An interesting take on what motivated Assange to create WikiLeaks:
Julian told me his graduate work had been funded by a US government grant, specifically NSA and DARPA money, which was supposed to be used for fundamental security research. It was a time when the Bush Administration and Department of Defense were seen to be classifying a great deal of fundamental research and pulling back on university funds. These universities were getting the message that they could no longer work on the research they had been conducting, and what they had already done was classified. In a Joseph Heller-like twist, they weren’t even allowed to know what it was they had already discovered.
According to Julian, the US government cast such a wide net that even general scientific research, whose output had always been published openly, was swept up in America’s secrecy nets. As you can imagine this did not sit well with Julian, because his work had also been funded by one of these fundamental research funding lines and yanked.
So here you have a non-US citizen at a foreign university doing graduate work studies, and the United States government came barrelling in and not only snuffed out the funding and killed his studies, it also barred him from knowing what it was he had been funded to research.
It was at that moment, Julian told me, that he decided he would devote himself to exposing organizations that attempted to keep secrets and withhold information in an effort keep the masses ignorant and disadvantaged.