You do not have to spend a long time in a room with Julian Assange to realize that he will be difficult. It takes a little longer, though, to realize just how difficult dealing with him can be. This was the lesson I learned in 2010, working first with Assange, and then for him at WikiLeaks, as we published tranche after tranche of bombshell material, leaked by Chelsea Manning.
That was the year Assange—and the whistle-blowing website he runs—came to the world’s attention. First it published the dynamite “Collateral Murder” video, showing an attack on a group of people, including two Reuters journalists, by American military helicopters in Iraq.
Though few knew it at the time, this was the first in a series of ever larger and more dramatic leaks of classified documents, shedding unprecedented light on how the United States conducted its wars, its diplomacy, and its detentions: the Afghan and Iraq War logs, the American diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo Bay files. These were published in partnership with some of the world’s biggest news outlets, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and Le Monde. These organizations quickly learned Assange was not the kind of person they were used to dealing with.