Julian Assange's wariness of government spooks ran so high that the WikiLeaks founder resorted to disguising himself as a woman when traveling, according to a profile published Monday by The Guardian.
As Assange's entourage moved from London to the village of Ellingham, the battered red car they rode in periodically pulled off the road with lights killed to make sure it wasn't being followed.
“You can't imagine how ridiculous it was,” James Ball, a one-time volunteer for WikiLeaks, said of the 6-foot-2-inch Assange. “He'd stayed dressed up as an old woman for more than two hours.”
The 2,700-word feature travels a fair amount of ground that by now is familiar to many. As a child growing up in Australia, the nomadic Assange attended no fewer than 37 schools, was estranged from his birth father, and as a teen took an early liking to a Commodore 64, which opened up the world of hacking. In 1991, Assange and two hacking acquaintances targeted the US military's MILNET. Assange would later claim he had total control over the network for more than two years, thanks to a backdoor he found.
He eventually pleaded guilty to 24 counts of hacking. Prosecutors said Assange's motive was “simply an arrogance and a desire to show off his computer skills.”
The profile said Assange's biological father, one John Shipton, was largely missing from his son's life until age 25.
“Later they met, with Julian discovering he had inherited his architect father's highly logical and dispassionate intellect,” The Guardian said. “One friend said Shipton was 'like a mirror shining back at Julian.'”
When Assange registered the wikileaks.org domain name in 2006, he did so under Shipton's name. ®