What to know about Julian Assange and his plea deal

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in London on Feb. 24, 2011. Assange's plea deal ends a period of confinement that lasted about a dozen years, first in the self-exile of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, then in prison. [Andrew Testa/The New York Times]

Julian Assange spent his youth in Australia during the 1980s in a state of chaotic, perpetual motion. He moved more than two dozen times, bounced from school to school, and was thrust, for a time, into what he called a New Age cult, before settling in Melbourne.

It was there, at age 16, that he adopted a calling: hacking. It would eventually place him on the edge of global disruption in an era of backlash against the national security and political establishments.

Assange, the 52-year-old founder of WikiLeaks, boarded a private jet this week from London for the long flight to a US courtroom in Saipan, where he pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single count of illegally obtaining and disseminating national security information.

A brief proceeding in a remote outpost capped a long legal saga.

For a case that attracted a spotlight for more than a decade, its...

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