The controversial website WikiLeaks collects and posts highly classified documents and video. Founder Julian Assange, who's reportedly being sought for questioning by US authorities, talks to TED's Chris Anderson about how the site operates, what it has accomplished -- and what drives him. The interview includes graphic footage of a recent US airstrike in Baghdad.

Why you should listen to him:

You could say Australian-born Julian Assange has swapped his long-time interest in network security flaws for the far-more-suspect flaws of even bigger targets: governments and corporations. Since his early 20s, he has been using network technology to prod and probe the vulnerable edges of administrative systems, but though he was a computing hobbyist first (in 1991 he was the target of hacking charges after he accessed the computers of an Australian telecom), he's now taken off his "white hat" and launched a career as one of the world's most visible human-rights activists.

He calls himself "editor in chief." He travels the globe as its spokesperson. Yet Assange's part in WikiLeaks is clearly dicier than that: he's become the face of creature that, simply, many powerful organizations would rather see the world rid of. His Wikipedia entry says he is "constantly on the move," and some speculate that his role in publishing decrypted US military video has put him in personal danger. A controversial figure, pundits debate whether his work is reckless and does more harm than good. Amnesty International recognized him with an International Media Award in 2009.

Assange studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne. He wrote Strobe, the first free and open-source port scanner, and contributed to the book Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier.

"WikiLeaks has had more scoops in three years than the Washington Post has had in 30."

Clay Shirky

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Replies to This Discussion

He is one of the worlds fascinating people.  Some hate him because he threatens to rock the boat.  Some love him because he threatens to rock the boat.  I think he has a value in today's society that cannot be underestimated.  The amount of secrecy that we have permitted our governments to get away with, encroaches on the realms of insanity.  The blind faith that people have trained their minds to accept, through their persistence in belief in a non-existent deity, is so easily tapped into by today's government.

I am so glad that Ecuador stepped forward and offered him the protection that should have been given him by the UK.  I am ashamed of the UK government's attitude towards him.  I will be going back to the UK for election day, so I can express my sentiments for them clearly.

Thank you Ecuador, for being stalwart supporters of the rights to free speech.

Sadly, in my short 58 years, it is clear that 'rocking the boat' is a deeply moral act. As an employee, one can be cooped by manipulators with a self interest that can destroy lives. As a citizen, we can at times be manipulated with flowery words and emthy promises to sacrifice our own interests and personal integrity. More more brick pulled from the wall I say....

We have a vote to name "Julian Assange" as Humanist of the Year 2013!

There is a virtual press moratorium on him in the UK.  He has to do something pretty spectacular to even trigger newsprint, and the only newspaper that ever gives him coverage, albeit minimal, is the Guardian, which is a liberal paper for the reasonably well-educated, rather than any of the tabloids.  Your Huffington Post gives him more coverage.  Sometimes the government of my country really really disappoints me.

Evidently wikileaks is about to publish a whole raft of new stuff.  I hope it has something in the next batch that catches the UK government with its pants around its ankles.  It's not the general population of the UK that is anti-Assange, it is the UK government and its ability to neuter the press that disgusts me,

Free speech? Yes, sure.


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