It never ceases to amaze me the lack of seriousness in mainstream media when it comes to the attacks that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have faced over the years but like I mentioned previously, the U.S. government has played a large role in controlling the dissemination of information and I can assure you the the last thing they want people to be informed about is the crimes they have committed and the people they have turned in order to take down Julian Assange. Take for example the FBI’s covert operation in Iceland. If you’ve never heard about it or you’re not exactly sure what happened grab a cup of coffee and buckle up. Are you wondering how the hacking collective Anonymous played a role in WikiLeaks, if any? Pour some Baileys in that coffee because it’s five o’clock somewhere. And lastly, if you never saw Laura Poitras’ film, Risk, skip the spiked coffee and meet me at the bar because you’re about to learn that it wasn’t just about what she put in the film that makes it biased but also what she left out that makes it such a betrayal. As I continue down this road of research about Julian Assange under attack you will see, if you haven’t already, that the stories are as unbelievably horrifying as they are fantastical.
THE HB GARY HACK AND THE INTERNET FEDS
In order to properly tell the whole story we have to revisit late fall, 2010, after WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs. It was less than a month later, on November 20, 2010, that Sweden issued a Red Notice for Assange but never one to be deterred he continued publishing and released Cablegate documents eight days later. Within a week of that publication a financial blockade was enacted and Amazon pulled WikiLeaks’ hosting, PayPal froze their account, and both Visa and MasterCard stopped processing WikiLeaks donations. In an effort to clearly not be outdone, the UK asked everyone to hold their beer and on December 6, 2010, they recognized Sweden’s European arrest warrant resulting in Assange turning himself in the following day. He spent nine days in solitary confinement after which he was released on bail and placed on house arrest without charge. What you might not know about this time period is that on November 11, 2010, Assange revealed in an interview that he was “sitting on a trove of secret documents” and that he intended to “take down” a major American bank. The revelation came a year after he announced that he had the “hard drive of a Bank of America executive containing five gigabytes of data.”
There’s nothing more entertaining than watching a bank go into a downward spiral after learning that WikiLeaks may or may not have the goods on you and that’s exactly what happened at the Bank of America (BofA). They hired outside security and law firms to review thousands of their documents in case they ever became public, they looked into whether or not their systems had been compromised, and three internet security companies, HB Gary Federal, Palantir Technologies, and Berico Technologies, pitched a “How to Take Down WikiLeaks 101” presentation to the bank’s lawyers. The presentation recommended,
“…a multi-pronged assault on WikiLeaks including deliberately submitting false documents to the website to undermine its credibility, pioneering cyber attacks to expose who the leakers to WikiLeaks are and going after sympathetic journalists.”
If you think that’s bad, the former chief executive of HB Gary Federal, Aaron Barr, wrote in an email that security companies “should track and intimidate people who donate to WikiLeaks” and that security firms “need to get people to understand that if they support the organisation we will come after them.” The whole thing reminds me of the implications behind Section 623 but let’s not get side-tracked here because Barr said some other asinine things as well. According to Wikileaks, in early February, 2011, he boasted to the UK’s Financial Times that he had identified members of the collective Anonymous and to put it mildly they didn’t take kindly to it. Between February 5-6, 2011, a hacking group called “Internet Feds” attacked HB Gary’s servers, seized their emails including Aaron Barr’s, defaced the website, destroyed data, and then passed along the documents to WikiLeaks. And remember that Palantir presentation on how to take down WikiLeaks? We only know about it thanks to the Internet Feds’ HB Gary hack.
SUMMER OF 2011: THE ENEMY WITHIN
According to court documents, Hector Xavir Monsegur, a hacker turned snitch who went by the online handle “Sabu,” joined the Internet Feds sometime in December, 2010. At some point in May, 2011, he started his own hacking group called “LulzSec,” and he brought some of the same (alleged) members of Internet Feds with him like “Kayla,” a hacker that had been communicating with WikiLeaks volunteer Siggi Thordarson since January or February of that same year, “Topiary,” “Tflow,” and “Pwnsauce.” After creating the new group, LulzSec members went on a fifty-day hacking spree in the late spring/early summer but Sabu’s luck ran out on June 7, 2011 when he was arrested at his home by the FBI. After his arrest he immediately became a snitch for the government and when I say immediately, I mean, immediately immediately.
Eight days after Sabu turned informant, LulzSec took down the CIA’s website and Thordarson, apparently amused by their antics, reached out to the group. He first came into contact with Topiary via an online chat who initially believed that Thordarson may have been trolling him. In an effort to convince him that he was who he said he was, Thordarson uploaded a video of Assange that I don’t believe Assange knew was recorded—or at least didn’t know that Thordarson had uploaded it to LulzSec. Not surprisingly, according to the book, “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous,” Sabu immediately showed up in the chat and while his FBI handlers were probably salivating over their keyboards, Thordarson told LulzSec that Assange wanted them to hack into Icelandic government and business sites. The information was wildly false and in what was either an effort to further prove his identity or to reassure the feds that he was working with them (because frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Siggi had been turned at this point), Thordarson uploaded a second video in which he not only filmed their online chat in real time, he filmed Julian Assange and Sarah Harrison quietly talking in another part of the room. The video is beyond creepy once you know the circumstances surrounding it and Assange and Harrison clearly have no idea that they’re being recorded. @AnonScan was awesome enough to upload the video to Twitter this past December so you can watch it HERE.
Oh, and did I mention that Sabu’s handler was likely Shawn Henry from the security company, Crowdstrike, the same company that worked with the DNC after it was “hacked” and then later “confirmed” it was the Russians? No? Well, yeah. So there’s that.
Two interesting things occurred after Thordarson uploaded that second video. First, instead of hacking Icelandic sites like Thordarson requested, LulzSec unexpectantly shut down their entire operation and retired at the end of June, 2011. Second, days later the FBI advised Iceland that as a part of their investigation into LulzSec they had received information indicating a possible attack against their “electronic infrastructure.” Although nothing seemed to come of the FBI’s initial warnings, in August, 2011, Thordarson, no joke, sent the U.S. embassy in Iceland a 3:00 a.m. email essentially offering his services to become an informant. The FBI stormed Iceland less than twenty-four hours later—with no authority to conduct police work in the country no less—and interviewed Thordarson in hotel rooms strewn across Reykjavik for the next four days. However, it didn’t take Iceland long to kick the FBI out of the country after realizing they had lied back in June and were in town to set Julian Assange up. As the Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jonasson put it, “…the FBI had intended to use the young man they questioned, known as Siggi ‘the hacker’, as bait in their investigation of WikiLeaks.” He added in another interview, “I think it was a question of trying to frame Julian Assange. And they wanted Icelandic authorities to help them with that.”
With trouble brewing in their Icelandic paradise, the feds paid for Thordarson’s plane ticket and moved the party to Copenhagen, Denmark where they continued to question him. On October 3, 2011, the FBI flew Thordarson to Copenhagen again, picking up his hotel bills during both trips. Thordarson was eventually fired from WikiLeaks sometime in November, 2011, for pocketing fifty-thousand dollars of WikiLeaks’ money but he continued to work with the U.S. government. For instance, after being instructed to “build relationships with people close to WikiLeaks in order to gather information for the feds,” he was flown in to Washington, DC. sometime in February, 2012, and questioned in an Arlington hotel room about WikiLeaks’ associates like Jacob Appelbaum. According to Thordarson, there had also been a planned meeting which ended up being cancelled with Neil MacBride, the former U.S. attorney general responsible for the WikiLeaks grand jury, but other members of the DOJ showed up at the meeting in Arlington. When asked why the agents were so interested in Appelbaum, Thordarson replied that they were looking for incriminating evidence solely because of his “connection to Julian Assange,” and in January, 2011, the U.S. government actually fought and won a legal battle to obtain Appelbaum’s emails—gagging Google from “notifying Appelbaum that his records had been provided to the government” in the process.
Besides handing information over to the U.S. Department of Justice about WikiLeaks’ associates, Thordarson also agreed to help the FBI with “WikiLeaks technical and physical security,” the whereabouts of their servers, and other WikiLeaks associates who might be willing to snitch. As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, the FBI also asked him to wear a recording device (which he claims he didn’t) and to copy the data off the laptops of WikiLeaks’ staff. Copy the data off Wikileaks’ staffs’ laptops? How publishers and journalists in the United States are not horrified (and terrified) at the lengths the U.S. Intelligence agencies will go to in order to silence a publisher is absolutely beyond me. But I digress.
According to Wired.com, on March 18, 2012, Thordarson met with the FBI one last time in Aarhus, Denmark where he handed over eight hard drives containing “information he’d compiled while at WikiLeaks, including his chat logs, photos and videos he shot at Ellington Hall.” Although some articles say that Thordarson never heard from the FBI again after this meeting, other articles like this one reported that Thordarson indeed continued to communicate with his handler, “Roger Bossard,” on a sporadic basis but never actually sat down with federal agents again. One of the important things to note here is whether or not Denmark had any idea that the FBI was conducting an investigation in their country. If not, the U.S. government’s actions were illegal and if so, why is Denmark willing to be complicit in the U.S. government’s dirty work?
I’d like to wrap this story up with one more traitor who is involved in this story although I am not aware (yet) of her playing any direct or even indirect role in any of the events that transpired with Thordarson, LulzSec, or Iceland, and that’s Laura Poitras. Let me explain. Although it remains unclear as to when exactly she started filming Assange or for how long (this article says she filmed from 2010-2011, this one says she started filming in 2011, and this one says she approached Assange in 2010 but started filming in 2011—see my problem?), the bottom line is that she didn’t include any of these events in her 2016, oops, re-edited 2017 documentary about Assange entitled Risk. Aside from the fact that she also failed to include in the film such things as “the actual content of the numerous WikiLeaks revelations” or that it had virtually nothing to say about “the responsibility of the American government and military for the deaths of more than one million people in Iraq alone,” she completely and utterly ignored Thordarson’s betrayal and the FBI’s covert operations in Iceland and possibly Denmark. How exactly does that happen when you’re doing a documentary on…Julian Assange?
Furthermore, instead of focusing on other WikiLeaks’ volunteer like Daniel Domscheit-Berg who obviously has an agenda, may have been in early contact with the FBI, and may in fact be currently working for them, Poitras focused her attention on her relationship with WikiLeaks’ associate, Jacob Applebaum. Her conscious decision to omit the FBI’s operation in Iceland and the stories behind Thordarson and Domscheit-Berg makes her behavior questionable at best. For more on Poitras’ shady background see my post “Freedom of the Press Foundation Cuts Wikileaks Donations.” I wish I could say that this will be my last “Under Attack” post because the attacks against Julian Assange ceased in 2012, but it’s not and as we’re all aware, they didn’t. Stay tuned.