July 26th, 2010
09:11 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Julian Assange

The former teen computer hacker who once broke into the Pentagon, and his community-based "media insurgency" known as WikiLeaks have released military documents about the U.S. war in Afghanistan that are so sensitive, the release is being likened to the 1970s publishing of the Pentagon Papers by The New York Times.

Assange, Australian by birth, operates WikiLeaks from Reykjavik, Iceland, according to a June profile in The New Yorker. The organization achieved global notoriety this year when it released a 38-minute video of U.S. forces opening fire on unarmed civilians - including two journalists - in Iraq.

WikiLeaks has released material related to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the "Climategate" e-mails and Sarah Palin's private e-mail.

According to New Yorker contributor-at-large Raffi Khatchadourian, WikiLeaks has no paid staff or office, and Assange travels so much he has no home. A team of about five people dedicate themselves full time to the effort, using code names and encrypted online chat services to protect their privacy. Additionally, a network of 100-plus volunteers support the effort, the magazine reports.

The New Yorker article details Assange's childhood, featuring a broken home, and a mother who, despite little money, bought him a Commodore 64 computer sometime after his 8th birthday.

In 1987, by age 16, Assange had become a sophisticated hacker known as "Mendax" (Greek for "nobly untruthful") and had joined with two other hackers to form the International Subversives. The group broke into systems throughout Europe and North America, including the Pentagon and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, according to The New York profile.

By 1991, he'd been arrested by Australian authorities and faced 31 counts of hacking and related crimes. Three years later, Assange pleaded guilty to multiple hacking charges and paid a relatively small sum, the magazine reports.

Later in his career, Assange wrote a book with Sulette Dreyfuss called "Underground" in which he established the rules of hacking: Don't damage computers and don't change information; just share it.

By 2006, the magazine reported, Assange had surrendered his hacking career. He formed WikiLeaks as a form of moral imperative, he said. The organization receives some 30 submissions from whistle-blowers daily, according to Khatchadourian.

The New Yorker: No Secrets: Julian Assange's mission for total transparency

Tony Hayward

The BP chief executive may announce his resignation as early as Tuesday, according to a report in the British paper The Daily Telegraph.

At issue, however, is Hayward's severance package, which reflects his 28 years with the company and BP's $10 billion in profits earned so far in 2010, the newspaper said. Additionally, an overall report of BP's operational shortcomings could further raise eyebrows. The White House and U.S. regulators are convinced that Hayward is being paid "for failure," the paper said.

Hayward has a contract entitling him to his current annual salary of $1.6 million, along with benefits, including a pension exceeding $16 million, according to the Telegraph. Additionally, Hayward has significant stock options that will be affected by his departure.

Another factor in the negotiations is Hayward's age and when he can draw on that pension. At 52, Hayward must wait until he is 60 to receive his retirement, which would equal more than $900,000 annually, the paper reports.

The Daily Telegraph: BP's Tony Hayward will 'quit in days'

Vicente Fox

The former president of Mexico, along with former President George W. Bush, came the closest to achieving immigration reform between the U.S. and Mexico - only to be thwarted by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Since September 11, there has been no advance on reform, Fox told The New York Times Magazine on Sunday. "Xenophobes have taken over," he said.

Fox went on to criticize Sen. John McCain - who in 2005 introduced a reform bill - and is now supportive of Arizona's controversial immigration law. Fox said the demand for drugs in the United States is causing Mexico's crime wave, and he had cool words for the Obama White House.

"President Obama is committed to Hispanics and migrants," Fox said. "That's a promise I had from President Bush, and six years went by and nothing happened. I don't want to be negative, but I'm seeing the same story repeating again."

The New York Times Magazine: Questions for Vicente Fox

Marva Ways

The 60-year-old grandmother, Michigan native and 2005 Miss Wheelchair America runner-up tells the Detroit Free Press that before the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act people with disabilities had limited civil rights.

Ways, paralyzed in a 1976 car accident that killed her young son, is a prominent member of ADAPT, a national organization that continues to fight for disability rights and awareness.

Though her home state of Michigan was among the first to pass disability legislation in 1976, Ways said she felt the limits of her abilities most when traveling the country doing public speaking. Restaurant doors were too small to pass through, and curbs had no slopes.

"A lot of it had to do with attitudinal barriers," Ways told the Free Press.

"People didn't recognize us as the first-class citizens that we were."

Ways continues to lobby for awareness. In 2002, she was among a group of ADAPT members to appear before first lady Laura Bush to promote the issue of long-term care.

Detroit Free Press: Americans with Disabilities Act hits 20

Van Jones

The ousted White House green jobs czar has finally spoken out about Shirley Sherrod.

In a New York Times op-ed published Sunday, Jones admitted his own "vulgarity" led to his September 2009 firing. However, technology's effect on the media, partisans "who claim to be media" and the Washington "body politic" made it impossible to defend himself, he wrote.

The Sherrod incident shows how misinformation has hurt the media's ability to be "our national immune system" and made government employees at all levels too cautious "to protect and improve the country."

"The killer app to stop the 'gotcha bullies' won't be a technological one," Jones wrote. "It will be a wiser, more forgiving culture."

The New York Times: Shirley Sherrod and me

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Bob

    He's a murderer! He tells the terrorists why we do what we do and how we do it. The only thing he accomplishes is making it easier for Al Qaeda to kill Americans. Why does he do it? How does this stop the war? He does it so he becomes famous and someone talks about how intriguing he is under a cool black and white picture.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. gregg moore

    Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks found out how free speech works in this country. It's only free if it's candy to the ears of the powerful. If not, it's treason or were not Americans. She spoke of an unjust war and a jerk president and people wanted to kill her. Just wait, there will be a day when individuals in American will go to jail for speaking their mind. When that happens, all you people saying treason for this, enemy combatant for that will be sorry.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • KnightTemplar

      Natalie Maines is a singer. Her success as an entertainer is based on her singing ability. When she ventures into political commentary she has to know that by disgusting her fans that she would affect her popularity and record sales.
      As dumb a country boy that Elvis was, when then Cassius Clay refused to report for the draft, they asked Elvis what he thought and he said "I'm a singer, man, I don't know about that".

      July 26, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. elmo

    even if it's the truth; doesn't mean we have to like the TRUTH!

    July 26, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  4. betterdays

    My heart goes out to this poor homeless man.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. KnightTemplar

    He should "leak" Bin Laden's address, or maybe where the two missing sailors are in Afghanistan. Wouldn't be as sensational, I guess.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • lance corporal

      if they knew it I bet they would

      July 26, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tores

    The information that was leaked probably shows the extent of the disaster the war in Afghanistan truly has become. The reason the administration is so upset is because the American people , like usual , have been fed bull about the war. It happens every time. They present what the public needs to continue supporting the war. We are just learning more truth than the government wants to feed us.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. NewYouParadigm

    The Population Of Earth besides 47 Guys above the President Approve Wikileaks. On top of the Population of Earth, the rest of the Solar System is also on WikiLeaks side besides Alpha Draconas.

    July 26, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. jpb985

    SLIME

    July 26, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. lance corporal

    wikileaks is a very good thing, when a gov't can do it's deeds in the dark we are all in danger, we should be the better people we CLAIM to be, if we feel we have to hide our actions then our actions are suspect

    July 26, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. Lettruthbeknown

    What makes any of you think that what he posted is new? He just made you aware of it, others already knew it and have acted upon it months ago!

    July 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. vman

    someone needs to enlighten all of you blind sheep. you are keep following your leaders and there is no light at the end of that tunnel..

    July 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
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