Don’t call me a hacker: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange

In an exclusive two-hour Forbes magazine interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the boder-ambiguous leader talks about the future of whistleblowing and the problem with trying to pin a label on him.

Assange tells Forbes‘ Andy Greenberg that WikiLeak’s philosophy can be “summed up by the phrase ‘courage is contagious.’ If you demonstrate that individuals can leak something and go on to live a good life, it’s tremendously incentivizing to people.”

Assange hinted at plans for another mega document dump, this time aimed
at the private sector: sometime early next year, expect a release about
one of the major U.S. banks, something akin to the infamous Enron emails
that helped bring the company down.

Assange tells Greenberg:

“We’re totally source dependent. We get what we get. As our profile rises in a certain area, we get more in a particular area. People say, why don’t you release more leaks from the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us.”

Greenberg asks: “You were a traditional computer hacker. How did you find this new model of getting information out of companies?”

“It’s a bit annoying, actually. Because I cowrote a book about [being a hacker], there are documentaries about that, people talk about that a lot. They can cut and paste. But that was 20 years ago. It’s very annoying to see modern day articles calling me a computer hacker.

“I’m not ashamed of it, I’m quite proud of it. But I understand the reason they suggest I’m a computer hacker now. There’s a very specific reason.

“I started one of the first ISPs in Australia, known as Suburbia, in 1993. Since that time, I’ve been a publisher, and at various moments a journalist. There’s a deliberate attempt to redefine what we’re doing not as publishing, which is protected in many countries, or the journalist activities, which is protected in other ways, as something which doesn’t have a protection, like computer hacking, and to therefore split us off from the rest of the press and from these legal protections. It’s done quite deliberately by some of our opponents. It’s also done because of fear, from publishers like The New York Times that they’ll be regulated and investigated if they include our activities in publishing and journalism.”