WikiLeaks Volunteer Was a Paid Informant for the FBI

On an August workday in 2011, a cherubic 18-year-old Icelandic man named Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson walked through the stately doors of the U.S. embassy in Reykjavík, his jacket pocket concealing his calling card: a crumpled photocopy of an Australian passport. The passport photo showed a man with a unruly shock of platinum blonde hair and the name Julian Paul Assange.

Thordarson was long time volunteer for WikiLeaks with direct access to Assange and a key position as an organizer in the group. With his cold war-style embassy walk-in, he became something else: the first known FBI informant inside WikiLeaks. For the next three months, Thordarson served two masters, working for the secret-spilling website and simultaneously spilling its secrets to the U.S. government in exchange, he says, for a total of about $5,000. The FBI flew him internationally four times for debriefings, including one trip to Washington D.C., and on the last meeting obtained from Thordarson eight hard drives packed with chat logs, video and other data from WikiLeaks.

The relationship provides a rare window into the U.S. law enforcement investigation into WikiLeaks, the transparency group newly thrust back into international prominence with its assistance to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Thordarson’s double-life illustrates the lengths to which the government was willing to go in its pursuit of Julian Assange, approaching WikiLeaks with the tactics honed during the FBI’s work against organized crime and computer hacking — or, more darkly, the bureau’s Hoover-era infiltration of civil rights groups.

“It’s a sign that the FBI views WikiLeaks as a suspected criminal organization rather than a news organization,” says Stephen Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy. “WikiLeaks was something new, so I think the FBI had to make a choice at some point as to how to evaluate it: Is this The New York Times, or is this something else? And they clearly decided it was something else.”

The FBI declined comment.

Thordarson was 17 years old and still in high school when he joined WikiLeaks in February 2010. He was one of a large contingent of Icelandic volunteers that flocked to Assange’s cause after WikiLeaks published internal bank documents pertaining to that country’s financial crisis.

When a staff revolt in September 2010 left the organization short-handed, Assange put Thordarson in charge of the WikiLeaks chat room, making Thordarson the first point of contact for new volunteers, journalists, potential sources, and outside groups clamoring to get in with WikiLeaks at the peak of its notoriety.

In that role, Thordarson was a middle man in the negotiations with the Bradley Manning Defense Fund that led to WikiLeaks donating $15,000 to the defense of its prime source. He greeted and handled a new volunteer who had begun downloading and organizing a vast trove of 1970s-era diplomatic cables from the National Archives and Record Administration, for what became WikiLeaks’ “Kissinger cables” collection last April. And he wrangled scores of volunteers and supporters who did everything from redesign WikiLeaks’ websites to shooting video homages to Assange.

He accumulated thousands of pages of chat logs from his time in WikiLeaks, which, he says, are now in the hands of the FBI.

Thordarson’s betrayal of WikiLeaks also was a personal betrayal of its founder, Julian Assange, who, former colleagues say, took Thordarson under his wing, and kept him around in the face of criticism and legal controversy.

“When Julian met him for the first or second time, I was there,” says Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Icelandic Parliament who worked with WikiLeaks on Collateral Murder, the Wikileaks release of footage of a US helicopter attack in Iraq. “And I warned Julian from day one, there’s something not right about this guy… I asked not to have him as part of the Collateral Murder team.”

In January 2011, Thordarson was implicated in a bizarre political scandal in which a mysterious “spy computer” laptop was found running unattended in an empty office in the parliament building. “If you did [it], don’t tell me,” Assange told Thordarson, according to unauthenticated chat logs provided by Thordarson.

“I will defend you against all accusations, ring [sic] and wrong, and stick by you, as I have done,” Assange told him in another chat the next month. “But I expect total loyalty in return.”

Instead, Thordarson used his proximity to Assange for his own purposes. The most consequential act came in June 2011, on his third visit to Ellingham Hall — the English mansion where Assange was then under house arrest while fighting extradition to Sweden.

For reasons that remain murky, Thordarson decided to approach members of the Lulzsec hacking gang and solicit them to hack Islandic government systems as a service to WikiLeaks. To establish his bona fides as a WikiLeaks representative, he shot and uploaded a 40-second cell phone video that opens on the IRC screen with the chat in progress, and then floats across the room to capture Asssange at work with an associate. (This exchange was first reported by Parmy Olson in her book on Anonymous).

 

Unfortunately for Thordarson, the FBI had busted Lulzsec’s leader, Hector Xavier Monsegur, AKA Sabu, a week earlier, and secured his cooperation as an informant. On June 20, the FBI warned the Icelandic government. “A huge team of FBI came to Iceland and asked the Icelandic authorities to help them,” says Jonsdottir. “They thought there was an imminent Lulzsec attack on Iceland.”

The FBI may not have known at this point who Thordarson was beyond his screen names. The bureau and law enforcement agencies in the UK and Australia went on to round up alleged Lulzsec members on unrelated charges.

Having dodged that bullet, it’s not clear what prompted Thordarson to approach the FBI two months later. When I asked him directly last week, he answered, “I guess I cooperated because I didn’t want to participate in having Anonymous and Lulzsec hack for Wikileaks, since then you’re definitely breaking quite a lot of laws.”

That answer doesn’t make a lot of sense, since it was Thordarson, not Assange, who asked Lulzsec to hack Iceland. There’s no evidence of any other WikiLeaks staffer being involved. He offered a second reason that he admits is more truthful: “The second reason was the adventure.”

Thordarson’s equivocation highlights a hurdle in reporting on him: He is prone to lying. Jonsdottir calls him “pathological.” He admits he has lied to me in the past. For this story, Thordarson backed his account by providing emails that appear to be between him and his FBI handlers, flight records for some of his travels, and an FBI receipt indicating that he gave them eight hard drives. The Icelandic Ministry of the Interior has previously confirmed that the FBI flew to Iceland to interview Thordarson. Thordarson also testified to much of this account in a session of the Icelandic Parliament, with Jonsdottir in attendance.

Finally, he has given me a substantial subset of the chat logs he says he passed to the FBI, amounting to about 2,000 pages, which, at the very least, proves that he kept logs and is willing to turn them over to a reporter disliked by Julian Assange.

Thordarson’s “adventure” began on August 23, 2011, when he sent an email to the general delivery box for the U.S. embassy in Reykjavík “Regarding an Ongoing Criminal investigation in the United States.”

“The nature of the intel that can be brought to light in that investigation will not be spoken over email conversation,” he wrote cryptically.

An embassy security officer called him the same day. “He said, ‘What investigation?’ I said the Wikileaks,” says Thordarson. “He denied there was such an investigation, so I just said we both know there is.”

Thordarson was invited to the embassy, where he presented a copy of Assange’s passport, the passport for Assange’s number two, Kristinn Hrafnsson, and a snippet of a private chat between Thordarson and Assange. The embassy official was noncommittal. He told Thordarson they might be in touch, but it would take at least a week.

It happened much faster.

 

Photo: Courtesy Sigurdur Thordarson

FBI agents and two federal prosecutors landed in a private Gulfstream on the next day, on August 24, and Thordarson was summoned back to the embassy.

He was met by the same embassy official who took his keys and his cell phone, then walked with him on a circuitous route through the streets of downtown Reykjavík, ending up at the Hotel Reykjavik Centrum, Thordarson says. There, Thordarson spent two hours in a hotel conference room talking to two FBI agents. Then they accompanied back to the embassy so he could put money in his parking meter, and back to the hotel for more debriefing.

The agents asked him about his Lulzsec interactions, but were primarily interested in what he could give them on WikiLeaks. One of them asked him if he could wear a recording device on his next visit to London and get Assange to say something incriminating, or talk about Bradley Manning.

“They asked what I use daily, have always on,” he says. “I said, my watch. So they said they could change that out for some recording watch.”

Thordarson says he declined. “I like Assange, even considered him a friend,” he says. “I just didn’t want to go that way.”

In all, Thordarson spent 20 hours with the agents over about five days. Then the Icelandic government ordered the FBI to pack up and go home.

It turns out the FBI had misled the local authorities about its purpose in the country. According to a timeline (.pdf) later released by the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, the FBI contacted Icelandic law enforcement to report Thordarson’s embassy walk-in, and ask for permission to fly into the country to follow up. But the bureau had presented the request as an extension of its earlier investigation into Lulzsec, and failed to mention that its real target was WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks is well regarded in Iceland, and the incident errupted into a hot political topic when it surfaced there this year, with conservatives arguing that Iceland should have cooperated with the FBI, and liberals complaining about the agents being allowed into the country to begin with. “It became a massive controversy,” says Jonsdottir. “And then none of them knew what sort of person Siggi is.”

Politics aside, the FBI was not done with Thordarson.

The agents persuaded Thordarson to fly to Copenhagen with them, he says, for another day of interviews. In October, he made a second trip to Denmark for another debriefing. Between meetings, Thordarson kept in touch with his handlers through disposable email accounts.

In November 2011, Thordarson was fired from WikiLeaks. The organization had discovered he had set up an online WikiLeaks tee shirt store and arranged for the proceeds to go into his own bank account. WikiLeaks has said the embezzlement amounted to about $50,000.

Thordarson told the FBI about it in a terse email on November 8. “No longer with WikiLeaks — so not sure how I can help you more.”

“We’d still like to talk with you in person,” one of his handlers replied. “I can think of a couple of easy ways for you to help.”

“Can you guys help me with cash?” Thordarson shot back.
Image: Courtesy Sigurdur Thordarson

For the next few months, Thordarson begged the FBI for money, while the FBI alternately ignored him and courted him for more assistance. In the end, Thordarson says, the FBI agreed to compensate him for the work he missed while meeting with agents (he says he worked at a bodyguard-training school), totaling about $5,000.

With the money settled, the FBI began preparing him for a trip to the U.S. “I wanted to talk to you about future things we can do,” his handler wrote in February. The FBI wanted him to reestablish contact with some of his former WikiLeaks associates. “We’ll talk about specific goals of the chats, but you can get a head start before our meet by just getting in touch and catching up with them. If you need to know who specifically, we can discuss on the phone.”

The three-day D.C. trip took place in February of last year. Thordarson says he flew on Iceland Air flight 631 to Logan International Airport on February 22, and transferred in Boston to JetBlue flight 686 to Dulles International Aiport, where he was greeted by a U.S. Customs official “and then escorted out the Dulles terminal into the arms of the FBI.”

He stayed at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where the Justice Department’s investigation into WikiLeaks is centered, and met there with his two usual FBI contacts, and three or four other men in suits who did not identify themselves.

 

“At the last day we went to a steak house and ate, all of us,” he says. “Where they served Coca Cola in glass bottles from Mexico.”

On March 18, 2012, he had one more meeting with the FBI in Denmark. On this trip, he brought along eight of his personal hard drives, containing the information he’d compiled while at WikiLeaks, including his chat logs, photos and videos he shot at Ellingham Hall. The FBI gave him a signed receipt for the hardware.

Then they cut him off.

Today, Thordarson, now 20, has new problems. He’s facing criminal charges in Iceland for unrelated financial and tax crimes. In addition, WikiLeaks filed a police report for the tee-shirt shop embezzlement.

The legacy of his cooperation with the FBI is unclear. A court filing revealed last week shows that in the months following Thordarson ’s last debriefing, Justice Department officials in Arlington, Virginia, began obtaining court orders targeting two of Thordarson ’s former WikiLeaks colleagues in Iceland: Smari McCarthy and Herbert Snorrason.

Snorrason, who ran the WikiLeaks chat room in 2010, before Thordarson took it over, had the entire contents of his Gmail account handed over to the government, under a secret search warrant issued in October 2011.

The evidence used to obtain the warrant remains under seal. “I do wonder,” says Thordarson, “whether I’m somewhere in there.”

By Kevin Poulsen06.27.136:30 AM

 Find this story at 27 June 2013

WIRED.com © 2014 Condé Nast.

 

The WikiLeaks Mole; How a teenage misfit became the keeper of Julian Assange’s deepest secrets – only to betray him

On a recent frigid night near Reykjavik, Iceland, Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson slips into a bubbling geothermal pool at a suburban swim club. The cherubic, blond 21-year-old, who has been called everything in the press from “attention seeker” to “traitor” to “psychopath,” ends many of his days here, where, like most places around the city, he’s notorious. But even at a spa, he can find only the briefest moment of relaxation. Soon, the local prosecutor who is trying him for leaking financial records joins him in the tub, and Siggi quickly has to flee to another pool. “How does it feel to be the most dangerous man in Iceland?” a bather shouts across the steam.

Julian Assange: The Rolling Stone Interview

In person, Siggi’s doughy shape and boyish smile make him seem less than menacing – unless you’re another one of the world’s most dangerous men, Julian Assange. Four years ago, just as WikiLeaks was winning international notoriety, the then-17-year-old hacking prodigy became Assange’s youngest and most trusted sidekick. “It was like Batman and Robin,” says Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a former WikiLeaks volunteer and member of the Icelandic parliament. But as Assange became more embattled and besieged, the protégé turned on his mentor in the most shocking of ways: becoming the first FBI informant inside the group.

Siggi’s story of international espionage and teenage high-roller antics plays like James Bond meets Superbad, starring a confounding mash-up of awkward man-child and balls-out tech savant. And his tale reveals not only the paranoia and strife within WikiLeaks, but just how far the feds were willing to go to get Assange.

Siggi still lives with his parents in a nondescript high-rise, sitting at his computer in a bedroom lined with stuffed animals, including an orangutan-size Garfield he bought for $2,000. But his jet-black Mercedes ML350 is parked outside, which, along with his recent conviction for sexual misconduct against a 17-year-old boy (he says the relationship was consensual), speaks to his bizarre double life.

The Trials of Bradley Manning

The revelation of Siggi’s role as an FBI snitch has polarized WikiLeaks insiders. When I met with WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson (Assange declined to talk for this story), he grew red in the face, dismissing Siggi as “a pathological liar,” a party line echoed by the WikiLeaks faithful. “It all sounds rather absurd,” Hrafnsson says, “to go and to spend all this time analyzing the absolute bullshit that is flowing out of this young man, who is so troubled that he should be hospitalized.”

While other WikiLeaks insiders also question Siggi’s credibility, they insist that his story can’t be discounted, and there’s more to it than the organization is letting on. Tangerine Bolen, founder of the whistle-blowing advocacy organization RevolutionTruth, which used to work closely with WikiLeaks, is among those who say the group’s efforts to discredit Siggi are “patently false. They’re scared. The fact is Siggi played a key role in the organization and was very close to Julian.”

The truth, it seems, may be held in the leaks. Siggi has provided Rolling Stone with more than a terabyte of secret files he claims to have taken from WikiLeaks before he left in November 2011 and gave to the FBI: thousands of pages of chat logs, videos, tapped phone calls, government documents and more than a few bombshells from the organization’s most heated years. They’re either the real thing, or the most elaborate lie of the digital age.

Jacob Applebaum: The American WikiLeaks Hacker

Assange himself validated the importance of Siggi’s documents when he filed an affidavit late this past summer asserting that “the FBI illegally acquired stolen organisational and personal data belonging to WikiLeaks, me and other third parties in Denmark in March 2012” and that the FBI “was attempting to entrap me through Sigurdur Thordarson.”

Whatever their origins, the SiggiLeaks are a deep and revealing portal into one of the most guarded and influential organizations of the 21st century – and the extreme measures its embattled leader is willing to take. Of all Assange’s allies who’ve come and gone, few served him as faithfully as Siggi, or betrayed him so utterly. “One thing is sure,” Siggi tells me in his thick Icelandic accent, as the vapors from the thermal pool rise around him. “I have not lived a life like a teenager.”

L
ike Assange and so many gifted hackers, Siggi had an isolated childhood. The son of a hairdresser and a paint-company sales manager, he grew up with his little sister in a middleclass suburb of Reykjavik. Though puckish and bright, he was bored by school, alienated from his classmates and dreamed of a life beyond bourgeois Nordic comfort. “When I was, like, 12 years old, I wished for a couple of things,” he tells me as we drive one afternoon past some lava fields outside the capital. “I wished to be rich; I wished to be a famous guy; I wished to live an adventureful life.”

He found the excitement he craved in computers, and at age 12 he says he hacked into his first website, a local union’s home page, which he replaced with a picture of “a big fluffy monkey.” The experience empowered him. “When you do something like that, you feel invincible,” he says, “and if you can do that, what else can you do?”

He found out two years later, when, on a plane back from a family vacation, he fixed a laptop for a businessman sitting next to him. The executive was so impressed by his skills that he offered him a job at the Icelandic financial firm Milestone: scrubbing computers of sensitive documents. Siggi figures the company trusted him with such data because he was only 14 and must have thought, as he says, “I wouldn’t understand what I was supposed to delete.” Plus, the pay dwarfed that of his paper route.

WikiLeaks’ Greatest Hits

Curious about the files he was erasing, he’d copy them and study them at night. What he eventually discovered astonished him: Employees of Milestone seemed guilty of large-scale corruption in collusion with local politicians. At this time, in 2009, Iceland was reeling from the worldwide financial crisis, and Siggi believed the people deserved to know the role of Milestone and their dirty politicians – even if that meant leaking the files. “Someone has to do it,” he thought, “and why not me?”

In the fall, Siggi says he brought more than 600 gigabytes of Milestone data to the Icelandic newspaper Dagbladid Vísir, making front-page news and leading to investigations against the politicians and businessmen he exposed. Siggi believed in the importance of exposing the corruption he describes as “illegal as it gets.” With his identity still secret, he kept on leaking to other media outlets until, for reasons he never learned, his childhood friend outed him, a betrayal that changed him. “I literally just stopped believing in humanity,” he says. “Since then, I just basically stopped having feelings.”

But after being arrested and splashed across the news, he found a powerful connection in Kristinn Hrafnsson. A well-known TV reporter in Reykjavik at the time, Hrafnsson considered Siggi’s leaks to be “quite significant” and worthy of an introduction to another up-and-coming whistle-blower, Julian Assange, who was speaking at the University of Iceland. Though WikiLeaks had already exposed death squads in Kenya and financial malfeasance in the Swiss bank Julius Baer, the group was still largely unknown. But at the panel, Siggi found, to his surprise, that Assange was well aware of his work – he even chastised the reporter who revealed Siggi’s name in the Milestone leak. “He was basically just condemning the guy, sayingouting whistleblowers is wrong,” recalls Siggi, who reveled in the support.

The bond between the two was immediate. Assange too had been arrested for hacking when he was a young man in Australia. He also had a son, Daniel, who was roughly Siggi’s age, whom he had little contact. “I think Julian saw himself in Siggi,” says Jónsdóttir. “Julian felt an immediate sympathy toward the kid.”

After the panel, Siggi says he took Assange to Sea Bar, a small, rustic restaurant on the water. Over lobster soup and whale steak, they spoke about politics, hacking and their shared sense of purpose in exposing the secrets of the elite. Assange struck Siggi as someone with the courage to take on anyone. “He’s the kind of activist that does the thing that has to be done,” Siggi tells me. After talking for a few hours, Assange took out a small metal box. “Have you ever seen this before?” he said.

Assange cracked open the container and revealed three phones inside. “These are encrypted cellphones,” he said. “I’m going to give you one. Just keep it on at all times so I can communicate with you, day and night.”
W
ithin just a few weeks, Siggi was inside Assange’s small inner circle, a complex place where decisions centered on the mercurial leader. “There’s a video I want to show you,” Siggi recalls Assange telling him as they sat inside Jónsdóttir’s small house in Reykjavik one wintry night soon after they met in February 2010.

“Are you sure you want to show this to him?” said Jónsdóttir. She was concerned about Siggi’s involvement in the project and didn’t entirely trust him, but nevertheless felt protective of the boy. “He was just a lonely kid that had been bullied,” she recalls, “and I felt sort of motherly towards him in the beginning.” Before Assange cued up the clip, she warned Siggi, “This is a disgusting video.”

The grainy footage showed an Apache helicopter firing upon men in the streets of Baghdad. “This can cause a World War III,” Assange said. Though Siggi was new, he didn’t hesitate to express his concerns. “We have to be careful about what we publish,” he said. When Assange wanted to call the video “Collateral Murder,” Siggi told him he thought that was too dramatic. Assange seemed to value the bluntness of his new recruit. “I considered him a friend, and I believe he considered me a friend as well,” Siggi recalls. “If I was against something he said, I told him so, and that was something he liked.”

That spring, when the group was riding an international wave of attention after the video’s release, Siggi, whom Assange gave the handle PenguinX (he was later known as Q), became his dependable errand boy and confidant: talking regularly, looking for equipment, making encrypted calls to contacts on Assange’s behalf. After Bradley Manning was arrested for the “Collateral Murder” leak in May 2010, Assange wrote Siggi that it “might help if people think he’s gay. . . . [The] gay lobby in U.S. is very big, and the whole ‘gays in the military’ thing is very contentious.” When Assange eclipsed pop stars in Time’s person-of-the-year poll, he giddily messaged Siggi, “We beat Gaga!” But the pressure was getting to Assange. In a chat on July 7th, 2010, Siggi asked Assange how he was doing amid all the controversy. Assange replied, “Stressed.”

“Anything i can do to loose some stress?” Siggi typed.

“Find me a pretty girl with lots of warm olive oil;)” Assange replied. But women, too, soon became part of Assange’s worries. One night in August, Siggi’s cryptophone rang with a call from Assange. “Can I trust you?” he said.

“Definitely,” Siggi replied.

“Interpol is most likely going to issue an arrest warrant for me.”

Two women in Sweden alleged he had committed rape and sexual harassment, which Assange denied, saying sex with each was consensual. “The best solution to all this mess might just be going to Sweden and finishing the interrogation,” Siggi told him. But Assange pushed back, saying the U.S. would try to extradite him. “If you get arrested, I’ll just have a backup plan of stealing you from the police,” Siggi said in all seriousness.

But by fall, Assange had other problems: the defection of his closest supporters. His controlling nature had grown overbearing. Hacktivist Daniel DomscheitBerg, Jónsdóttir, journalist Herbert Snorrason and others in the small group of insiders battled with Assange over his reluctance to redact the Afghan war logs, which, they feared, would put lives at risk. Jónsdóttir spoke out to the media, calling for Assange to step aside and “let other people carry the torch.”

And Assange’s confounding closeness with Siggi, which bordered on a paternal relationship, was also an issue. “The perception was that Siggi basically got to a level where Julian trusted him in a matter of days,” says Snorrason. The core volunteers considered Siggi a dangerous liability, prone to youthful indiscretions and lies. But, as Domscheit-Berg recalls, the rumors were being stoked by Assange himself. “Julian told us we shouldn’t speak to Siggi because he couldn’t be trusted,” he says. “He told me Siggi was a notorious liar, but then again Julian told people I was a notorious liar probably because he’s a notorious liar. I think it’s psychological. We knew Julian was dealing with Siggi all the time – it all implied Julian was using him. These are all kinds of games children get into.”

Jónsdóttir was among those caught in Assange and Siggi’s web. “I told Julian, ‘There’s something weird, I can’t explain it, but I have this feeling,'” Jónsdóttir recalls. “‘You just be very careful with this guy.’ But he didn’t believe me.” Though she continuously tried to get Siggi removed from projects, Assange stood by the boy. “He might have trusted him with something that he didn’t want him to expose,” she says.

For Siggi, there was a simple reason he rose in Assange’s eyes: the old guard’s weakness. “To be blunt, they were just cowards,” he says. “I stayed with Julian through this entire shit. I didn’t leave, so that’s probably why he started to trust me more – I showed him loyalty.”

According to the chat logs, Assange commanded Siggi to insinuate himself with Jónsdóttir, in light of her calls for his resignation, and report back. “But be careful,” Assange warned Siggi. “She is good at smelling lies that are intellectual, though not so good at smelling emotional lies.” Days later, after Siggi returned with updates on Jónsdóttir, Assange wrote to him, “Good work on B.” Siggi suggested Assange confront her in person, to which Assange replied, “I will, but I need to let my anger cool, or it would be with a gun.”

Worried that logs of him discussing the rape allegations could be released by Snorrason, Assange told Siggi to hack into the journalist’s computer and remove them. “The log, get rid of it,” Assange wrote. “His pc must be taken over, and that deleted.”

“How can we delete it from his computer?” Siggi replied. “We would need physical access to his computer.” Assange said he could be fooled into downloading a trojan, a kind of computer virus. Though they never hacked Snorrason, the schism within WikiLeaks was tearing the group apart. That fall, Domscheit-Berg, Jónsdóttir, Snorrason and others left. But Siggi remained, and he wanted to make sure that Assange understood his dedication. “What about me?” Siggi wrote him late one night in a chat. “Any trust issues at all?”

“No. I know your difficulties and I accept them,” Assange replied. “Good intent and loyalty is more important to me.”

B
y October 2010, Assange had appointed Siggi to Snorrason’s old post of running the WikiLeaks chat room. It was an important position, vetting the faceless flood of potential allies and leakers, and passing along the cream to Assange. “Keep your eye open for people trying to befriend you or others in an attempt to infiltrate WikiLeaks,” Assange instructed him in a chat. “Lives depend on your diligence.”

Assange was on the lookout for FBI agents, informants and betrayers. And there was one unlikely group of people whom he feared might be rallying against him: the Bradley Manning Support Network. In July, Assange had pledged to pay for a substantial amount of Manning’s defense, which was expected to cost more than $100,000, and the group was increasingly angry that, months later, no money had come through. According to Siggi, Assange had simply moved on.

Throughout the fall, Siggi was getting word from BMSN co-founder David House that David Coombs, Manning’s attorney, was threatening to go public. “Coombs will go to the media very soon,” House warned Siggi in one chat. “I need someone in WL to do their job and actually start giving a shit about Manning’s defense.”

But WikiLeaks went on the offensive instead. “Julian wanted to know everything they were doing,” says Siggi. On October 7th, Siggi hacked into a Skype conference call of the BMSN and sent the recording to Assange. In the wee hours of November 11th, with word of another Skype call that evening, he asked Assange if he should do it again. “Do you want me to record the BMSN conference?” Siggi wrote.

“YES,” Assange replied.

“Oki dok:)”

The next night, Siggi reported back: Mission accomplished. “Yey the Recording was successful,” he typed in chat. “Want me to upload and send to you?”

“Yes. But going to bed now,” Assange wrote. “Good work on the record.”

“Ok:) Did you remember to brush your teeths:)”
With still no funds by December, the BMSN did go public, resulting in unflattering headlines, like The Washington Post’s “WikiLeaks hasn’t fulfilled financial-aid pledge for suspect in leaks.” (Eventually, the group gave $15,000.)

But by the end of 2010, Assange had sought refuge from the Swedish case by retreating to Ellingham Hall, a country mansion in England owned by dilettante investigative journalist Vaughan Smith. Assange deployed the now-18-year-old Siggi as one of his few trusted couriers for WikiLeaks’ most prized and explosive leaks of all – the quarter-million diplomatic cables from Manning – which they were delivering to news outlets around the world. “Do you have an EU passport?” Assange messaged Siggi one night.

“Yes Why:)?”

“Just thinking about various meetings.”

W
hen I met with WikiLeaks spokesman Hrafnsson, he insisted that apart from a trip to Ellingham Hall Siggi “was never traveling on behalf of WikiLeaks anywhere.” But several European journalists I spoke with confirmed their meetings with Siggi, and some insisted that both Assange and Hrafnsson were well aware. “Kristinn told me Siggi was the one to deal with,” says Leonie van Nierop, a reporter for a Netherlands daily paper, NRC Handelsblad, who met with Siggi in Amsterdam. “Siggi was constantly on the phone with Assange,” says Dan Sommer, the former head of security for the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik and a local pastor, who traveled as Siggi’s bodyguard. “It was clear that Assange knew what Siggi was doing.”

Assange had potential publishers vetted in person before giving them the files, and Siggi was among those tasked with the job, arriving in each city with an encrypted thumb drive containing excerpts from the cables. The twisted humor of the transactions – that the biggest leak in U.S. history was being delivered by a baby-faced 18-year-old – wasn’t lost on the reporters and editors with whom Siggi met. Dutch journalist Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal found him to be “an insecure guy who wanted to be something in the world.”

After spending several days with Siggi, van Nierop took a liking to the boy. She had acted as a tour guide for a day, leading Siggi through the famed red-light district in Amsterdam, where she noticed that he didn’t seem very intrigued by the women offering themselves in windows. “He was more interested in the trains in the station than the hookers,” she recalls. She could tell, while listening to her colleague speak with Assange about Siggi after the trip, that the two were geeky pals. She says Assange teasingly said that since she “took Siggi to the red-light district, couldn’t you have bought a girl for him?” Van Nierop thought Siggi’s relationship with Assange also explained why the boy seemed isolated. “If Julian Assange is your best friend,” she says, “you must be a little lonely.”

With media outlets often paying his way, Siggi says he was “having the time of my life.” When he told his parents he was traveling on missions for WikiLeaks, they balked; but as his father told me, “He was 18. There was nothing we could do.” In January 2011, he arrived in Honduras to meet with editors from the newspaper El Heraldo and was greeted by a team of armed bodyguards. When Siggi asked why he needed such heavy security, one of the goons told him, “because you’re white, and you could get stabbed or kidnapped.”

But Sommer, his personal bodyguard on many of the trips, couldn’t get the boy to leave behind his childhood. At every city, Siggi insisted on taking time out to visit the local waterpark and eating McDonald’s. In Budapest, Siggi had Sommer take him to his first strip club. In New York, Siggi wanted to try out a pepper-spray pen his bodyguard bought at a local spy shop. Back at the hotel, a half hour before a meeting, he persuaded his bodyguard to shoot him with it to see how it felt – but vastly underestimated the burn. “It was horrible,” says Siggi, who had to douse himself with milk to relieve the pain. He showed up at his next meeting with bloodshot eyes and a rash. “We had to explain that I wasn’t stoned,” Siggi says.

While in Washington, D.C., he had one mishap that was too close for comfort. His bodyguard was driving a Jeep the wrong way down a street by the Pentagon, when he saw a police car pull out nearby. With the diplomatic cables in the back seat, Siggi freaked. “Fuck me!” he said. “Oh, my God, we could get pulled over. We’re gonna go to Guantánamo Bay!” But as luck would have it, the police car passed him – missing the chance for the bust of a lifetime.

D
uring the half dozen times Siggi arrived at Ellingham Hall to visit Assange, he says he knew what to bring with him: a suitcase full of Malt Extrakt, Assange’s favorite Icelandic soda. “I saw it in his face,” Siggi says, “somebody actually thought about him. He was happy that I remembered.”

Despite his circumstances, Assange was enjoying the comforts of mansion life and the companionship of his close-knit circle of supporters, including Siggi. They went swimming in the nearby lake, had long dinners in the regal dining hall. At Assange’s blowout 40th-birthday party, Siggi got drunk for the first time, on licorice schnapps, and drove his car into a ditch during a midnight junk-food run. “It was hilarious!” Siggi recalls.

But in private moments, Assange told Siggi that the political and personal battles were wearing on him. “He said that he was really tired,” Siggi says. “I’d just like to give up,” Assange told him.
As the increasingly besieged WikiLeaks leader’s profile grew, so did his paranoia. Assange asked his protégé to write up psychological profiles of WikiLeaks core members. Siggi, however, initiated more recon on his own. Late one night, he clandestinely cloned their hard drives, including the laptops of Hrafnsson and longtime associate Sarah Harrison, and he provided Assange with a report of their contents.

Though Assange hadn’t asked him to do this, Siggi claims he read the findings and Assange allowed him to continue snooping during visits to Ellingham Hall. At one point, Siggi says, Assange asked him to search through the computers of Vaughan Smith, the journalist who owned the home, because he thought Smith was secretly videotaping him. Siggi sneaked into Smith’s office, rifling through his things until he found computer-memory cards and drives, which he promptly began wiping clean. I ask Siggi if he felt that spying on the volunteers and their host was wrong. “Privacy is just a myth, you know,” he replies. “It doesn’t really exist.”

But Assange’s spy games grew worse. BMSN co-founder House told Wired that Assange asked him in January 2011 to swipe a copy of former insider Domscheit-Berg’s WikiLeaks exposé prior to publication. Around the same time, Siggi claims Assange asked him to set up hidden cameras to spy on guests inside Ellingham Hall. “Julian just had this idea that everybody was after him,” he says. “He wanted this to be done. It made him feel more secure.” Siggi bought coat-hook spy cams and affixed them on the back of doors throughout the house, including bedrooms. He says he also installed a spy cam in a room used for meetings with visitors like Eric Schmidt of Google and Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes.

When I call Smith to ask him if he had ever seen any of these items in his house, he said he recalled finding a coat hook in a box and wondering why it was there. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s weird,'” he says. “‘Why would someone bring a coat hanger into my house?'”

S
iggi’s infiltrations soon spiraled well beyond Ellingham Hall. While WikiLeaks has always maintained that they are, as Hrafnsson puts it, “passive recipients” of leaks, Siggi spent much of 2011 conspiring with the most renowned hackers on the Net. The operation fulfilled what was now a common pattern: Siggi going rogue but with what he said was his boss’s tacit approval. “I understood what Julian wanted,” Siggi says.

In the wake of the Manning cables, Assange wanted more newsmaking leaks, but the material coming in wasn’t meeting his insatiable appetite or ambitions. So Siggi reached out to Gnosis, a hacker group that made its name in December 2010 for compromising more than a million registered accounts on Gawker websites.

Gnosis tipped Siggi off to a notorious 16-year-old female from Anonymous named Kayla who had just helped hack HBGary, an IT security firm that worked for the U.S. government. Gnosis claimed to have an unpublished copy of HBGary’s database, including its clients’ names and e-mails. “Don’t release it,” Siggi messaged back. “Allow us.”

Anonymous, however, ended up leaking the files themselves, and Siggi told Gnosis that his boss was pissed. “You can’t really control Anonymous,” Gnosis replied. “You can kinda herd them in the right direction but other than that lol good luck.”

But that didn’t stop Siggi from trying. In January 2011, Siggi got word that DataCell, the hosting service behind WikiLeaks, had valuable contracts pulled by an Icelandic power company called Landsnet, and he wanted revenge. “I have a funny request for you,” Siggi wrote Kayla in one chat. “www.landsnet.is is something ‘Anonymous’ should take down if it’s possible.” Two minutes later, Kayla replied that she’d just unleashed a botnet against the website, a form of a cyberattack that swamps the site with requests. Siggi tried logging on to the Landsnet site. “Haha request timed out,” he wrote.

The attack didn’t stop there. When Siggi explained that the Icelandic government had made a deal to assume DataCell’s contracts, Kayla asked if he wanted her to take down one of its sites too. “Definitely,” Siggi replied. Minutes later, a ministry site was down. But as the sites fell, Siggi joked that Kayla might inadvertently knock Iceland’s power offline too. “If you see a button that says turn off electricity don’t press it please,” he wrote.

With his connections to the Anonymous cell more secure, Siggi suggested that the group could be of even greater help – getting them more secret documents that WikiLeaks could release. “I don’t care where the information comes from,” Assange had told him, which Siggi took as carte blanche to solicit stolen material. So Siggi had Gnosis introduce him to one of the most infamous hackers of all: Sabu, leader of the Anonymous offshoot LulzSec. In the spring of 2011, LulzSec had taken down the sites of high-profile targets including Fox, the CIA and PBS, whose Web page they replaced with the title “FREE BRADLEY MANNING. FUCK FRONTLINE!” But Sabu wanted proof that Siggi was who he said he was by speaking with Assange directly. Siggi claims to have complied and arranged the Skype call.

With Sabu convinced, Siggi put him on a job: to dig further into the Icelandic government’s computers to see if it had intel on the DataCell deal. Soon, Sabu delivered. Siggi says Assange told him to have LulzSec upload the files to a WikiLeaks FTP server, which they did. And Sabu soon had more secrets to offer. He told Siggi his crew had recently hacked Stratfor, a “global intelligence” agency and government contractor, and found more than 5 million confidential e-mails between Stratfor and companies such as Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, as well as government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

But as the e-mails poured in, Siggi began to grow anxious and questioned the scale of the operation. Even though he was the one who initiated the relationship with the hackers, he worried that they were going too far. “Crossing this line by accepting stolen information and publishing this is literally just breaking the law,” he says he told Assange. “You’re going away from being a journalist organization and threatening national security.” But, once again, Assange told him he didn’t care how the information was obtained.

Back at home in his bedroom, Siggi couldn’t sleep. He lay in bed imagining the FBI breaking down his door, storming into his house, past his giant Garfield doll, his sleeping parents and his little sister, and hauling him off to Gitmo for good. For months, he’d had insomnia, but now his mind and heart were racing like never before. When he did manage to fall asleep, he woke up screaming.

J
ust after 3 a.m. on August 23rd, 2011, the pressure Siggi felt finally broke him. Crawling from bed, he e-mailed the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik and asked for a meeting. It wasn’t just the LulzSec association that concerned him. Assange seemed to have changed from the man he met the year before. While he was unwilling to donate the amount he’d promised to Manning’s defense, he was ready to blow large sums rehabilitating his ailing image. “I don’t care,” Assange told him. “We have a million bucks, and we can spend it on buying publicity.” For Siggi, it was a turning point. “I realized that this wasn’t the same ideology as before,” he says. But truth is, Siggi was also trying to save his own ass. Going to the FBI, he hoped, would inoculate him against prosecution. And, he admits, he thought being a spy for the feds would be a thrill. There was just one price to pay: “I would be betraying WikiLeaks, Julian, my friends,” he says.

The next day, Siggi got called to the U.S. Embassy and was soon taken to a nearby hotel, where he was met by the FBI. They wanted to know WikiLeaks’ physical security, their technical security, locations of computer servers, how Assange lived, his daily routine, “literally, everything,” Siggi says. And he had plenty of data to share: several hard drives of WikiLeaks private files that he had amassed during his time with the organization – just in case he ever needed them.
Signing a nondisclosure agreement, he spoke daily with the FBI, passing along the chats he was handling, the leaks that were in negotiation. And, as he told the FBI, there were big ones to be had, courtesy of Sabu. As they were getting the Stratfor files from LulzSec, Siggi had heard that Assange was trying to get Sabu to join the WikiLeaks team. “Did J say anything about recruiting you permanently?” Siggi asked Sabu in one chat.

“Well he emailed me once but we didn’t get to talk,” Sabu replied. “Guess he’s been busy/careful or whatever but let him know we have intercepted 92GB of mails from .gov.sy so this can be one of the biggest leaks in history.” In November 2011, Sabu began passing excerpts of this data, later published by WikiLeaks as the “Syria Files,” to Siggi – 2 million internal e-mails, going back to 2006, from companies, politicians and ministries in Syria. According to Siggi, when he told Assange about the new information, “He said, ‘OK, cool,'” Siggi recalls. “‘They can upload it.'”

But Siggi’s spy work was jeopardized that same month when he got an angry call from WikiLeaks’ spokesman Hrafnsson, accusing him of embezzling $50,000 in proceeds from selling WikiLeaks merchandise online. Siggi insists that he had run the money through his account with Assange’s permission, and that any extra cash went to cover his own expenses. With both sides warring, it isn’t clear whom to believe. But even if Siggi was guilty, the accusations raised more questions about why the boy, whom the group says had no role in the organization, had access to such funds in the first place. Hrafnsson threatened to report him to the police. Siggi e-mailed the FBI telling them the news. “No longer with WikiLeaks – so not sure how I can help you more. Sorry I couldn’t do more :(”

To his surprise, the FBI still had more work for him. Shortly after WikiLeaks published the Stratfor files in February 2012, Siggi was flown to Washington, D.C., where he met with members of the CIA, the DOD and the FBI at a Marriott hotel. The questions became dizzying: They wanted to know about others besides Assange – Jónsdóttir, Hrafnsson and more.

It didn’t take long for the hammer to fall. On March 5th, LulzSec hacker Jeremy Hammond was arrested for hacking the Stratfor files leaked to WikiLeaks (he’d later be sentenced to 10 years in prison). The next day, Kayla, the LulzSec hacker Siggi had conspired with, was indicted on conspiracy charges – and revealed to be a man, 25-year-old Ryan Ackroyd, from England. But the biggest shock came when Siggi read in the news that Sabu was an FBI informant, and had been since June 2011. It suddenly all made perfect sense. For months, he had been informing the FBI of his conversations with Sabu, and they hadn’t seemed to care. And since Sabu had been an informant during the time of the Stratfor and Syria files, that meant something incredible: The FBI had been well aware of the Stratfor and Syria hacks all along, and done nothing to intervene. Their target had always been Assange. The biggest and most famous hack in recent years was a carefully built plot by the FBI to snare a man it considered as an enemy of the state.

“Ultimately, the FBI’s mission is to apprehend criminals and prevent the commission of serious crimes,” says Glenn Greenwald, the journalist whom Edward Snowden leaked NSA files to last year. “In this particular case, they purposely allowed the commission of serious crimes they could have easily stopped. To treat an American firm like Stratfor and the privacy of Syria as sacrificial lambs in a campaign to entrap Julian Assange into criminality is unbelievably radical – you can even say corrupt.”

During a meeting in Denmark in March, the FBI had Siggi sign over eight hard drives containing his WikiLeaks files. When Siggi asked them about Sabu, the agents just smiled and gave him $5,000 to cover his cost of living, then sent him on his way. He never heard from them again.

I
n January 2013, Siggi watched TV in horror as Hrafnsson told a reporter how he had learned the previous summer that the FBI had come to Iceland to secretly interview someone about WikiLeaks – he just didn’t know who it was. But after meeting with Ögmundur Jónasson, who had just left the position of Iceland’s Minister of the Interior, he pieced together that Siggi was the one who had gone to the FBI.

I met with Jónasson, who told me how, in June 2011, Iceland received a warning from U.S. authorities of “an imminent attack on Icelandic computer systems.” Two months later, Jónasson found out that a plane full of FBI agents had arrived in Iceland for another purpose: to investigate WikiLeaks. Because they didn’t have authorization for this, he turned them away – only to find out later that they had taken Siggi to Copenhagen. “I still have suspicion,” he says, “that this was part of an attempt to put a case against Julian Assange.”

Hrafnsson remains just as outraged, though he tells me he and Assange weren’t shocked. “We have stopped being surprised about anything,” he says. When I ask if Assange feels betrayed by Siggi, Hrafnsson arches his brow. “Inherently in your question is the assumption that there was a very close relationship, which I never saw.”

While Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Siggi faces the repercussions of coming clean. Among other things, for the first time in this story, he’s admitting to the Milestone leak. “It’s probably going to lead to my conviction,” he says. “But I just have to face that.” In the meantime, in addition to unrelated fraud charges, he’s appealing his sentence of eight months for sexual misconduct. Siggi claims the victim’s father pressed the charges after learning of Siggi’s relationship with his son; Siggi calls his homosexual tryst a “phase.”

As for WikiLeaks, should he ever get asked one day to testify against Assange, Siggi isn’t sure whether he will comply. He knows that he betrayed his former mentor and friend. But he says he did it all for the very same reasons he believed in WikiLeaks and Assange: “The truth needs to come out.”

This story is from the January 16th, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.

by David Kushner
JANUARY 06, 2014

Find this story at 6 January 2014

©2014 Rolling Stone

WikiLeaks’ Teenage Benedict Arnold; How the FBI used a baby-faced WikiLeaks volunteer to spy on Julian Assange.

When he met Julian Assange for the first time, Sigurdur Thordarson admired the WikiLeaks founder’s attitude and quickly signed up to the cause. But little more than a year later, Thordarson was working as an informant spying on WikiLeaks for the U.S. government—embroiling himself as a teenager in one of the most complicated international events in recent history.

In a series of interviews with Slate, Thordarson has detailed the full story behind how, in an extraordinary sequence of events, he went from accompanying Assange to court hearings in London to secretly passing troves of data on WikiLeaks staff and affiliated activists to the FBI. The 20-year-old Icelandic citizen’s account is partly corroborated by authorities in Iceland, who have confirmed that he was at the center of a diplomatic row in 2011 when a handful of FBI agents flew in to the country to meet with him—but were subsequently asked to leave after a government minister suspected they were trying to “frame” Assange.

Thordarson, who first outed himself as an informant in a Wired story in June, provided me with access to a pseudonymous email account that he says was created for him by the FBI. He also produced documents and travel records for trips to Denmark and the United States that he says were organized and paid for by the bureau.

The FBI declined to comment on Thordarson’s role as an informant or the content of the emails its agents are alleged to have sent him. In a statement, it said that it was “not able to discuss investigative tools and techniques, nor comment on ongoing investigations.” But emails sent by alleged FBI agents to Thordarson, which left a digital trail leading back to computers located within the United States, appear to shine a light on the extent of the bureau’s efforts to aggressively investigate WikiLeaks following the whistle-blower website’s publication of classified U.S. military and State Department files in 2010.

Late last month, Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was convicted on counts of espionage, theft, and computer fraud for passing the group the secrets. During the Manning trial, military prosecutors portrayed Assange as an “information anarchist,” and now it seems increasingly possible that the U.S. government may next go after the 42-year-old Australian for his role in obtaining and publishing the documents. For the past 14 months, Assange has been living in Ecuador’s London Embassy after being granted political asylum by the country over fears that, if he is sent to Sweden to face sexual offense allegations, he will be detained and subsequently extradited to the United States.

Meanwhile, for more than two years, prosecutors have been quietly conducting a sweeping investigation into WikiLeaks that remains active today. The FBI’s files in the Manning case number more than 42,000 pages, according to statements made during the soldier’s pretrial hearings, and that stack of proverbial paper likely continues to grow. Thordarson’s story offers a unique insight into the politically-charged probe: Information he has provided appears to show that there was internal tension within the FBI over a controversial attempt to infiltrate and gather intelligence on the whistle-blower group. Thordarson gave the FBI a large amount of data on WikiLeaks, including private chat message logs, photographs, and contact details of volunteers, activists, and journalists affiliated with the organization. Thordarson alleges that the bureau even asked him to covertly record conversations with Assange in a bid to tie him to a criminal hacking conspiracy. The feds pulled back only after becoming concerned that the Australian was close to discovering the spy effort.

It was 2010 when the saga began in Reykjavik, Iceland. Thordarson, then just 17, says that before his first encounter with Assange, he knew little about the man beyond a few YouTube videos he’d watched about WikiLeaks. But he went to hear Assange speak at a conference hosted by an Icelandic university, and the teenager was impressed. After the event, a journalist Thordarson knew introduced him to Assange, and the pair struck up a relationship that led to Thordarson doing some volunteer work for the organization. Before long, he was on the edges of WikiLeaks’ small, tight-knit inner circle.

At that time, the group was sitting on the explosive files it had received from Manning that included a video showing a U.S. helicopter attack that resulted in the deaths of 12 civilians, among them two employees of the Reuters news agency.

Thordarson, a blond-haired stocky figure with a baby face, was present while WikiLeaks staff and volunteers in Reykjavik were preparing the video for publication. When it was published by WikiLeaks in April 2010, under the name Collateral Murder, it catapulted the organization into the international spotlight and provoked an angry response from government officials in Washington.

The then-teenager, known as “Siggi” to his friends, was around at the height of that backlash. He was given administrative privileges to moderate an Internet chat room run by WikiLeaks. And when Assange relocated from Iceland to England, Thordarson came to visit. He even accompanied the WikiLeaks founder to court appearances in London as he fought extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault.

Siggi and Assange in England in 2011. You can see that Assange is wearing his ankle monitor.

Photo courtesy of Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson

Thordarson looked up to Assange, viewing him as a friend. The WikiLeaks chief, he says, treated him well—helping him find a lawyer in 2010, not long after the pair had met, when he says he was wrongly accused by Icelandic police of breaking into a business premises. But signs that Thordarson had a proclivity for brushes with the law did not appear to trigger alarm bells early on at WikiLeaks—though perhaps they should have, because he was certainly not any ordinary volunteer. Unlike many drawn to WikiLeaks, Thordarson does not seem to have been principally motivated by a passion for the cause of transparency or by the desire to expose government wrongdoing. Instead, he was on the hunt for excitement and got a thrill out of being close to people publishing secret government documents.

As a child, Thordarson led a fairly normal middle-class life in Reykjavik, enjoying social studies and chemistry at school. His father worked as a sales manager at a painting firm, and his mother ran a hair salon. But as he entered his teenage years, he says, he began to feel that he could not connect with others in his peer group. He went to college to study computer science and psychology—but claims he was suspended after hacking into a college computer system.

By mid-2011, Thordarson’s thirst for adventure, combined with his interest in hacking, would irreversibly complicate his relationship with WikiLeaks. In June of that year, the Anonymous-linked hacker group LulzSec brought down the website of the CIA. Thordarson says that he and other WikiLeaks staff were amused by the incident, and he decided to reach out to the hackers to establish contact. Thordarson claims that, using the aliases “Q” and “Penguin X,” he set up a line of communication between WikiLeaks and LulzSec. During the series of exchanges that followed, Thordarson says he “suggested” that his group wanted assistance to find evidence of anti-WikiLeaks sentiment within the Icelandic government’s Ministry of Finance, which had thwarted an attempt by DataCell, a company that processes WikiLeaks donations, to purchase a large new data center in Reykjavik. (In early 2011, DataCell’s founder questioned whether the Icelandic government had deliberately prevented the deal because it was “afraid of letting WikiLeaks here into the country.”)

“That was basically the first assignment WikiLeaks gave to LulzSec,” Thordarson alleges, “to breach the Icelandic government infrastructure.”

Thordarson admits that he initiated the contact with the hackers, though he claims it was approved by Assange. It is unclear, however, whether WikiLeaks staff were fully aware of his correspondence with LulzSec and the “assignment” that he says he handed to them. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told me he believed that if Thordarson had any contact with LulzSec, it was as a rogue operative and that it was “highly unlikely” any other WikiLeaks staff, including Assange, knew what he was engaged in. Thordarson is a dishonest character, Hrafnsson said, who is trying to inflate the role he played as a volunteer.

Either way, in this case, the exchange Thordarson describes does appear to have taken place. It has since been independently corroborated in part by authorities in Iceland and was first reported—from the perspective of the hackers—in a 2012 book by Parmy Olsen, We Are Anonymous. I have also seen chat logs and emails from 2011 that appear to back up Thordarson’s assertion that he was communicating with the hackers, which has significant ramifications. By claiming that he effectively solicited LulzSec to break into government computers, Thordarson has implicated himself in a potential international criminal conspiracy, leaving WikiLeaks open to the allegation that it, too, was somehow involved.

But the full facts about the incident remain murky—not least because there is another dramatic twist to the tale.

What Thordarson did not know at the time was that Sabu, the loudmouth figurehead of LulzSec and one of the hackers he was communicating with, was in fact working as an FBI informant—and the online chat about hacking Icelandic government infrastructure was apparently being monitored by the feds. About four days later, the FBI contacted Icelandic authorities to warn them about an “imminent” hacking attack, according to Iceland’s state prosecutor, and this prompted Icelandic police to travel to the United States to discuss the matter. (Sabu, it later turned out, was a then-28-year-old hacker from New York named Hector Monsegur. The FBI reportedly tracked him to his Lower East Side apartment in early June 2011 and managed to “flip” him, because he was the guardian of two young children and desperate to stay out of jail.)

Thordarson says LulzSec never gave WikiLeaks any information about Icelandic government corruption, but hackers close to the group did hand over a confidential Icelandic state police document related to the security of the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. He also claims that hackers affiliated with LulzSec and Anonymous turned over documents from a bank in Mexico, files from BP, and emails hacked from the Syrian government and the security think tank Stratfor, among others. Between February 2012 and July 2012, a large cache of Syrian government and Stratfor emails were published by WikiLeaks under the names the “Syria Files” and the “Global Intelligence Files.” (As a matter of policy, WikiLeaks does not comment on how its releases are sourced.)

Being at the center of the action had given Thordarson the adrenaline rush he was looking for. But the contact with LulzSec, which he had initiated, made him feel like he had gone too far. He was worried that in maintaining contact with the hackers, he was “breaking quite a lot of laws.” Meanwhile, news reports were saying that the U.S. government was already investigating WikiLeaks for its publication of classified documents, including the Collateral Murder video, diplomatic cables, and military war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq. And just as Thordarson was getting anxious about the high-stakes international affairs he had become entangled with, he also seems to have become bored with WikiLeaks—and he now admits he wanted to embark on a new adventure.

It was then that, at about 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 23, 2011, Thordarson sat down at his computer at home in Kópavogur and typed out a message to the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. He decided he wanted to become an informant—and, unlike Sabu, he was ready to do so without any threats hanging over his head.

From: [redacted]@live.com
To: reykjavikdatt@state.gov
Subject: Regarding an Ongoing Criminal investigation in the United States.
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2011 03:33:39 +0000

After a quick search on the internet i have yet not been able to find a reliable contact form to establish a meeting with a person regarding an on going criminal investigation.

The nature of the investigation is not something that i desire to speak over an email conversation.

The nature of the intel that can be brought to light in that investigation will not be spoken over email conversation.

I here by request a meeting at the U.S Embassy in Iceland, or any other place.

I am an Icelandic citizen.

I can be contacted via this email address

Or Via Phone

00xxx-xxxxxxx

I request also that this email will be considered confidential.

Later that day, Thordarson received a phone call. On the other end, he says, was the security chief at the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. The man asked what exactly the email was concerning, and Thordarson told him it was about the U.S. government’s ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks. He says the security chief denied the existence of any such investigation, but nevertheless asked Thordarson to come to the embassy to meet him. Thordarson agreed. And that afternoon, he turned up at the door of the Reykjavik embassy, explaining briefly that he wanted to share information about WikiLeaks. To prove he wasn’t bluffing, he showed staff a photocopy of Julian Assange’s passport that he had obtained.

He says he was told not to expect any further contact for at least a week, if at all. But less than 24 hours later, Thordarson’s phone rang again. He was asked if he could come back to the embassy for another meeting. This time, it was serious. Unlike the more casual first meeting, he was told to hand over any electronic devices and take off his watch. He was then escorted by the embassy security chief on a walk around Reykjavik, circling the city center a number of times to ensure they were not being followed. Then he was ushered into a conference room in the four-star Hotel Reykjavik Centrum, where, he says, two men were waiting for him. They spoke with American accents and displayed FBI credentials. Iceland’s state prosecutor has acknowledged that this meeting took place, confirming in a document published earlier this year that a handful of FBI agents and federal prosecutors were authorized to jet into the country after an Icelandic citizen contacted the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. The U.S. Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

For a brief moment, Thordarson became nervous. “The only thing that went through my mind was: ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ ” he recalls. But the feeling of doubt didn’t last long, and soon he was embracing the whole experience—almost as if he believed he was starring in his own personal spy thriller.

The FBI, he says, asked him a range of questions to “verify that I wasn’t full of bullshit.” At one point, he was asked what he knew about LulzSec, and he described the online conversations he had been having with Sabu. Thordarson did not know it at the time, but the FBI had presumably been monitoring those chats—as an informant, Sabu had been issued a government laptop, and his online activity was reportedly under surveillance 24/7. Indeed, the bureau had met with Icelandic authorities two months earlier to warn about a potential hacking attack on Icelandic infrastructure—just days after Thordarson says he gave LulzSec the “assignment” to hack Icelandic government computers.

Thordarson’s detailed knowledge of the Sabu chats—and his participation in them—apparently convinced the agents. For about the next four consecutive days, they met with him, Thordarson says, each time at a different hotel in Reykjavik. They asked about people connected to WikiLeaks and quizzed him about what Assange was doing at Ellingham Hall, the remote residence in England’s countryside where the WikiLeaks founder was living at the time while on bail and fighting extradition to Sweden. Thordarson says the agents also wanted information about WikiLeaks’ technical and physical security and the locations of WikiLeaks’ servers; they asked him, too, for names of individuals linked to WikiLeaks who might be open to becoming informants if approached by the FBI.

However, by Aug. 30, 2011, several days after the FBI entered Iceland, the Icelandic government had become unsettled about the presence of U.S. authorities. Then–Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson told me that Icelandic authorities initially believed the FBI agents had come to the country to continue their investigation into the impending LulzSec hacking attack on Icelandic government computers. But once it became clear that the FBI agents were in fact engaged in a broader swoop to gather intelligence on WikiLeaks, according to Jónasson, the agents were asked to immediately remove themselves from the country.

“I think it was a question of trying to frame Julian Assange,” Jónasson says, recalling the debacle. “And they wanted Icelandic authorities to help them with that.”

WikiLeaks ally DataCell had just months earlier accused the Icelandic government of working against the whistle-blower group, but by booting the FBI out of the country, the Interior Ministry had radically undermined that theory. Its decision, in fact, was a stark illustration of how WikiLeaks has continued to maintain a strong support base in Iceland since 2009, when it exposed controversial loan payments made by Kaupthing, the bank at the heart of the Icelandic financial crisis. As a result, the FBI could not meet with Thordarson in Iceland again. Instead, he says, the FBI held further meetings with him in Denmark (three times) and brought him to the United States (once) to continue discussions about WikiLeaks. Through this period, Thordarson says the bureau paid him about $5,000 in total to cover his expenses and to make up for loss of earnings.

Thordarson maintained contact with WikiLeaks, but he was secretly sending information back to the FBI. Once, he says, he told the agents that he was planning a visit to see Assange at Ellingham Hall. Eager to take advantage of the trip, they asked him to wear a recording device and make copies of data stored on laptops used by WikiLeaks staff. He alleges that the FBI wanted him to get Assange to “say something incriminating about LulzSec.” But he declined to wear a recording device and told his handlers that covertly copying data from computers wouldn’t be feasible because “people literally sleep with their laptops at Ellingham.”

Assange and Siggi in Paddington, London, in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson

Thordarson felt that wearing a wire in an attempt to secretly implicate Assange in LulzSec’s illegal hacking activities was a step too far, but he was happy to engage in equally dubious intelligence-gathering activities. He maintained contact with LulzSec and passed transcripts of his conversations with the hacker Sabu back to the FBI, his emails show. What Thordarson did not know at the time was that the FBI already knew about the chats—because, of course, it had recruited Sabu as an informant, too.

In one notable online exchange in November 2011, Sabu told Thordarson that LulzSec had breached Syrian government computers. He showed off snippets of hacked emails to Thordarson, saying he wanted to pass a trove of data to WikiLeaks. Later in the same conversation, Thordarson quizzed Sabu about a plan to “recruit” him for WikiLeaks. Neither of the two men appear to have realized that they were both independently acting as informants for the FBI.

“We ended up [inside] a certain government’s central mail server and got some fucking massive leaks coming out,” Sabu says in the chat. “You gents sure you’re not wanting to do anymore leaks?”

“Did J say anything about recruiting you permanently?” Thordarson fires back a few minutes later, in reference to Assange.

“Well he emailed me once but we didn’t get to talk,” Sabu says. “Guess he’s been busy/careful or whatever. But let him know we have intercepted 92GB of mails from .gov.sy [the Syrian government] so this can be one of the biggest leaks in history.”

When Sabu was outed as an informant in an explosive Fox News story in March 2012, it made sense to Thordarson. He says he found it strange that the FBI never seemed interested in the information he told them he had about the hacker, who was a hugely prominent figure at the helm of a group that had claimed responsibility for attacking U.S. government websites and multinational corporations, including Sony and News International. What the FBI agents wanted from Thordarson, it seems clear, was information that they could not get from any other source—information about the inner workings of WikiLeaks.

Before his penultimate meeting with U.S. authorities, in early February 2012, Thordarson says he was instructed to build relationships with people close to WikiLeaks in order to gather information for the feds. He received an email from his alleged handler—who used the alias “Roger Bossard”—in an account set up for him under the fake name “Ibrahim Mohammad.” The message encouraged Thordarson to “chat with those people we discussed on the phone” in order to “get a head start before our meet.” A few weeks later, he was flown out to Washington, D.C., and says he was put up in a Marriott hotel in Arlington, Va., near the location of a grand jury that has been collecting evidence about WikiLeaks since at least early 2011 as part of a criminal investigation into the whistle-blower organization. At meetings in a conference room of the hotel, he was asked about a host of individuals who had at one time volunteered or worked for WikiLeaks in some capacity, including Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir; eminent computer security expert Jacob Appelbaum; and Guardian reporter James Ball, a former WikiLeaks staffer. “They wanted to know literally everything there was to know about these people,” Thordarson alleges.

He says he “mostly gave them information that was general knowledge.” But he admits that he turned over some email addresses, details about instant messenger accounts, and phone numbers. This information is useful to the authorities because they can use it to order surveillance of targeted suspects’ phone or email accounts. Since 2010, several individuals connected to WikiLeaks have had emails and other communications monitored as part of the FBI’s investigation.

By the end of the meeting in Washington, the U.S. government had already gleaned a large amount of information about WikiLeaks from Thordarson. Its biggest haul of intelligence, however, was yet to come.

On March 18, 2012, Thordarson says he met with the FBI for what would be the final time, in Aarhus, Denmark. Prior to the meeting, he exchanged emails with his alleged handler, agreeing that he would come equipped with hard drives packed with chat logs, photographs, and other data related to WikiLeaks. According to a Justice Department receipt Thordarson says he was provided by the FBI, he turned over eight hard drives in total containing of about 1 terabyte of data, which is the equivalent of about 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. (The Ministry of Justice in Denmark refused to comment on whether it authorized FBI agents to enter the country to meet with Thordarson, saying that it could not discuss “specific cases.”)

The Department of Justice receipt Thordarson says he was given for the delivery of eight hard drives to U.S. authorities.

Courtesy of Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson

Once the agents obtained the hard drives and received the passwords to access them, Thordarson’s emails suggest, they stopped responding regularly to his messages and rebuffed his attempts to set up another meeting. (Apparently, Thordarson’s thirst for adventure hadn’t yet been quenched.) They continued to encourage him to send data on WikiLeaks to a P.O. box at a UPS Store in Arlington, a short drive from Justice Department and FBI headquarters, but they pulled back, apparently concerned that their cover could soon be blown.

The UPS Store in Arlington, Va., where Siggi was asked to send mail for the FBI.

Photo by Torie Bosch

“Understand J has your laptop,” an alleged agent wrote to Thordarson shortly after the final Denmark meeting, referencing Assange. “Is there anything on it about our relationship?”

There were also signs that internal conflict was developing within the FBI over the infiltration of WikiLeaks, a controversial tactic not least because WikiLeaks is a publisher and press freedom groups have condemned from the outset the government’s investigation into Assange and his colleagues. In early 2012, after a period of not responding to Thordarson’s emails, his alleged FBI handler wrote that there had been “bureaucratic issues beyond my control that prevented me from maintaining contact,” adding that “our relationship has been problematic for some others. This is not an ordinary case. But those were not my issues and I have been diligently trying to work out those issues so we can continue our relationship.”

Thordarson, too, was having problems. He had become embroiled in a serious dispute with WikiLeaks about money in late 2011, which created friction between him, Assange, and WikiLeaks, ultimately resulting in him being dismissed from his volunteer role and perhaps even fueling his desire to continue informing on the group. Thordarson was accused of embezzling about $50,000 from a merchandise store that he had helped set up to raise funds. He admits that he took some of the money but denies stealing it, saying he used the funds to cover expenses he was owed by WikiLeaks. The matter is currently being investigated by police in Iceland.

In February, Iceland’s state prosecutor published a detailed timeline about the FBI’s visit to the country in 2011. The information shed light on the circumstances surrounding how U.S. authorities were asked to leave because of their attempt to gather intelligence on WikiLeaks. The same month, Thordarson was called to appear at a closed-door meeting with Icelandic parliamentarians to discuss the extent of his dealings with the FBI, which led to him being named in the Icelandic press as the person who had prompted the FBI to fly to the country in August 2011.

It was at this point, Thordarson says, that he was forced to come clean to WikiLeaks. He says he told Assange about everything he had turned over to the FBI and forwarded to WikiLeaks all of his emails with the alleged FBI agents. Unsurprisingly, Assange “wasn’t happy,” he says. Hrafnsson, the WikiLeaks spokesman, told me he believed Thordarson was guilty of “pathological” behavior, adding that the FBI’s apparent recruitment of Thordarson had revealed the U.S. government’s “relentless persecution” of WikiLeaks.

Thordarson, however, does not seem fazed by the controversy he has created. He now spends much of his time working for companies that offer security and bodyguard training in Iceland and Denmark, though does not believe his relationship with the FBI has “formally ended.” He claims that his handlers at the bureau told him that he might yet be asked to testify in court about WikiLeaks. The Justice Department declined to comment about Thordarson but confirmed that its investigation into WikiLeaks is ongoing.

Eventually, the U.S. government may attempt to prosecute Assange, and there can be little doubt that he remains fixed firmly in the feds’ crosshairs. The WikiLeaks founder’s attorneys believe that a grand jury probe may already have produced an indictment against him that remains under seal—and so he remains sheltered in Ecuador’s London Embassy, fearing that if he sets foot outside the door he will subsequently be extradited to the United States and thrown in jail. But the prospect of this does not appear to be weighing heavily on Thordarson’s mind. Only once, when recounting the time he spent passing information on Assange to the FBI, does his voice tremble with a quiver of guilt.

“If you come into Julian’s inner circle,” Thordarson says, “he really takes care of his friends.”

This article arises from Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, visit the Future Tense blog and the Future Tense home page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Ryan Gallagher  Aug. 9 2013 5:37 AM

Ryan Gallagher is a journalist who reports from the intersection of surveillance, national security, and privacy for Slate’s Future Tense blog. He is also a Future Tense fellow at the New America Foundation.

Find this story at 9 August 2013

© 2014 The Slate Group LLC.

 

Here’s What It Looks Like When Two Hacker FBI Informants Try To Inform On Each Other

WikiLeaks informant Sigurdur Thordarson, left, and LulzSec informant Hector Xavier Monsegur.

The FBI has so many moles in the hacktivist community, it seems, that at times they’ve even ended up unwittingly doing their best to get each other arrested.

For much of 2011, Icelandic then-teenager and self-described hacker Sigurdur Thordarson worked as both a WikiLeaks volunteer and an FBI informant. As Thordarson first told Wired, he claims to have given the FBI eight hard drives full of information potentially useful to the U.S. government’s ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks, which has come back into the spotlight due to the secret-spilling group’s role in helping NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden seek asylum.

In an instant message conversation with Thordarson Thursday, I asked him what he might have given to the FBI that could be relevant to its investigation, and he responded immediately with a log of an instant message conversation between himself and the member of the LulzSec hacker group known as Sabu, which he says he gave to the FBI and which he claims shows “that information was passed on from LulzSec that later got published by WikiLeaks.” Thordarson told me he believes the log supports a “conspiracy” charge against Julian Assange or others in WikiLeaks.

The log is likely less useful to the FBI than Thordarson thinks: It’s no surprise that WikiLeaks has published hacked files, or even that it publishes files hacked specifically by LulzSec, such as the millions of emails stolen from the private intelligence firm Stratfor by activist Jeremy Hammond, who pleaded guilty to computer fraud and abuse last month.

More interesting, or at least more humorous, is the fact that the chat log represents a conversation between two FBI informants, both of whom seem to be trying to lure the other into providing evidence they can turn over to their law enforcement handlers–or even into a meeting that could lead to the other’s arrest. Sabu, also known as Hector Xavier Monsegur, had agreed to work as an FBI mole within LulzSec months before his conversation with Thordarson. Thordarson, for his part, tells me he thought he was helping to deliver a “notorious hacker” to the FBI, and didn’t know he was speaking to a fellow stool pigeon. Monsegur doesn’t show any signs of knowing either.

Thordarson, it should be noted, is not a reliable source, and WikiLeaks has claimed that “at no time did he have access to sourcing or publishing systems.” But while he may have tampered with the chat logs he provided me, they would be nearly impossible to wholly fabricate, and include English colloqualisms from Monsegur that would be tough for a native Icelander like Thordarson to invent.

At the beginning of this November 2011 conversation, in which Thordarson goes by the name “Dumbo12,” Monsegur offers WikiLeaks a a trove of hacked Syrian government emails, which sound like a portion of collection WikiLeaks would publish in 2012.

Sabu: how you doing my brother?

Dumbo12: all good on my and my friend

Dumbo12: on my end my friend *

Dumbo12: how’s life

Sabu: everythings good over here

Sabu: been busy

Sabu: we ended up a certain governments central mail server

Sabu: and got some fucking massive leaks coming out

Sabu: you gents sure you’re not wanting to do anymore leaks?

Dumbo12: Oh we will make more leaks

Dumbo12: we are gathering material now’a days and getting more funds to keep hosting our data servers

Dumbo12: anything else you can tell me about the comming out leaks?

Sabu: well between us. we ended up owning syrian government central mail server. my teams working on translating from arabic to english. but we are seeing crazy shit

Monsegur sends Thordarson some examples, and Thordarson responds with interest, and then asks Monsegur how WikiLeaks can help him. He responds asking for money:

Sabu: this is real shit

Dumb012: is this something WL could get there hands on and get real and good publicitiy?

Sabu : my brother. I’ll give you url of email attachments right now as a sample

Sabu : one minute

Dumbo12: another question i was asked to ask you, Are you being monitered? are you safe? do you need any assistance from us?

Sabu: nein but thanks for asking

Sabu: the only assistance I need is money so I can stop living in poverty and being the brokest hacker on earth

Sabu: hahaha

Then Thordarson mentions recruiting Monsegur to become a member of WikiLeaks, but insists on meeting him in person.

Dumbo12: Did J say anything about recruiting you permanately?

Sabu: well he emailed me once but we didnt get to talk

Sabu: guess hes been busy/careful or whatever

Sabu: but let him know we have intercepted 92GB of mails from .gov.sy so this can be one of the biggest leaks in history

Dumbo12: Just to point out one thing – If we are to recruit you – a meeting will have to take place we can’t be talking to a username forever

Sabu: I don’t care about that. but if you meet me you better make sure you guys are secure

Sabu: I refuse to go to jail for meeting anyone

Dumbo12: we will be secure im more worried about you

Sabu: especially me. they’re trying to get me really hard man

Sabu: I think they’re builing a real ugly case against me

Sabu: I believe in this cause and J inspired me to do what I’m doing

Sabu: but it feels like they’re trying to turn me to a martyr

Dumbo12: Believe me when i say, i personally and this organization will do everything we can to protect you from our end

Sabu: thanks brother.

Later Thordarson asks Monsegur to meet in Iceland, and Monsegur instead asks Thordarson to come to New York.

Dumbo12: Do you feel comfortable traveling to Iceland?

Dumbo12: or do you wan’t us to travel somwhere?

Sabu: unfortunately I’m a grown ass man with kids, so I don’t have the luxory of traveling the world

Sabu: but if you sneak yourself out to new york we’ll meet up at a bar on some random shit

Dumbo12: haha new york?

Sabu: haha yeah

Dumbo12: you don’t ask for little my friend

Sabu: take your time brother

Sabu: but its easy to hide in this city

Dumbo12: well worst case scenario i get stopped in NY customs – but i do not think that will happen

Sabu: I can be in NY tomorrow but i won’t go there unless your 100%

Sabu: I’m 100% but again my nigga I can’t risk going to jail now. I’ve been hiding for so long

Sabu: so be private about every fucking thing

Dumbo12: give me a date that suits you and i will try my outmost to be ther

Dumbo12: e

Dumbo12: if i get stopped in the US and they realize who i am then im going to jail so i ask you the same be not private but be very private about everything

Dumbo12: and you need to know that if i travel there i will be traveling with a close protection unit

Sabu: thats fine. im from the ghetto so I got people too 🙂

Four months later, Monsegur was revealed as an FBI informant. His meeting with Thordarson at a New York bar seems to have never taken place. Which is a shame: The two had more in common than they realized.

6/28/2013 @ 3:51PM |Andy Greenberg

Find this story at 28 June 2013

Copyright 2014 Forbes.com LLC™

 

WikiLeaks volunteer was paid FBI informant

A “cherubic” looking 18-year-old was part of an international investigation

Wired reports that an Icelandic 18-year-old named Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson, who volunteered for WikiLeaks, was also informing for the FBI on the secretive group:

Thordarson was long time volunteer for WikiLeaks with direct access to Assange and a key position as an organizer in the group. With his cold war-style embassy walk-in, he became something else: the first known FBI informant inside WikiLeaks. For the next three months, Thordarson served two masters, working for the secret-spilling website and simultaneously spilling its secrets to the U.S. government in exchange, he says, for a total of about $5,000. The FBI flew him internationally four times for debriefings, including one trip to Washington D.C., and on the last meeting obtained from Thordarson eight hard drives packed with chat logs, video and other data from WikiLeaks.

The relationship provides a rare window into the U.S. law enforcement investigation into WikiLeaks, the transparency group newly thrust back into international prominence with its assistance to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Thordarson’s double-life illustrates the lengths to which the government was willing to go in its pursuit of Julian Assange, approaching WikiLeaks with the tactics honed during the FBI’s work against organized crime and computer hacking — or, more darkly, the bureau’s Hoover-era infiltration of civil rights groups.

Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 04:50 PM +0200
Alex Halperin

Find this story at 27 June 2013

© 2014 Salon Media Group, Inc.

WikiLeaks q: Sigurdur Thordarson

Thordarson appears to be on Twitter: @singi201 and @singi201/wikileaks

A sends in response to a Cryptome query about allegations against WikiLeaks member “q” cited in We Are Anonymous, by Parmy Olson:

A friend has just alerted me to your liar-q-wl.pdf doc, and haven’t had the time to look through what else has been posted. If you want more information on Q, the psychopathic right-hand man of Julian Assange, I can give you more information, including his name and some of his other alleged criminal activity.
Cryptome: Thanks for the offer. Parmy Olson notes that lower-case “q” is not the same as upper-case “Q.”

_________

I seem to recall q also going as Q in the WL chatrooms.

q is Sigurdur Thordarson, who was 18 years old in 2010 and probably 17 when he joined WL. When Daniel Domscheit-Berg was still in WL, he knew Thordarson was trouble and made sure to keep him as far away from Julian Assange as possible. I believe Birgitta Jonsdottir may have done likewise; I do know that they knew each other, that she was extremely wary of him and did not like him. When Domscheit-Berg and Jonsdottir left, that barrier was removed and he quickly became Assange’s flunkie. In a better run organisation, an unintelligent, unskilled, and shady person like Thordarson would have never gotten anywhere near Assange, but because WL is run more like a textbook dictatorship, with its leader deriving his authority from a cult of personality based on an exaggerated and sometimes falsified life story, inefficiency and unintended irony abounded while meritocracy floundered. I have no doubt the current state of affairs within WL differs much from what I saw and experienced.

Why was he considered trouble? In part, before joining WL, it was said he had an extensive and dishonourable criminal record. While I was with WL, it became clear that something was rotten in Iceland Denmark when a fellow volunteer notified me that Thordarson had bragged to him that he intended to fly to the USA on WL’s dime to sleep with a uni student who was desperate to work for WL but was clearly little more than an Assange fangirl, then email her once he’d returned home to say there was no place for her in the organisation.

Thordarson disappeared in late 2010 from WL, with no one knowing where he’d gone. He resurfaced almost a week later, saying he’d been stopped by a police officer in his country while on the road, that his name had popped up on the police database, and as a result his laptop was taken. He never clarified why he’d been stopped and why he was on the database, but vaguely worded it in a way to make it out to be WL-related persecution, which is hard to believe.

A contact of mine who professed to be investigating WL financial malfeasance as of 2011 looked into this incident and said there was no record of it; another Icelander clarified Thordarson could only have been stopped for driving while under the influence. I have no way to validate or invalidate either q’s story or this investigator’s alleged research. I have considered the possibility this so-called investigator was actually Thordarson or someone else in WL playing mind games with volunteers who had left WL to keep tabs on them. It is the sort of thing Assange and company would do. I lost contact with the investigator after s/he claimed that his contact within WL who was giving him information had stopped singing. The investigator was said to have been working alongside a French journalist to break this story. I was hoping to help break the story to the NYT.

I am one of about a dozen who left in late 2010 because of WL’s abysmal lack of organisation and order, Julian Assange’s manipulative and exploitative personality, and Thordarson’s – for lack of a better term – psychopathy. Some of the volunteers in 2010 included some of the best and brightest computer programmers you can find, and Assange left Thordarson to dole out mostly meaningless tasks which we would never hear anything more of. The primary consequence of the WL chatroom was to cull people who genuinely wanted to volunteer for WL but who were of no use to WL under its modus operandi, and dupe them into thinking they were volunteers when they were really pissing into the wind. Many of us left for these ethical reasons, as well as common sense. The last I heard, almost everyone I worked with left WL and now dick-slap one another in public over one issue or another. No one knows most of us worked for WL, which is for the best, especially for those of us who want to vacation in the USA at some point in our lives.

Though I cannot backup with hard evidence the claims that Thordarson stole $60,000 of WL money, I can believe it because the investigator, despite his/her reliability being uncertain, told a similar story, and the chat transcripts that exist of Thordarson talking of using WL money to travel internationally just to get laid. I can confirm that near the end of my time there, he tried to get one volunteer to do something illegal with the WL shop and its corresponding bank account. The volunteer realized what he was asking could land the person in prison, and Thordarson moved onto another volunteer to get them to do the same.

Around the time we quit, it was made known that Thordarson was being prosecuted for bugging computers in the Icelandic parliament. That case actually exists and from what I was informed by a trusted source this week, it is still pending. Thordarson is said to have quit WL because the organisation stopped supporting him.

He has the expected traits of the hacktivist equivalent to Baghdad Bob: he’s obese, he can’t pick up, he’s a post-pubescent male yet listens to Justin Bieber, and he eats at KFC a lot. I’d call him a useful idiot, but he wasn’t even useful. The most meaningful thing Thordarson ever did at WL, as far as I’m aware, was he once filmed Julian Assange walking down a street.

I could tell you a lot more, including the US intelligence agency Assange once worked for and the malevolent little tricks he plays on hardworking WL volunteers.

A WikiLeaks Whistleblower

12 June 2012

Find this story 12 June 2014

FBI told to leave Iceland – Took a boy with them

Mr. Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks spokesperson, said last week that representatives from the FBI came to Iceland in August 2011. The Icelandic Minister of the Interior confirmed this the same day and said that when he became aware of the FBI in Iceland he cancelled all cooperation with the FBI and told the representatives to leave.

Mr. Hrafnsson said that the FBI came to Iceland to investigate Wikileaks. In an announcement from the Icelandic police it was stated that the FBI agents were here because of an imminent attack on the Ministry Offices in Iceland. The FBI agents interrogated one person regarding Wikileaks and the computer attacks. That person was interrogated at the US embassy in Iceland and then taken to Washington where he was interrogated for four more days. It was also mentioned in the announcement from the police that the person who was interrogated came willingly forward to the embassy.

The FBI agents interrogated the man, who is twenty years old, for five days after the Ministry of the Interior declined to cooperate with the FBI.

The interrogations took place in hotels around Reykjavik but never at the US embassy.

On August 30th the FBI agents told the Chief of police in Iceland that the Ministry of the Interior had said that they did not want the boy interrogated any further in Iceland and that their stay here was unwanted. The agents then left the country.

They however took the boy with them to Washington where he was interrogated for four more days. It is said that the boy went willingly. After the interrogations the boy was flown back to Iceland.

Mr. Ossur Skarphedinsson, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said to a local newspaper today that the FBI’s stay in Iceland was illegal. He said that the objective of the ministries had been to protect the boy, they thought that the boy did not realize the consequences of his actions. Mr. Skarphedinsson added:

“Therefore, we at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs thought that these conversations should be prevented, to protect this Icelandic citizen, because the conversations took place at very unusual places and without authorization. We did not receive any request regarding authorization to interrogate this man.”

An announcement from Mr. Ogmundur Jonasson, the Minister of the Interior, is expected soon.

Tuesday, 05 February 2013 16:10 font size Print Email

Find this story at 5 February 2014

Copyright News of Iceland.