Ah, that wacky Julian Assange. Like Waldo, you never know where the WikiLeaks founder will show up. Earlier today the Albino Aussie turned up in Berlin, speaking to a media gathering at IFA 2011, Europe's answer to the Consumer Electronics Show.
Well that's not technically accurate. Assange wasn't in Berlin; he delivered his speech to the assembly of Euro journos via video. The Body Assange was hiding comfortably in a "mansion two hours north of London," per the Associated Press. Want to see a Webcast of the speech or read a transcript? You and me both -- none are available.
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Assange has good reason to be in hiding. Several government entities, most notably the U.S. State Department, would like to have a word with him in private. And he's under house arrest for the alleged sexual assault of two women in Sweden. So travel to Berlin (a charming city, by the way) wasn't an option in any case.
But the man never met a camera he didn't like or has ever turned down an opportunity to blame other people for his own mistakes.
The IFA speaking gig was Assange's first public appearance since the release of all 251,287 unredacted State Department cables last week. Though not technically "top secret," these documents include many embarrassing revelations about the actions of various state governments, uncensored opinions about certain world leaders, and the names of dissidents under repressive regimes who were brave enough to come forward -- whose lives may now be in danger.
How this data came to be in the public domain is a complicated story, starting of course with Army Private Bradley Manning handing the cache of files over to WikiLeaks in May 2010. Assange then began releasing the cables piecemeal, allowing full access to news organizations like the New York Times and the UK's Guardian, so they could do actual reporting on the information contained within them.
In December 2010, Assange decided that his personal safety was at risk, so he posted what he called his "thermonuclear insurance file" on torrent sites across the Web. The exact contents of that file are unknown (the boys at eSarcasm took a few guesses), but it's likely that the cables were among included.
Assange gave the password to the encrypted file containing all 251,000 cables to David Leigh, a reporter for the Guardian. Leigh later wrote an obscure book about Assange in which he published the password, thinking that because the file's name and location were not public, it would not compromise the safety of the docs. (The Guardian also claims that Assange told them the password was only temporary and would be changed; Assange disputes this.)