Julian Assange, the founder of the world's most notorious secret-sharing operation, has some embarrassing documents in his own past. We've obtained a series of emails detailing his stalkery courtship of a teenager in his pre-Wikileaks days.
Elizabeth (not her real name) met Assange one night in April 2004, about two years before Assange started his now-infamous whistle-blowing website Wikileaks. She was 19 at the time; Assange was 33 and a student at the University of Melbourne studying physics and mathematics. Elizabeth spotted Assange at a bar near Melbourne and approached the older man with the long white hair because he seemed different than other guys she'd met.
"I started talking to him and he just seemed kind of quiet and nerdy," she told us in a phone interview. "I didn't think he was sexy or anything. Just strangely alluring for a 19-year-old girl." Assange flirted with her, showing off by explaining complex equations and joking about her mathematical ignorance.
They chatted until the bar closed, and Assange walked Elizabeth back to the small town where she lived with her parents. Walking down a small country road, Assange kissed Elizabeth. She wasn't particularly thrilled by this development, but it didn't put her off too much either. "It was like, fine, whatever," Elizabeth said. "He wasn't creepy about it, and he didn't try anything weird."
Before parting ways, Assange gave her a card with his name, email address, and an image of a lighthouse—possibly an early symbol of his quest for radical transparency. Elizabeth gave Assange her email address in return, and he took the train back to Melbourne.
Soon after, Elizabeth received this email inviting her on a date:
Elizabeth doesn't remember how she responded and no longer has her reply, but it was probably dismissive because "I wasn't into him," she said.
She certainly didn't give him her phone number, which explains why she was shocked when Assange called the house where she lived with her parents the following day. The call went about as poorly as you might expect after Assange wouldn't tell Elizabeth how he got her number.
"I was really cold because he somehow found out information about me and I didn't know how and it scared me," she said.
But Assange wasn't discouraged. After the botched call, he emailed to chastise her for not being more polite on the phone:
She replied coolly. Assange countered with a wistful remembrance of their night together after the bar:
A couple days later, Assange tried calling Elizabeth again. This time, Elizabeth pretended to be someone else because she was becoming increasingly creeped out by Assange's persistence. But judging from Assange's next email, he mistakenly interpreted this as a coy flirtation:
After a few more emails got him nowhere, Assange decided to change tack. Instead of calling Elizabeth, he would try to get Elizabeth to call him. But he chose probably the worst possible way to give her his phone number. Somehow, Elizabeth says, Assange figured out the make and license plate number of her car. Then he incorporated it into a riddle which, when solved, would reveal his phone number:
More weirded out than ever, Elizabeth emailed back that she couldn't call him because the riddle didn't give her his number. So Assange decided to go back to calling her, and later that day sent an email asking the best time to call:
At this point, Elizabeth told him flat-out to stop calling her house. Assange then tried to give Elizabeth yet another way to contact him—through his (now-defunct) personal website, iq.org. (Note the subject line: Re: Don't call me):
Finally, Assange gave up. But not before making up for his humiliation with a stream of overwrought put-downs in an email:
Assange's relationships with women haven't improved much in the six years since his creepy attempt at wooing Elizabeth. His online dating profile and blogging reveal an insufferable self-styled Don Juan, and he currently stands accused of raping and sexual molesting two Swedish women. (He was released on bail from a British prison earlier today.)
For the record, Elizabeth says she never felt threatened by Assange's behavior; she viewed it as misguided attempts at courtship by a socially awkward nerd.
"I don't think he's a bad person," she said. "He's just a funny bugger."
Photo of Assange: AP