounding me. They needed a villain with silver hair, some kind of cat-stroking nutcase bent on serial seduction and world domination. There was no point opposing it. An impression had been created, and I had neither the skill nor the will to outflank it. But I always knew my lawyers would have to struggle against those who thought they were watching a movie as opposed to trafficking in a person's life.

I was granted bail on the 14th only to be told that the Swedish authorities had appealed against the decision and that I would have to be sent back to Wandsworth. It was hard to take, having to leave my friends and supporters behind once again, having to leave the talking to my lawyers, having to sit inside the prison van once more as it crawled through the media scrum. It was hard to enter my cell once more and hear the door shut behind me. But as I had told my mother before the hearing, my convictions were unfaltering and my ideals were not shaken by my circumstances.

After two more nights in jail I was back in court, the High Court this time, on 16 December. I have nothing profound to say about the judge, except to suggest that he behaved throughout as if there was a correspondent from The Times perched on his shoulder. It was hard otherwise to see why he reckoned my bail should be so high and my tagging so severe. In his mind I was some kind of shadowy, movie-style kingpin, likely to disappear at any minute in a puff of smoke, a souped-up helicopter, or a hail of laserfire. In fact, my circumstances were more ordinary than he could have known.

I had no home and no car, I had hardly any possessions, and a bag of phones. He just didn't get it, and meted out punishment as though it might be preemptive. I had no charge against me and was wanted for questioning in a country whose motives I presently had no reason politically to trust. That was it. Finally, the money raised for bail by my supporters came through, and the Swedish appeal was rejected. I was about to be free. How long that freedom would last was questionable. But at the High Court the moment was for jubilation.

In trouble with authority:

'Two policemen quickly turned up at the door...'

I went to well over 30 schools in all. Early on, that peripatetic life was heavenly. It gave me a sense of meeting new challenges all the time. It felt like we were gulping down experience without fear.

I was probably the kind of child who was shopping for things to take a stand against. I remember one day my folks were making dinner and found they were short of tomatoes. The neighbours had loads of tomatoes, but they wouldn't give us any. So the next day I began digging a tunnel from our garden to theirs. I got some of my little gang involved, bringing shovels and candles to get the job done. We got under the fence in secret and came away with two baskets of tomatoes. I handed one of them to my mother and she had this grin. Two policemen quickly turned up at the door and they, too, were grinning. They just stood there rocking on their heels. It was my first run-in with the law. We handed back one basket of tomatoes, and the scandal reverberated. But I was happy that I still had the second basket of tomatoes hidden.

They sent me to some kind of Steiner-style school where it was all about expressing yourself. There was an obnoxious little girl who wouldn't share, and in accordance with the school's philosophy, I decided to express myself without hindrance, so I hit her over the head with a hammer. This caused a giant fuss, of course, and I had to leave, although the girl was fine. We just kept moving.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Cult Of Julian Assange Worshippers

It all began so innocently. I started hanging out with a bad crowd on the intertubes, digging into secret filez about energy wars and government corruption. The Afghan War Logs. The Iraq War Logs. Suddenly I was being called a "WikiLeaks groupie".

And it was true! Yes, I was revelling in this subversive counter-culture! I was spending hours and hours on my computer, chatting with other "groupies", posting my findings on Twitter, writing up stories the media was ignoring and governments didn't want people to know. I began writing for WikiLeaks Central and even got re-tweeted by Mr. @wikileaks himself - an intoxicating high for a crazy, deluded cyber-hippy like myself.

It was just a fashionable thing, obviously. It would have passed soon enough, I'm sure. But then along came CableGate, with over 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables just begging to be investigated. How could I walk away now? Ignoring my wife's futile pleas, I launched myself into the adventure like an alcoholic diving into a beer-filled swimming pool. Alas!

To make matters worse, the Arab Spring was spreading across North Africa and the Middle East. Even European countries began to witness mass protests with young people - obviously as foolish as myself - setting up camps in the centre of major capitals. When they cited WikiLeaks as an inspiration, I felt as if I knew exactly what they meant. There seemed to be some kind of connection between the growing pile of Cablegate revelations and the growing outrage on the streets. With retrospect, as the media kindly explained, we were obviously experiencing some kind of mass delusion!

Meanwhile, the voices of reason were growing louder. Julian Assange is a narcissist, they said. He's dangerous. He's putting innocent lives at risk. He's a criminal who should be locked up or assassinated! La la la la la! I blocked my ears, refusing to even acknowledge their logic. In fact, these voices only fuelled my determination to support the embattled WikiLeaks insiders.

When Daniel Domscheit-Berg split with Assange, taking a batch of secret files with him and crippling the all-important WikiLeaks drop-box, I cursed him as a traitor. When he published a book, sold movie rights, and announced his own "OpenLeaks" organisation, I ridiculed him as a contemptible opportunist. But when he told a Geman newspaper where to find a loosed copy of the entire Cablegate package, insisting that the password to the file had already been published, that was the last straw. I snapped!

Something inside my head must have broken right then and there...

I just couldn't understand how Domscheit-Berg could bring public attention to the full, unredacted Cablegate package and still argue that he supported whistle-blowers. And I couldn't understand how the German media could report this without condemning him.

I couldn't understand it, either, when Guardian editor David Leigh claimed that there was nothing wrong with publishing the full password in his rushed, tell-all WikiLeaks book. I mean, if it was OK for him to publish the password, how could he criticise Assange for lax security? Wasn't that hypocrisy?

Leigh even criticised Assange for not speaking up when the book was published. But what was Julian supposed to say? "OMG you just published the password and there's a rogue file floating on WikiLeaks mirror sites!"???

Things got even weirder when I read the newspapers the next day. Everything was Julian Assange's fault! Daniel Domscheit-Berg was barely mentioned. Leigh's password publishing was old news already. How was that possible, I wondered?

Formerly loyal WikiLeaks supporters began to peel away from the organisation. It was time to join them, to denounce Assange as "an Icarus who flew too close to the sun", then step back and watch him fall to earth with a thud.

But I couldn't do it. OK, clearly Assange should have been more careful in protecting that Cablegate file. He should have removed it from the hidden sub-folder and made a new password after Leigh downloaded it. But the WikLeaks site was under repeated denial-of-service attacks, his organisation was fending off accusations from all sides, they were working with minimal resources, and Assange himself was being set up (or so I foolishly believed) for sex crimes in Sweden.

Under the circumstances, the enigmatic Australian's mistake seemed understandable to me. From my twisted viewpoint, it hardly de-legitimized the entire WikiLeaks venture. But what did I know? I had already slipped from the tenuous grasp of "Assangeism" into a deep state of blind devotion to the WikiLeaks founder. I was gone, baby, gone.

So now I light my candles, bow to my little online altar, and send my daily missives out into the ether, praying to the gods of transparency, truth and light. It's madness, I know. But who will join me?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Who Killed WikiLeaks?

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not I,” says the journalist
“Don’t point your finger at me
I could’ve toned down the hate
An’ maybe kept 'em from their fate
But my readers like simple facts
And these guys were a complex act
It’s too bad they had to go
But there was a pressure on me too, you know
It wasn’t me that made 'em fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not us,” says the angry crowd
Turning up their screens real loud
“It’s too bad they disappeared
While we were busy drinking beers.
We'd really like to hear the truth
But not from folks who sound uncouth
There ain’t nothing wrong in that
It wasn’t us that made 'em fall
No, you can’t blame us at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not me,” says the businessman
Puffing on a Cuban brand
“It’s hard to say, it’s hard to tell
I always thought Assange was swell
It’s too bad whistle-blowing’s dead
But profits are still in the red
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not me,” says the soldier man
A smoking gun still in his hand
“It wasn’t me that took 'em down
I was mostly standing round
Waiting for the judge to say
If the bastards should be blown away
But it wasn’t me that made 'em fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not me,” says the Federal Judge
Chewing on a political grudge
Sayin’, “The law ain’t to blame
Sweet revenge is part of the game”
Sayin’, “Security is here to stay
It’s just the new American way
It wasn’t me that made 'em fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not me,” says the politician
Packing bags and going fishing
Taking bribes behind the door
So evidence is seen no more
“I criticized 'em, yes, it’s true
But that’s what I am paid to do
Don’t say ‘corrupt,’ don’t speak ill
It was destiny, it was God’s will”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

With apologies to Bob Dylan's Who Killed Davey Moore?