We interrupt our regular programming to bring you a story about the struggle for journalistic freedom which may not make it into the mainstream American media. This is from a story Thursday in The Guardian UK newspaper. It’s maybe no surprise to anyone that raw milk fans are not the only people dealing with rogue agencies of “government”. Raw milks fans may also be interested to learn about Julian Assange’s highly unconventional childhood and youth.
“The whistleblowing group WikiLeaks claims that it has had its funding blocked and that it is the victim of financial warfare by the US government.
Moneybookers, a British-registered internet payment company that collects WikiLeaks donations, emailed the organisation to say it had closed down its account because it had been put on an official US watchlist and on an Australian government blacklist.
The apparent blacklisting came a few days after the Pentagon publicly expressed its anger at WikiLeaks and its founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange, for obtaining thousands of classified military documents about the war in Afghanistan, in one of the US army’s biggest leaks of information. The documents caused a sensation when they were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel, revealing hitherto unreported civilian casualties.
WikiLeaks defied Pentagon calls to return the war logs and destroy all copies. Instead, it has been reported that it intends to release an even larger cache of military documents, disclosing other abuses in Iraq.
Moneybookers moved against WikiLeaks on 13 August, according to the correspondence, less than a week after the Pentagon made public threats of reprisals against the organisation. Moneybookers wrote to Assange: “Following an audit of your account by our security department, we must advise that your account has been closed … to comply with money laundering or other investigations conducted by government authorities.”
When Assange emailed to ask what the problem was, he says he was told in response by Daniel Stromberg, the Moneybookers e-commerce manager for the Nordic region: “When I did my regular overview of my customers, I noticed that something was wrong with your account and I emailed our risk and legal department to solve this issue.
“Below I have copied the answer I received from them: ‘Hi Daniel, you can inform him that initially his account was suspended due to being accessed from a blacklisted IP address. However, following recent publicity and the subsequently addition of the WikiLeaks entity to blacklists in Australia and watchlists in the USA, we have terminated the business relationship.'”
Assange said: “This is likely to cause a huge backlash against Moneybookers. Craven behaviour in relation to the US government is unlikely to be seen sympathetically.”…”
The following is an excerpt from that, about Julian’s childhood experiences:
“Assange was born in 1971, in the city of Townsville, on Australia’s northeastern coast, but it is probably more accurate to say that he was born into a blur of domestic locomotion. Shortly after his first birthday, his mother—I will call her Claire—married a theatre director, and the two collaborated on small productions. They moved often, living near Byron Bay, a beachfront community in New South Wales, and on Magnetic Island, a tiny pile of rock that Captain Cook believed had magnetic properties that distorted his compass readings. They were tough-minded nonconformists. (At seventeen, Claire had burned her schoolbooks and left home on a motorcycle.) Their house on Magnetic Island burned to the ground, and rifle cartridges that Claire had kept for shooting snakes exploded like fireworks. “Most of this period of my childhood was pretty Tom Sawyer,” Assange told me. “I had my own horse. I built my own raft. I went fishing. I was going down mine shafts and tunnels.”
Assange’s mother believed that formal education would inculcate an unhealthy respect for authority in her children and dampen their will to learn. “I didn’t want their spirits broken,” she told me. In any event, the family had moved thirty-seven times by the time Assange was fourteen, making consistent education impossible. He was homeschooled, sometimes, and he took correspondence classes and studied informally with university professors. But mostly he read on his own, voraciously. He was drawn to science. “I spent a lot of time in libraries going from one thing to another, looking closely at the books I found in citations, and followed that trail,” he recalled. He absorbed a large vocabulary, but only later did he learn how to pronounce all the words that he learned.
When Assange was eight, Claire left her husband and began seeing a musician, with whom she had another child, a boy. The relationship was tempestuous; the musician became abusive, she says, and they separated. A fight ensued over the custody of Assange’s half brother, and Claire felt threatened, fearing that the musician would take away her son. Assange recalled her saying, “Now we need to disappear,” and he lived on the run with her from the age of eleven to sixteen. When I asked him about the experience, he told me that there was evidence that the man belonged to a powerful cult called the Family—its motto was “Unseen, Unknown, and Unheard.” Some members were doctors who persuaded mothers to give up their newborn children to the cult’s leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne. The cult had moles in government, Assange suspected, who provided the musician with leads on Claire’s whereabouts. In fact, Claire often told friends where she had gone, or hid in places where she had lived before.
While on the run, Claire rented a house across the street from an electronics shop. Assange would go there to write programs on a Commodore 64, until Claire bought it for him, moving to a cheaper place to raise the money. He was soon able to crack into well-known programs, where he found hidden messages left by their creators. “The austerity of one’s interaction with a computer is something that appealed to me,” he said. “It is like chess—chess is very austere, in that you don’t have many rules, there is no randomness, and the problem is very hard.” Assange embraced life as an outsider. He later wrote of himself and a teen-age friend, “We were bright sensitive kids who didn’t fit into the dominant subculture and fiercely castigated those who did as irredeemable boneheads.”
When Assange turned sixteen, he got a modem, and his computer was transformed into a portal. Web sites did not exist yet—this was 1987—but computer networks and telecom systems were sufficiently linked to form a hidden electronic landscape that teen-agers with the requisite technical savvy could traverse. Assange called himself Mendax—from Horace’s splendide mendax, or “nobly untruthful”—and he established a reputation as a sophisticated programmer who could break into the most secure networks. He joined with two hackers to form a group that became known as the International Subversives, and they broke into computer systems in Europe and North America, including networks belonging to the U.S. Department of Defense and to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In a book called “Underground,” which he collaborated on with a writer named Suelette Dreyfus, he outlined the hacker subculture’s early Golden Rules: “Don’t damage computer systems you break into (including crashing them); don’t change the information in those systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks); and share information.”….”