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11:29 am
Thu September 22, 2011

'Unauthorized' Book On WikiLeaks' Assange Released

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange found himself on the wrong side of an unauthorized leak of sorts on Thursday when his autobiography was released in Britain without his permission.

British publisher Canongate decided to go ahead and release Julian Assange: The Unauthorized Autobiography because it said Assange received a six-figure advance but then changed his mind and kept the money.

In the memoir, ghostwritten from 50 hours of interviews, Assange says he did not sexually assault two Swedish women who have accused him of rape, and claims he was warned that the U.S government was trying to entrap him.

"I may be a chauvinist pig of some sort, but I am no rapist," Assange says. He adds that his two accusers "each had sex with me willingly and were happy to hang out with me afterward."

Assange, 40, also claims that a Western intelligence contact warned him that the American government, angered by WikiLeaks' release of secret documents, was considering dealing with him "illegally" through rigged drug or sex allegations.

But he also says the sex charges may be the result of "a terrible misunderstanding that was stoked up" between his accusers.

The book traces Assange's life from his Australian childhood through his time as a teenage computer hacker to the founding of the secret-spilling website.

WikiLeaks and its silver-haired frontman shot to worldwide prominence with a series of spectacular leaks of secret U.S. material, including the publication of thousands of classified State Department cables.

Assange has also become enmeshed in financial and legal woes, including the allegations of rape and sexual misconduct. He was arrested and briefly jailed over the allegations in Britain in December. Assange is currently out on bail and living at a supporter's mansion in eastern England as he awaits a judge's decision on whether he will be extradited to Sweden. A ruling is expected within weeks.

The book, for which Assange says he agreed to advances of more than $1 million, was intended to help salvage WikiLeaks' precarious finances.

But after seeing the first draft, Assange got cold feet. Attempts to renegotiate the book deal were unsuccessful.

Assange has accused Canongate of "opportunism and duplicity" for publishing the unfinished book without his approval.

In a statement released to The Associated Press, he said the publisher had acted "in breach of contract, in breach of confidence, in breach of my creative rights and in breach of personal assurances."

Canongate says all material in the autobiography came from Assange but that he refused to cooperate after the first draft.

"He has never actually handed back a single word, a single edit on this book or a single rewrite," says Nick Davies, Canongate's publishing director for nonfiction.

Davies says Canongate was ready to cancel the contract even after that first draft, but not after Assange kept the advance. He suggests the enigmatic Assange felt the material was too personal for his liking.

Assange's U.S. publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, said it had canceled its contract with the WikiLeaks founder and would not be releasing the memoir.

Larry Miller reported from London for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.