Who is Julian Assange?

The need to serve the anti-American market as Foreman points out, transformed the organization from one in which “as late as 2008 … was insisting on its website that it was a ‘completely neutral’ conduit for information and that it would ‘crowdsource’ its analysis in the way that Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written entirely by unpaid volunteers, allows public contributions to its entries”, into a “clandestine” organization run by one man by remote control.

The focus by Wikileaks on the anti-American market could have driven Assange in the direction of latent fantasy and exacerbated weaknesses in his management style. Even prior to his arrest in Britain, Assange had become embroiled in disputes with his former associates, accusing its German spokesman of collaborating with Newsweek in compiling a story about him and calling a woman novelist whose book he admired and therefore published in full downloadable form “enormously pompous” for daring to complain. Convinced he was being hunted by the CIA, he styled “himself [as] … living a cloak-and-dagger, semi-fugitive existence, sleeping on floors and communicating only through disposable mobile phones or online”. Success had made him a legend in his own mind and had driven out the first rule of surviving in an underground: people on the run need people to survive and cannot go around treating them like servants. Inspiring personal loyalty and love is the first and last skill of the man on the run…

John Burns described his meeting with Assange “in a noisy Ethiopian restaurant in London’s rundown Paddington district”, where “he pitches his voice barely above a whisper to foil the Western intelligence agencies he fears” — yet accompanied by a retinue of groupies. He is clandestine, but clandestine in the manner of a romantic novel, with cape, sword and mandolin.