Moral Outrage
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Julian Assange WikiLeaks hero or hellion?

Since the summer of 2010, Julian Assange has become a pop culture fixture, a self-appointed champion of free speech, the suspect in a Swedish sex crimes investigation and a man who says he’s keeping afloat a financially strapped Web operation that has mightily ticked off the U.S. government.

Assange’s final stage in an extradition fight before Britain’s Supreme Court began last week with hearings on whether he should be sent to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault lodged by two women in the country. Assange’s lawyers have vowed to take the fight all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. Assange himself has repeatedly stressed that he’s innocent.

For the past year, Assange has been living in a remote manor house called Ellingham Hall, north of London. The home belongs to Vaughan Smith, a former British soldier and journalist who runs a popular London gathering spot for reporters.

Over the months since his initial arrest in the Sweden case, Assange has repeatedly said that he’s innocent of the allegations and that they are a ruse to get him for leaking the classified U.S. documents. In 2010, WikiLeaks posted online 391,832 classified documents on the Iraq war and more than 90,000 classified documents on the Afghan war. WikiLeaks has also released about a quarter-million diplomatic cables — communication between the U.S. State Department and diplomatic outposts around the globe.

Assange gave an interview to Germany’s Der Spiegel in 2010, explaining the decision to publish the Afghanistan war documents. “This material shined a light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war,” he said. Assange continued in interviews over several months with Time magazine, CNN and other media outlets to insist that leaking the classified documents served a greater public good.

Some loathe Julian Assange. Others admire him. But one thing is certain: Assange is not going away.

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