The US government's case against Julian Assange may be on shaky legal ground after one of their main witnesses, Icelander Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, admitted to fabricating key accusations contained in the DOJ's indictment, according to stunning admissions to Stundin magazine.
Thordarson, a documented sociopath and convicted pedophile who also engaged in a "wide-ranging financial fraud," was recruited by US authorities as a key witness against Assange after he misled them into believing he was a close associate of the WikiLeaks founder. He also lied about his position within the whistleblower organization - admitting that he established "avenues of communication with journalists and had media pay for lavish trips abroad where he mispresented himself as an official representative of WikiLeaks."
He also admitted to stealing documents from WikiLeaks staff by copying their hard drives, including that of WikiLeaks lawyer Renata Avila, who worked for both the organization and Assange.
"In fact he had volunteered on a limited basis to raise money for Wikileaks in 2010 but was found to have used that opportunity to embezzle more than $50,000 from the organization."
What's more, Thordarson confessed to Stundin that he "continued his crime spree whilst working with the Department of Justice and FBI and receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution."
The United States is currently seeking Assange’s extradition from the United Kingdom in order to try him for espionage relating to the release of leaked classified documents. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison. The indictment has sparked fears for press freedoms in the United States and beyond and prompted strong statements in support of Assange from Amnesty International, Reporters without borders, the editorial staff of the Washington Post and many others.
US officials presented an updated version of an indictment against him to a Magistrate court in London last summer. The veracity of the information contained therein is now directly contradicted by the main witness, whose testimony it is based on. -Stundin
The addition to Assange's original indictment was meant to bolster the DOJ's case by alleging illegal activity in Iceland - including attempts to hack into the computers of members of parliament and record their conversations.
Thordarson now admits that Assange never asked him to hack or access phone recordings of MPs, and now says that he received files from a third party who claimed to have recorded the officials - offering to share them with Assange despite claiming to have no idea what they actually contained. Thordarson claims he never looked at the files and has no idea if they contained audio recordings as his third party source suggests. What's more, Assange never instructed or asked him to access computers to try and find any such recordings, he now says.
Meanwhile, UK Magistrate Court Judge Vanessa Baraister sided with the DOJ's legal team - including citing the specific examples from Thordarson, despite ultimately ruling against extradition purely on humanitarian grounds related to Assange's health, suicide risk, and the potential for mistreatment in US prisons.
Other misleading elements can be found in the indictment, and later reflected in the Magistrate’s judgement, based on Thordarson’s now admitted lies. One is a reference to Icelandic bank documents. The Magistrate court judgement reads: “It is alleged that Mr. Assange and Teenager failed a joint attempt to decrypt a file stolen from a “NATO country 1” bank”.
Thordarson admits to Stundin that this actually refers to a well publicised event in which an encrypted file was leaked from an Icelandic bank and assumed to contain information about defaulted loans provided by the Icelandic Landsbanki. The bank went under in the fall of 2008, along with almost all other financial institutions in Iceland, and plunged the country into a severe economic crisis. The file was at this time, in summer of 2010, shared by many online who attempted to decrypt it for the public interest purpose of revealing what precipitated the financial crisis. Nothing supports the claim that this file was even “stolen” per se, as it was assumed to have been distributed by whistleblowers from inside the failed bank.
More deceptive language emerges in the aforementioned judgment where it states: “...he [Assange] used the unauthorized access given to him by a source, to access a government website of NATO country-1 used to track police vehicles.”
This depiction leaves out an important element, one that Thordarson clarifies in his interview with Stundin. The login information was in fact his own and not obtained through any nefarious means. In fact, he now admits he had been given this access as a matter of routine due to his work as a first responder while volunteering for a search and rescue team. He also says Assange never asked for any such access. -Stundin
Thordarson's admissions to Stundin are part of a thorough report he's compiling into his activities, which are said to include never-before-seen chat logs and new documents. The chat logs provide a comprehensive view into his communications while volunteering for Wiki"eaks in 2010 and 2011, including chats with WikiLeaks staff - as well as unauthorized communications with members of international hacking groups which he met through his role as a moderator on an open IRC WikiLeaks forum. There is no indication that the organization knew of Thordarson's contacts with said groups, and the logs show "his clear deception," by which he can be seen routinely inflating his position within WikiLeaks - describing himself as the #2 in command, chief of staff, and head of communications. He can be seen asking the hackers for material from Icelandic entities or to attack Icelandic websites with DDoS attacks on a regular basis.
Sabu and the FBI
Thordarson continued to step up his illicit activities in the summer of 2011 when he established communication with “Sabu”, the online moniker of Hector Xavier Monsegur, a hacker and a member of the rather infamous LulzSec hacker group. In that effort all indications are that Thordarson was acting alone without any authorization, let alone urging, from anyone inside WikiLeaks.
What Thordarson did not know at the time was that the FBI had arrested Sabu in the beginning of June 2011 and threatened him into becoming an informant and a collaborator for the FBI. Thus, when Thordarson continued his previous pattern of requesting attacks on Icelandic interests, the FBI knew and saw an opportunity to implicate Julian Assange.
Later that month a DDoS attack was performed against the websites of several government institutions.
That deed was done under the watchful eyes of the FBI who must have authorized the attack or even initiated it, as Sabu was at that point their man. What followed was an episode where it seems obvious that Icelandic authorities were fooled into cooperation under false pretenses. -Stundin
"They were trying to use things here [in Iceland] and use people in our country to spin a web, a cobweb that would catch Julian Assange," said former Icelandic interior minister Ögmundur Jónasson, who recalled when the FBI first contacted Icelandic authorities on June 20, 2011 to warn them of an imminent and grave threat to government networks. Days later the FBI flew to Iceland and offered to formally assist in thwarting the attack - which they accepted.
"What I have been pondering ever since is if the spinning of the web had already started then with the acceptance of the letter rogatory establishing cooperation that they could use as a pretext for later visits," says Jónasson.
Iceland gets played by the FBI
By late august 2011, Thordarson was already being pursued by WikiLeaks staff over missing proceeds from the online sales of merchandise - which he had transferred to his private bank account by forging Assange's signature. With the staff hot on his trail, he reached out to the US Embassy in Iceland on August 23, offering to turn state's witness. Within 48 hours, eight FBI agents took a private jet to Reykjavik, where they quickly set up meetings with their new witness as well as Icelandic state prosecutors and the State Police Commissioner.
They were there to lay a trap...
Mid day, Mr. Jónasson, then Minister of Interior got wind of this new visit and requested confirmation that this related to the same case as earlier in the summer. “I asked on what rogatory letter this visit was based and if this was exactly the same case”, Jónasson says in an interview with Stundin. “I then found out that this was of a totally different nature than previously discussed”. He says he put two and two together and said it was obvious that the intention was to lay a trap in Iceland for Assange and other staff members of WikiLeaks.
Such actions were according to Jónasson way outside the scope of the agreement and thus he ordered that all cooperation with the agents be stopped and that they would be informed they were acting in Iceland without any authority. Only days later he learned that the agents and prosecutors had not yet left the country so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted the US embassy with the demand they halt police work in Iceland and leave the country. -Stundin
Yet, the FBI eventually lost interest. "At about the same time charges were piling up against Thordarson with the Icelandic authorities for massive fraud, forgeries and theft on the one hand and for sexual violations against underage boys he had tricked or forced into sexual acts on the other."
Read the rest of the report here.