Who is Julian Assange?

This morning as America was waking up to the first day of news after the leak of nearly 92,000 classified documents describing the realities of the war in Afghanistan — this war’s Pentagon Papers — Julian Assange was speaking to members of the press at the Frontline Club in London behind a podium and a white laptop.

Mr. Assange is the founder of Wikileaks, the organization that obtained the classified documents and distributed them to The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the German newsweekly. “The real story of this material is that it’s war, it’s one damn thing after another, it’s the continuous small events, the continuous deaths of children, insurgents, armed forces,” Mr. Assange told the assembled reporters. “Maimed people,” he added. “This is the story of the war since 2004.”

Mr. Assange told The Times in April that one of his chief obligations was “to get maximum political impact” out of the leaks that Wikileaks handles, “to do justice to our material.” At the time, Mr. Assange had just released a video, named Collateral Murder, showing a U.S. Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians. The video came from within the military. Raffi Khatchadourian followed Mr. Assange for The New Yorker as Wikileaks prepared to reveal “Collateral Murder” and its founder rented a house in Iceland that he nicknamed “The Bunker.” There he employed a small team to prepare, publish, publicize and, most importantly, protect the damning footage. The protection part involves more than 20 servers stationed in different countries around the world. Mr. Assange says that Wikileaks’ digital infrastructure is more secure than those used by the banking industry.

Mr. Khatchadourian offered a compelling description of Mr. Assange’s gray eyes, his silver hair and his face, which was scarred by mosquito bites while Mr. Assange slept in a park in Victoria, Australia awaiting trial for thirty-one counts of hacking and related crimes in 1991. He was born in 1971, the same year news of Daniel Ellberg’s Pentagon Papers ran on the front page of The New York Times.

Who is Julian Assange?