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Who is Julian Assange, the polarizing founder of the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks?

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — He emerged on the information security scene in the 1990s as a “famous teenage hacker” following what he called an “ itinerant minstrel childhood” beginning in Townsville, Australia. But the story of Julian Assange, eccentric founder of secret-spilling website WikiLeaks, never became less strange — or less polarizing — after he jolted the United States and its allies by revealing secrets of how America conducted its wars.

Since Assange drew global attention in 2010 for his work with prominent news outlets to publish war logs and diplomatic cables that detailed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other matters, he has provoked fervor among his admirers and loathing from his detractors with little in-between — seen either as a persecuted hero for open and transparent government, or a villain who put American lives at risk by aiding its enemies, and prompting fraught debates about state secrecy and freedom of the press.

Assange, 52, grew up attending “37 schools” before he was 14 years old, he wrote on his now-deleted blog. The details in it are not independently verifiable and some of Assange’s biographical details differ between accounts and interviews. A memoir published against his will in 2011, after he fell out with his ghostwriter, described him as the son of roving puppeteers, and he told The New Yorker in 2010 that his mother’s itinerant lifestyle barred him from a consistent or complete education. But by the age of 16, in 1987, he had his first modem, he told the magazine. Assange would burst forth as an accomplished hacker who with his friends broke into networks in North America and Europe.

In 1991, aged 20, Assange hacked a Melbourne terminal for a Canadian