London: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange disguised himself as an old woman in order to evade US intelligence officers who he believed were following him, extracts from a new biography revealed on Monday.
Further passages from 'WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy', written by Guardian newspaper journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding, also showed that the hacker did not know his biological father until the age of 27.
Assange gained international notoriety in November 2010 when his WikiLeaks website began publishing over 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables.
The Australian-born hacker was in England at the time and became convinced that CIA agents were following him, despite "no obvious signs of pursuit”, the book claimed.
"You can't imagine how ridiculous it was," WikiLeaks's James Ball told the authors. "He'd stayed dressed up as an old woman for more than two hours."
Excerpts from the biography, published in the Guardian, exposed Assange's unusual childhood and his complicated parental situation.
"Julian's biological father John Shipton is absent from much of the record," the book explained. "At 17, (Assange's mother) fell in love with Shipton, a rebellious young man she met at an anti-Vietnam war demonstration in 1970.”
"The relationship ended and he would play no further role in Assange's life for many years. They had no contact until after Assange turned 25.”
"Later they met, with Julian discovering he had inherited his architect father's highly logical and dispassionate intellect. One friend said Shipton was 'like a mirror shining back at Julian'."
Assange's first brush with the law occurred in 1994 when he was charged with 24 counts of hacking.
However, the judge was lenient on the young activist, claiming he had acted out of "intellectual inquisitiveness”, according to the book.
Assange is currently free on bail in Britain while fighting extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sex case.
First Published: Monday, January 31, 2011, 15:27