The clock struck 3 a.m. Julian Assange slept soundly inside a guarded private compound in Nairobi, Kenya. Suddenly, six men with guns emerged from the darkness. A day earlier, they had disabled the alarm system on the electric fence and buried weapons by the pool. Catching a guard by surprise, they commanded him to hit the ground. He obliged, momentarily, then jumped up and began shouting. As the rest of the compound’s security team rushed outside, the intruders fled into the night.
Assange, a thirty-something Australian with a shock of snow-white hair, is sure the armed men were after him. “There was not anyone else worth visiting in the compound,” he says, speaking on the phone from an undisclosed location in Africa.
The self-centeredness and shadowy details of Assange’s tale—and his insistence that he must be taken at his word—are typical. They’re part of his persona as the elusive yet single-minded public face of WikiLeaks, the website that dubs itself the “uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis.” Designed as a digital drop box, the site is a place where anyone can anonymously post sensitive or secret information to be disseminated and downloaded around the globe. Earlier this week, it posted its most explosive leak yet, a video shot by an American attack helicopter in July 2007 as it opened fire upon a group of a men on a Baghdad street, killing 12, including two unarmed Reuters employees. (Two children were also seriously wounded i...