x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Required reading: WikiLeaks

A selection of the best books on WikiLeaks, including an unauthorised autobiography by Julian Assange.

Behind a clutch of the most incendiary news stories of recent years, is one organisation. WikiLeaks brought us the 2007 Baghdad air raid video, in which Iraqi journalists were killed by fire from a US helicopter, the Guantanamo Bay files, and, of course, the November 2010 cache of US diplomatic cables, in which American diplomats called Silvio Berlusconi, "vain, feckless, and ineffective". Last week, the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walked into the Ecuadorean embassy in London, asking for asylum. Assange is currently fighting extradition to Sweden where he faces charges of sexual assault. So, is Assange an indispensable prophet of free speech, or self-promoting predator? Is WikiLeaks helping to safeguard our democracy, or putting innocent lives at risk? A selection of the best reading can help.

Inside WikiLeaks is by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a computer scientist who lived and worked with Assange in the early days of WikiLeaks. He confesses to being mesmerised by Assange's vision, but says the WikiLeaks founder is a paranoid narcissist with a deep antipathy for the US.

Read WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy for a behind-the-scenes take by Guardian journalists on Assange's partnership with five newspapers to publish more than 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables. Meanwhile, Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy (Grove Press, Dh69), edited by Bill Keller, collects the best New York Times analysis of the leaks, and reports on the controversy.

So who is Julian Assange? One answer lies in Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography, based on interviews that Assange granted for a memoir before he pulled out claiming, "all memoir is prostitution". Learn about his unsettled childhood - he shuttled through more than 30 schools - his 1994 conviction for computer hacking, and how he defends his mission for radical transparency. That mission could lead him to face charges of espionage in a US court. There will surely be more books, and yet more controversy.