When whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published secret cables from US diplomats in November 2010, it won the world media’s undivided attention. Among the more embarrassing leaks were documents describing Russia as “a virtual mafia state” and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “Hitler”.
Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy is a compelling account of the organisation that helped bring those leaks to the public’s attention, and of its mercurial and divisive founder, Julian Assange.
The book’s authors, both journalists at Wikileaks’ former publishing partner, The Guardian, follow Assange’s career from his early hacking exploits up to the ongoing attempt by Swedish authorities to extradite him on alleged sex offences.
Leigh and Harding’s account reads like a slow-burning thriller, with a supporting cast that includes cyber activist group Anonymous, which took down the website of credit card giant Visa after it refused to process donations to Wikileaks.
But like everything associated with Wikileaks, this book could itself prove controversial. It portrays Assange as a capricious megalomaniac, whose erratic behaviour leads to a complete breakdown in his relations with The Guardian.
During one chapter in the book, Assange slams a profile piece in The New York Times as a “sleazy hit job”. He may feel the same about this analysis.
Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy
By David Leigh and Luke Harding
Published by Guardian Books
ISBN: 9780852652398. Price: £9.99