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Sep 17, 2010

Daniel Assange: I never thought WikiLeaks would succeed

When Daniel Assange was 16, his father Julian asked him to be a part of WikiLeaks, the controversial group of Internet freedom fighters that was then in its infancy. Sceptical of the project’s likelihood of success, Daniel said no. He spoke to Crikey intern Nick Johns-Wickberg.

When Daniel Assange was 16, his father Julian asked him to be a part of WikiLeaks, the controversial group of internet freedom fighters that was then in its infancy. Sceptical of the project’s likelihood of success, and not on the best of terms with his father, Daniel said no.

“I never thought he was going to succeed,” the younger Assange says, four-and-a-half years later. “It was a ridiculous concept, that he was going to actually leak government documents to the entire world.”

As it turns out, the concept wasn’t so ridiculous. WikiLeaks.com is now one of the most consistently reported on websites in the world, and Julian Assange, the public face of the organisation, has become famous around the globe. However, despite his high profile, very little is known about Assange, the man behind the face.

As his only child, and one of the few people who have been privy to his personal life, Daniel, who has completed a bachelor of science degree and now works for a software design company, understands his father as well as anyone.

“I would say he’s very intelligent and has a lot of the characteristic troubles that are associated with high intelligence,” Daniel says of Assange. “He gets easily frustrated with people who aren’t capable of working up to his level and seeing ideas that he grasps very intuitively.”

It’s this high level of intelligence, along with a set of other personality traits, that Daniel believes gives his father the intense motivation needed to participate in an operation such as WikiLeaks.

“He’s always been interested in political activism in general, but he’s also had a great interest in science and philosophy and the general pursuit of knowledge, and the idea that this knowledge should be available to the entire human race,” Daniel says.

“WikiLeaks is the culmination of all these concepts.”

Having grown up in the midst of Assange’s mysterious world, Daniel believes that his father’s best quality as a parent was this desire to share knowledge and discuss it intelligently with his son.

“The one thing I found that I appreciated most was that he wouldn’t treat me like a child when it came to intellectual concepts: he would speak to me as though he were really trying to get me to grasp the fullness of an idea,” Daniel says. “I think that really helped me a lot in realising the nature of reality.”

Despite being the centre of a bitter custody battle between his parents, Daniel’s memories of his younger years growing up with his father are mainly positive. However, as Daniel grew older and Assange became more pre-occupied with his own pursuits, the relationship between father and son became more and more strained.

Shortly after asking his son to join WikiLeaks in 2007, Assange left Australia permanently. Since then, the two have had no contact.

Contrary to other reports, however, Daniel insists that there was no specific incident that led to the parting of ways, and holds no hatred towards his father now.

“It was just a general decline of relations,” he says. “I was getting into my late teenage years, and single father and teenage son don’t mix particularly well in one house.

“As for him not contacting me following that, it’s probably at least in part an attempt to protect me,” he says. “If it was known that I was the son and directly involved in some way, there was a likelihood of a direct retaliation, and my father was quite concerned about such things.”

Daniel believes that previous reports of him being “estranged” from his father have sensationalised the issue, and have also misrepresented him in other ways. The most blatant of these was an August 27 article by the New York Post, entitled “My Wiki dad’s just awful with the ladies”.

The article was based around a tongue-in-cheek comment that Daniel posted on a friend’s Facebook page, which said “that man does have a way of making a lot of female enemies”.

“Somehow from this they gathered that I was making some comment on his capacity to interact with women over the entirety of his life, which I think was a bit of a ridiculous jump,” Daniel says.

The New York Post did not interview Daniel or have his consent to use the comment, and mistakenly reported his age as 21, despite the fact that his Facebook profile clearly shows that he is only 20.

Since his father was accused of r-pe in mid-August, interview requests from reporters have been coming thick and fast. So far, Daniel has not commented publicly on the issue, but he has thought about it extensively, and is not convinced that it is a government set-up, as has been suggested in some circles.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an impossibility, but the general feel of the thing is that, because the women involved actually knew my father directly… that suggests to me that it’s more of a personal matter,” he says.

He is, however, unreserved in his belief that his father will be proven innocent.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that there was any actual non-consensual s-x involved at any point, so it looks to me that it’s just some sort of cultural misunderstanding or general social failure on the part of my father or the women that’s led to the situation,” he says.

As much as Daniel would like the Australian government to step up and offer Assange a greater level of consular assistance, he realises that, in the circumstances, this is not likely. In fact, given the nature of WikiLeaks’ activities, Daniel is grateful that his father is still alive.

“I am very surprised that the governments haven’t actually done what some of the journalists have been recommending, which is to just assassinate him.”

Regardless of what now happens in Assange’s personal life, Daniel thinks that his work should be remembered as groundbreaking and for the greater good.

“I think he’s been doing an excellent job,” Daniel says.

“His actions as a personal individual and his actions in a grand political sense are completely disconnected things, and they should be considered in that sense.”

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16 comments

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16 thoughts on “Daniel Assange: I never thought WikiLeaks would succeed

  1. ninetenthsofthelaw

    Nice scoop.

  2. paddy

    Nice piece Nick J-W.

    Good get Crikey.

  3. Russell White

    What a thoughtful young chap. Good luck to him now that is head is above the parapet.

  4. Liz45

    Today I watched Dateline that I’d recorded last week? re Julian and Wilileaks, and I was impressed. It’s worth watching. I’m not surprised that there’s this charge of sexual assault against him(Julian); in fact, with the US having Presidential permission to assassinate anyone who’s a “threat” to the US, I’m surprised that he’s still with us. I just hope he uses his intelligence to continue to outsmart his ‘enemies’? I hope that father and son are reunited and have a positive relationship sometime in the future. Good luck to them both!

  5. Singer

    *I hope that father and son are reunited and have a positive relationship sometime in the future. Good luck to them both!*

    What a beautiful, positive and constructive comment Liz. You old ducks are ok!.LoL

  6. Aries Dobbs

    As long as Daniel, and Julian are able to proceed as individuals through life, I’m sure that they will have more to discuss as the years go by. They are both very interesting men, and will attract a few seedy characters along the way. It helps when they can pace themselves, and not be disrupted by angry tides.

  7. Elizabeth

    Daniel Assange’s comments should make any father proud of their sons. Daniel seems very matured for his age. Every man makes mistakes in life and we should not hold them accountable or crucified over and over again. Forgiveness is key to a steady and lasting relationship. I hope Daniel and Mr. Assange will continue to stick to each other despite the storms created by accidents in life and I believe there is room to learn for future growth. There is a saysing; “Blood runs thicker than water.”
    Even if it does not, we can make it happen by the word “Love and Forgiveness.”

    Good luck, Daniel! Keep up the good work!

  8. Tess Lawrence

    Onya Nick – congratulations – this is a great scoop – for you – and Crikey – and you will feel the ambiguous love of journalistic kudos in the number of Google hits you both get. All guns are trained on WikiLeaks. The Assanguine Chronicles gets curiouser and curiouser and for each piece of the puzzle that is found – another piece is removed. Now that you’ve interviewed the Son, I’d encourage you to interview the Father – and the two Women concerned. It would make a compelling Quartet and a compelling weekend read.

  9. Liz45

    @SINGER – Thanks, I think! You remind me of when my eldest son was about 12 yrs old, and I was mopping the kitchen floor. As usual the 3 boys always wanted something to eat(desperately?) when I wanted a free go. He made some comment about it being ‘women’s work’ and I chased him out the door and up the street(in the middle of the road??-quiet) with the mop-we both were laughing so much we had to stop – so were some of the neighbours??He’s now a good cleaner, cook, laundry person and a hands on lovely dad – seems like the message got through! He and his next (younger) brother(about 9 & 10 then), picked me up chair and all when I wouldn’t move out of the doorway(just joking). I was ironing and trying to get a breeze???I hope I have a good sense of humour, for an “old duck”???
    Seriously though, I think young people(majority) these days are great! They are articulate and capable and in many cases like Daniel, they’re very mature as well. I’d like to have a cup of coffee and a chat with him.
    @TESS Lawrence – The interview on Dateline is good, and apparently there’s an earlier one as well. Should be able to track them down on the web site. I admire Julian. It’s a shame that what he’s doing is necessary. Maybe people will now realize, that msm just feed us bs all the time. Only when the truth is glaring and can’t be avoided any longer; or some brave person ‘blows the lid’ like the lies over the ‘wars’ and Abu Graib for example, do people question msm! I avoid them wherever possible – can’t stand the crap any more!

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