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He has rarely spoken of his upbringing in Australia or life outside of his work, arguing that to do so may assist those who want him and WikiLeaks silenced.
But the trail of his life is across the internet, as coded and mysterious as the man he is today. It begins - publicly at least - in October 1991 when Assange, then a teenager, was charged with 30 computer hacking offences.
Prosecutors alleged he and others hacked the systems of the Australian National University, RMIT and Telecom. They had even managed to remotely monitor the Australian Federal Police investigation into their activities, Operation Weather.
Assange admitted 24 hacking charges and was placed on a good behaviour bond and ordered to pay $2100. The investigation in Australia began after an audacious attack on NASA's computers in 1989.
The word ''WANK'' appeared in big letters on NASA monitors, an acronym for Worms Against Nuclear Killers. Underneath was an Australian connection - lines from a Midnight Oil song. Whoever did it was never identified.
In 1997 an astonishing book was published in Melbourne. It sold a respectable 10,000 hard copies but, when it was made available free on the internet it was downloaded 400,000 times within two years.
Underground told the riveting inside story of the city's computer hackers and Assange was prominently billed in it as a researcher for the book's author, Dr Suelette Dreyfus, now an academic researcher. It opened with a detailed account of the NASA attack.
Dreyfus wrote glowingly of Assange's efforts: ''Julian had worked thousands of hours doing painstaking research; discovering and cultivating sources, digging with great resourcefulness into obscure data bases and legal papers - not to mention providing valuable editorial advice.''
The book did not name the Melbourne hackers but used their online identities and told their story. The records of Assange's court case and his biographical details on WikiLeaks match the story of Mendax - one of the hacker's online identities in Underground.
http://www.smh.com.au/technology/techno ... -ryvf.html
here's an extensive rundown of what happened:
Monday, 16 October 1989 Kennedy Space Center, Florida
NASA buzzed with the excitement of a launch. Galileo was finally going to Jupiter.
Administrators and scientists in the world's most prestigious space agency had spent years trying to get the unmanned probe into space. Now, on Tuesday, 17 October, if all went well, the five astronauts in the Atlantis space shuttle would blast off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with Galileo in tow. On the team's fifth orbit, as the shuttle floated 295 kilometres above the Gulf of Mexico, the crew would liberate the three-tonne space probe.
An hour later, as Galileo skated safely away from the shuttle, the probe's 32500 pound booster system would fire up and NASA staff would watch this exquisite piece of human ingenuity embark on a six-year mission to the largest planet in the solar system. Galileo would take a necessarily circuitous route, flying by Venus once and Earth twice in a gravitational slingshot effort to get up enough momentum to reach Jupiter.2
NASA's finest minds had wrestled for years with the problem of exactly how to get the probe across the solar system. Solar power was one option. But if Jupiter was a long way from Earth, it was even further from the Sun--778.3 million kilometres to be exact. Galileo would need ridiculously large solar panels to generate enough power for its instruments at such a distance from the Sun. In the end, NASA's engineers decided on a tried if not true earthly energy source: nuclear power.
Nuclear power was perfect for space, a giant void free of human life which could play host to a bit of radioactive plutonium 238 dioxide. The plutonium was compact for the amount of energy it gave off--and it lasted a long time. It seemed logical enough. Pop just under 24 kilograms of plutonium in a lead box, let it heat up through its own decay, generate electricity for the probe's instruments, and presto! Galileo would be on its way to investigate Jupiter.
American anti-nuclear activists didn't quite see it that way. They figured what goes up might come down. And they didn't much like the idea of plutonium rain. NASA assured them Galileo's power pack was quite safe. The agency spent about $50 million on tests which supposedly proved the probe's generators were very safe. They would survive intact in the face of any number of terrible explosions, mishaps and accidents. NASA told journalists that the odds of a plutonium release due to `inadvertent atmospheric re-entry' were 1 in 2 million. The likelihood of a plutonium radiation leak as a result of a launch disaster was a reassuring 1 in 2700.
The activists weren't having a bar of it. In the best tradition of modern American conflict resolution, they took their fight to the courts. The coalition of anti-nuclear and other groups believed America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration had underestimated the odds of a plutonium accident and they wanted a US District Court in Washington to stop the launch. The injunction application went in, and the stakes went up. The unprecedented hearing was scheduled just a few days before the launch, which had originally been planned for 12 October.
For weeks, the protesters had been out in force, demonstrating and seizing media attention. Things had become very heated. On Saturday, 7 October, sign-wielding activists fitted themselves out with gas masks and walked around on street corners in nearby Cape Canaveral in protest. At 8 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, NASA started the countdown for the Thursday blast-off. But as Atlantis's clock began ticking toward take-off, activists from the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice demonstrated at the centre's tourist complex.
That these protests had already taken some of the shine off NASA's bold space mission was the least of the agency's worries. The real headache was that the Florida Coalition told the media it would `put people on the launchpad in a non-violent protest'.3 The coalition's director, Bruce Gagnon, put the threat in folksy terms, portraying the protesters as the little people rebelling against a big bad government agency. President Jeremy Rivkin of the Foundation on Economic Trends, another protest group, also drove a wedge between `the people' and `NASA's people'. He told UPI, `The astronauts volunteered for this mission. Those around the world who may be the victims of radiation contamination have not volunteered.'4
But the protesters weren't the only people working the media. NASA knew how to handle the press. They simply rolled out their superstars--the astronauts themselves. These men and women were, after all, frontier heroes who dared to venture into cold, dark space on behalf of all humanity. Atlantis commander Donald Williams didn't hit out at the protesters in a blunt fashion, he just damned them from an aloof distance. `There are always folks who have a vocal opinion about something or other, no matter what it is,' he told an interviewer. `On the other hand, it's easy to carry a sign. It's not so easy to go forth and do something worthwhile.'5
NASA had another trump card in the families of the heroes. Atlantis co-pilot Michael McCulley said the use of RTGs, Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators--the chunks of plutonium in the lead boxes--was a `non-issue'. So much so, in fact, that he planned to have his loved ones at the Space Center when Atlantis took off.
Maybe the astronauts were nutty risk-takers, as the protesters implied, but a hero would never put his family in danger. Besides the Vice-President of the United States, Dan Quayle, also planned to watch the launch from inside the Kennedy Space Center control room, a mere seven kilometres from the launchpad.
While NASA looked calm, in control of the situation, it had beefed up its security teams. It had about 200 security guards watching the launch site. NASA just wasn't taking any chances. The agency's scientists had waited too long for this moment. Galileo's parade would not be rained on by a bunch of peaceniks.
The launch was already running late as it was--almost seven years late. Congress gave the Galileo project its stamp of approval way back in 1977 and the probe, which had been budgeted to cost about $400 million, was scheduled to be launched in 1982. However, things began going wrong almost from the start.
In 1979, NASA pushed the flight out to 1984 because of shuttle development problems. Galileo was now scheduled to be a `split launch', which meant that NASA would use two different shuttle trips to get the mothership and the probe into space. By 1981, with costs spiralling upwards, NASA made major changes to the project. It stopped work on Galileo's planned three-stage booster system in favour of a different system and pushed out the launch deadline yet again, this time to 1985. After a federal Budget cut fight in 1981 to save Galileo's booster development program, NASA moved the launch yet again, to May 1986. The 1986 Challenger disaster, however, saw NASA change Galileo's booster system for safety reasons, resulting in yet more delays.
The best option seemed to be a two-stage, solid-fuel IUS system. There was only one problem. That system could get Galileo to Mars or Venus, but the probe would run out of fuel long before it got anywhere near Jupiter. Then Roger Diehl of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had a good idea. Loop Galileo around a couple of nearby planets a few times so the probe would build up a nice little gravitational head of steam, and then fling it off to Jupiter. Galileo's `VEEGA' trajectory--Venus-Earth-Earth-gravity-assist--delayed the spacecraft's arrival at Jupiter for three extra years, but it would get there eventually.
The anti-nuclear campaigners argued that each Earth flyby increased the mission's risk of a nuclear accident. But in NASA's view, such was the price of a successful slingshot.
Galileo experienced other delays getting off the ground. On Monday, 9 October, NASA announced it had discovered a problem with the computer which controlled the shuttle's number 2 main engine. True, the problem was with Atlantis, not Galileo. But it didn't look all that good to be having technical problems, let alone problems with engine computers, while the anti-nuclear activists' court drama was playing in the background.
NASA's engineers debated the computer problem in a cross-country teleconference. Rectifying it would delay blast-off by more than a few hours. It would likely take days. And Galileo didn't have many of those. Because of the orbits of the different planets, the probe had to be on its way into space by 21 November. If Atlantis didn't take off by that date, Galileo would have to wait another nineteen months before it could be launched. The project was already $1 billion over its original $400 million budget. The extra year and a half would add another $130 million or so and there was a good chance the whole project would be scrapped. It was pretty much now or never for Galileo.
Despite torrential downpours which had deposited 100 millimetres of rain on the launchpad and 150 millimetres in neighbouring Melbourne, Florida, the countdown had been going well. Until now. NASA took its decision. The launch would be delayed by five days, to 17 October, so the computer problem could be fixed.
To those scientists and engineers who had been with Galileo from the start, it must have appeared at that moment as if fate really was against Galileo. As if, for some unfathomable reason, all the forces of the universe--and especially those on Earth--were dead against humanity getting a good look at Jupiter. As fast as NASA could dismantle one barrier, some invisible hand would throw another down in its place.
Monday, 16 October, 1989 NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
Across the vast NASA empire, reaching from Maryland to California, from Europe to Japan, NASA workers greeted each other, checked their in-trays for mail, got their cups of coffee, settled into their chairs and tried to login to their computers for a day of solving complex physics problems. But many of the computer systems were behaving very strangely.
From the moment staff logged in, it was clear that someone--or something--had taken over. Instead of the usual system's official identification banner, they were startled to find the following message staring them in the face:
http://www.xs4all.nl/~suelette/undergro ... ter_1.html
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http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2010 ... wikileaks/Activists intent on releasing evidence of crimes committed by a powerful government are harassed and followed by police and intelligence agents: a restaurant in which they are meeting comes under surveillance, and, subsequently, one of their number is detained by the police for 21 hours. Their leader is followed on an international flight by two agents: and, in a parking lot of foreign soil, one of their number is accosted by a "James Bond character" and threatened. Computers are seized, and on the group’s Twitter account the following message appears:
"If anything happens to us, you know why … and you know who is responsible."
Well, then, who is responsible? Surely it must be some totalitarian regime – say, the Chinese, or one of the Arab autocracies – but no. The culprits are the Americans, and their target is Wikileaks – the web site of record for leaked government and other official documents, which has so far done more real investigative reporting in the last few years to unnerve and expose the Powers That Be than the New York Times and the Washington Post, combined.
From the dicey activities of major banks, to the "Climate-gate" e-mails that revealed attempts by government scientists to falsify or "sex up" data to make the case for global warming, to the war crimes committed by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Wikileaks is fearlessly exposing the evil that stalks the world – and they, in turn, are being relentlessly stalked by the US government and its minions.
A US government document [.pdf] posted on Wikileaks, and authored by Michael D. Horvath, of something called the "Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch," apparently a division of the Army Counterintelligence Center, declared Wikileaks to be a danger to national security. The report explored several ways to track the provenance of documents posted on the Wikileaks site, and take down the site itself. Horvath cites a supposed lack of "editorial review" which means "the Wikileaks.org Web site could be used to post fabricated information; to post misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda; or to conduct perception management and influence operations designed to convey a negative message to those who view or retrieve information from the Web site."
Furthermore, "it must be presumed that Wikileaks.org has or will receive sensitive or classified DoD documents in the future. This information will be published and analyzed over time by a variety of personnel and organizations with the goal of influencing US policy."
Shocking! Why, how dare these perfidious personnel and obviously subversive organizations presume to imagine they could possibly influence US policy! Horvath lists a number of "foreign" intelligence agencies – the Russians, the British, the Israelis – who have the technical capacity to shut Wikileaks down, and alludes to a more subtle effort by averring:
"Efforts by some domestic and foreign personnel and organizations to discredit the Wikileaks.org Web site include allegations that it wittingly allows the posting of uncorroborated information, serves as an instrument of propaganda, and is a front organization of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)."
Horvath goes on to detail all the criticism of Wikileaks that have appeared in the general media, including the blogosphere, and now that the "Collateral Murder" video has been released – with another one, showing similar atrocities in Afghanistan, on the way – the techniques described by Horvath are being implemented by the Obama administration’s media shills to discredit and marginalize Wikileaks, particularly targeting its founder, Julian Assange.
First up is Mother Jones magazine, a citadel of Bay Area high liberalism and the left-wing of the Obama cult, with a long article by one David Kushner. The piece is essentially a critical profile of Assange, who is described as an egotist in the first few paragraphs, and it goes downhill from there. Most of the article is a collection of dishy quotes from various "experts" – including from the apparently quite jealous (and obviously demented) editor of Cryptome.org, a similar site, who says Wikileaks is CIA front. Steven Aftergood, author of the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News blog, "says he wasn’t impressed with WikiLeaks’ ‘conveyor-belt approach’ to publishing anything it came across. ‘To me, transparency is a means to an end, and that end is an invigorated political life, accountable institutions, opportunities for public engagement. For them, transparency and exposure seem to be ends in themselves,’ says Aftergood. He declined to get involved."
To begin with, quite obviously Assange and the Wikileaks group have a political goal in, say, publishing the Iraq massacre video – which is to stop the war, end the atrocities, and expose the war crimes of this government to the light of day. Surely the video, and the ones to come, will continue to "invigorate" our political life – perhaps a bit more than the Aftergoods of this world would like.
Kushner contacted a few members of the Wikileaks advisory board who claim they never agreed to serve – and gets one of them, computer expert Ben Laurie, to call Assange "weird." Kushner adds his own description: "paranoid: – and yet Laurie’s own paranoia comes through loud and clear when he avers:
"WikiLeaks allegedly has an advisory board, and allegedly I’m a member of it. I don’t know who runs it. One of the things I’ve tried to avoid is knowing what’s going on there, because that’s probably safest for all concerned.”
This is really the goal of harassing and pursuing government critics: pure intimidation. With US government agents stalking Assange as he flies to a conference in Norway, and one attempted physical attack in Nairobi, Assange is hated by governments and their shills worldwide. And Mother Jones certainly is a shill for the Obama administration, a virtual house organ of the Obama cult designed specifically for Bay Area limousine liberals who’ll gladly turn a blind eye to their idol’s war crimes – and cheer on the Feds as they track Assange’s every move and plot to take him down.
Kushner asks "Can WikiLeaks be trusted with sensitive, and possibly life-threatening, documents when it is less than transparent itself?" Oh, what a good question: why shouldn’t Wikileaks make itself "transparent" to the US government, and all the other governments whose oxen have been viciously gored by documents posted on the site? Stop drinking the bong water, Kushner, and get a clue.
Kushner quotes one Kelly McBride, "the ethics group leader" at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, as saying Wikileaks suffers from "a distorted sense of transparency.” This Orwellian turn of phrase is an indicator of how the mind of a government shill works. Says McBride: “They’re giving you everything they’ve got, but when journalists go through process of granting someone confidentiality, when they do it well, they determine that source has good information and that the source is somehow deserving of confidentiality.”
I want to ask this "ethics group leader" if someone who works for the US government and has evidence of war crimes committed by that government, "is somehow deserving of confidentiality?" Yes or no? If no, then you had better reexamine the "ethics" upheld by you and the Poynter Institute. By the way, nothing about McBride’s views are at all surprising, given that the Poynter Institute is promoting the idea of government subsidies to the American media. If McBride & Co. aren’t already on the government payroll, then they should be. Same goes for the ubiquitous Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, who "thinks WikiLeaks’ approach gives fresh ammunition to those who seek to pressure journalists to cough up the names of their unnamed sources. She forbids her staff from using the site as a source."
Ms. Dalglish has her head screwed on backwards: that’s the only possible explanation for an organization ostensibly devoted to press freedom joining the government’s pushback against Wikileaks. She should resign – or be impeached – forthwith. Far from pressuring journalists, Wikileaks is an essential asset to the profession: it provides them not only with more sources, but also with a convenient fallback: "I got it from Wikileaks." This decreases pressure on journalists pressed to identify their sources: they can always blame it on Assange and his fellow Scarlet Pimpernels of the Internet.
A child could understand this, but it’s way beyond the executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, and also far beyond the comprehension of the "liberal" Mother Jones magazine, which ought to change its name to Encounter. Kushner "reports" this nonsense uncritically, and even cites the loony John Young, of Cryptome.org, who rants:
"’WikiLeaks is a fraud,’ [Young] wrote to Assange’s list, hinting that the new site was a CIA data mining operation. ‘#%?$ your cute hustle and disinformation campaign against legitimate dissent. Same old shit, working for the enemy.’"
Kushner has all bases covered: the white-wine-and-brie liberals who would rather look the other way while their hero Obama slaughters children on the streets of Baghdad, and the tinfoil hat crowd who can be convinced Wikileaks is a "false flag" operation.
The positive impact of Wikileaks is "debatable," avers Kushner – especially if you’re an Obamaite intent on covering up the fact of US war crimes, because of the political damage it might inflict on your "progressive" coalition. As evidence of this "debatability," Kushner tries to blame the assassination of two Kenyan dissidents on the publication of documents on Wikileaks exposing Kenyan corruption – which seems a blatant case of diverting the real blame from where it really belongs, and that is on the Kenyan government and its death squads. No, it just won’t wash – and this is certainly a curious argument for an ostensibly liberal magazine, supposedly devoted to human rights, to make. But then again, anything is possible if you’ve decided to become a government apologist and errand boy.
Speaking of government apologists and errand boys, Steven Colbert of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central had Assange on Monday night, and it was the Mother Jones piece with a snarky grin and a laugh track. Colbert dropped the comic mask, and let his true face as a loyal Obamaite shine through, reciting Pentagon lies and attacking Assange for having edited "Collateral Murder," and even for giving it that title. He then opined Assange was "emotionally manipulating" people – an echo of Horvath’s analysis, which denounced Wikileaks as "disinformation" and "propaganda." "Collateral Murder" was "an editorial," not real reporting, said Colbert, but looked a bit surprised when Assange calmly pointed out that the assertion of a nearby firefight is "a lie." "We have classified information" to the contrary, Assange said, with calm assurance. You could hear a pin drop when he said that the report of "some gunfire" preceded the killings by twenty minutes and miles away from the reported location.
What was supposed to have been a "gotcha" interview turned into a triumph for Wikileaks. Colbert, the court jester in King Obama’s court, missed his target by a country mile. This failed ambush, coupled with the Mother Jones hit piece, tell us all we need to know about what political discourse in Obama’s America is going to be like. Obama’s political police are after Wikileaks, and specifically Assange, and the liberal smear brigade is going to go after him hammer and tongs. The Obamaites know that a great chunk of their liberal base opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their Dear Leader could easily find himself in the same position as Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1968. No wonder there were two US State Department officials following Assange on that international flight: will Hillary Clinton, their boss, tell us what they were doing, and on what authority?
The spying on Wikileaks, and attempts by the US government to take down and/or discredit this valuable Internet resource, is taking place on Obama’s watch, and under the direction of his appointed officials. The entire apparatus of surveillance and repression developed under the Bush administration has been adopted by and expanded on by the Obamaites This is a regime that has now decided it’s okay to assassinate American citizens, but foreign-born terrorists plotting to kill Americans must be tried in a US court and given free lawyers.
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