Talking with Julian Assange

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, by now you’ve probably heard about the leak of a huge cache of American digital military logs by the enigmatic website, WikiLeaks.  It’s stirring a heated debate in journalism, intelligence, and legal circles.  This is an important one for the world to have, because entities like WikiLeaks may be changing the way journalists and sources, as well as governments and citizens, relate to information.

I was actually able to speak yesterday with the website’s founder, Julian Assange, in a phone interview on behalf of RFE/RL.  It was a brief conversation, unsatisfactory to the philosopher in me but satisfactory for my immediate journalistic needs.  In truth, I’d like to know more about WikiLeaks’ ideology, as well as how the group views itself vis-a-vis other “underground”, “alternative”, or “anti-authoritarian” news operations like ZNet and IndyMedia.  I’m also curious about their views on the relationship between information and society in general.

Consequently, I decided today to dig deeper into who they are, as well as the larger “Cypherpunk” and cryptographic subculture, something I’ve only very lightly touched upon in my studies of New Media.  The next time I track them down, I want to be able to ask them much more interesting and probing questions, the kind that leave both the inquirer and inquired enriched.

Key to this approach is to focus not so much on Assange as those who know him well and have worked with him.  Trust me when I say that’s no easy feat.  Some of his friends, allies, and co-workers are unknown even to him; some aren’t particularly friendly to nosy types like me; and most of all, theirs is a world of pseudonymity and anonymity.  This is new terrain for me.

In the meantime, and in lieu of the eventual fruits of this much deeper analysis, I’ve posted my very preliminary views on neweurasia, and I’m also collecting reader responses in this fairly simple and woefully unscientific poll: