Where in the World Is Julian Assange?
(Nov. 30) — Seemingly everyone wants a piece of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange this week, with Interpol, Sweden, the United States, Australia, Sarah Palin, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill O’Reilly joining the posse.
Palin says he should be hunted down “like al-Qaida.” O’Reilly calls him a “sleazebag.” Government officials want him tried for espionage, and Interpol is after him for alleged sex crimes. Others want him banned from the Internet.
Good luck with all of that. The 39-year-old recluse and self-described misfit — whose latest secret-documents dump comprises more than 250,000 diplomatic memos — has been on the lam for months.
So where is he? This month he’s apparently been in London, where he gave an interview to Forbes magazine, posted online this week after the chat was recorded at an undisclosed London apartment. The Australian native has cut and dyed his hair again to avoid detection, and promised that his site’s rage-inspiring and ongoing upload of U.S. State Department documents was only the beginning — of his latest controversy.
Up next is the disclosure of thousands of damning internal documents showing corruption by a major American bank, he told Forbes. But Assange won’t say which bank or give specifics of what it did wrong. That’s not unusual for a man who is both revered and reviled.
Assange has been laying low for several weeks now, staying with friends, using credit cards owned by others or paying in cash, canceling public appearances at the last minute or sending others in his stead. He is dogged by rape allegations in Sweden and is now under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and his native Australia.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Assange was under criminal investigation by federal agents. “This is not saber-rattling,” he told reporters at a news conference, The Associated Press reported. Saying the Obama administration condemns the publication of classified State Department documents, Holder said the posts endangered national security and the safety of diplomats abroad.
Secretary of State Clinton said much the same. “Some mistakenly applaud those responsible,” Clinton said in Washington this week. “There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people.”
Not true, Assange shot back in a series of e-mails to ABC News from a clandestine hideout. “U.S. officials have for 50 years trotted out this line when they are afraid the public is going to see how they really behave,” he wrote. (EXACTLY!!!!!)
Earlier this month, Sweden issued an international sex crimes warrant against Assange in connection with two incidents in which women claimed rape and molestation. Assange said both interludes were consensual sex. This week, he was placed on Interpol’s wanted list, according the agency’s website.
Assange fled to Sweden in August, seeking protection for WikiLeaks under the country’s whistle-blowing laws after he posted nearly 400,000 classified documents pertaining to the Iraq war. Weeks before, he had posted some 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict.
Then the rape allegations surfaced, and Assange was on the run again.
In October, he sat for an interview in London with The New York Times, sporting a beanie cap and a wispy beard and speaking just above a whisper lest he be overheard. The former computer hacker said, essentially, that he was doing the Lord’s work in publishing leaked secret and classified documents.
“By being determined to be on this path, and not to compromise, I’ve wound up in an extraordinary situation,” he said