They bombed al-Jazeera’s reporters. Now the US is after our integrity (2010)

A lot can change in five years. In December 2005 the Guardian opened its pages for me to respond to a leak – the Bush-Blair memo in which both leaders discussed the possibility of bombing Al-Jazeera’s Qatar HQ, where more than 1,000 people work. While those who leaked the memo were imprisoned, its detailed contents were never disclosed. Earlier this year I learned from a senior US official that the discussions had indeed taken place.

I was not surprised. Our bureaus in Kabul and Iraq had previously been bombed by the US in an attempt to stifle the channel’s independence; one of our journalists in Iraq was killed. But this did not deter us from our mission to provide “the opinion and the other opinion” – our motto; to give a voice to the voiceless; to hold centres of power to account; and to uphold our editorial independence no matter what the cost. We maintained these values even as the US bombed our offices, continuing our coverage of both sides of the story.

The Arab world, the region in which we are located, continues to see its share of bloodshed and war. Our audience, often the victim of these conflicts, demands honesty, credibility and integrity. If we get a story wrong, or are biased, it could mean the difference between life and death for viewers. They have come to expect independence as a standard.

This week our independence was once again called into question. Cables from the US embassy in Doha were made accessible by WikiLeaks, alleging that Qatar was using Al-Jazeera as a tool for its foreign policy. While nothing could be further from the truth, US diplomats had the freedom to express their opinions. But interpretation and conjecture cannot take the place of analysis and fact. They focused on the source of our funding rather than our reporting, in an attempt to tarnish our work. Judgments made in the cables are plainly erroneous, such as the assertion that we softened our coverage of Saudi Arabia and the Iranian elections due to political pressure – one needs only to look at our reporting of these events to see that this is not the case. We are journalists not politicians – we are not driven by political agendas, for or against anyone.

Journalists across the world picked up the story, and while some were careful to place it in context, many uncritically took the claims as fact. The Guardian’s report went well beyond even what was stated in the cables; the article clearly misunderstood the rhetorical statements reportedly made by Qatar’s prime minister, which then fed the false claim that al-Jazeera was being used as a “bargaining chip”. Those who understand the Middle East also know that Al-Jazeera’s coverage is no obstacle to a durable peace in the region. Context, analysis and a deep knowledge of the region are essential to a proper reading of the cables. Without these, journalism is another unwitting tool for centres of power.

The region where we are situated is host to some of the most repressive governments in the world, where freedom of expression is silenced, journalists languish in prisons, and independent civil institutions are rare. Allegations that we lack independence are part of our daily routine – they no longer surprise us.

But we take measures to protect our editorial integrity in spite of intimidation from governments and regimes – our journalists have been banned, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Al-Jazeera’s bureaus have routinely been closed, many times by Arab regimes with which Qatar has good relationships. Although banned in these countries, we continue to cover their stories with depth and balance. To institutionalise our independence we have ensured diversity among our staff, and have more than 50 nationalities represented – with no majority of any one nationality.

Questions about al-Jazeera’s independence and its relationship with Qatar, our primary source of funding, are asked in almost any interview I give. Because the region has a history of state-controlled media it’s assumed our host country must impact upon our editorial policy. But the Qatari government has kept its distance – it is similar to the kind of model one sees in other publicly funded arm’s length broadcasters such as the BBC. Qatar’s prime minister openly criticises al-Jazeera, and has talked about the “headaches” caused by our independence. But we subject state officials to the same hard questions and journalistic standards we have for everyone else. Al-Jazeera has strong editorial policies to protect its independence from the influence of power – one only has to look at the screen to witness this.

While we don’t claim to get it right all of the time (we are only human), we have got it right most of the time. We have placed a great deal of value on reporting from the field. Had the US diplomats actually watched al-Jazeera’s reports, they would have heard the voices and players who were shaping conflicts, wars and emerging democracies. By analysing our content they would have gained insights into the region. When George Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq and most media outlets echoed his simplistic version of events, al-Jazeera was providing pictures and analyses that predicted the coming storm. At the time we were roundly criticised, often by states who had friendly relations with Qatar. And in Afghanistan, while others broadcast images of progress and calm, al-Jazeera highlighted the growing influence of the Taliban, reflecting the politics on the ground. In these cases and many others, time has vindicated our reporting. Had these diplomats listened to the voices reflected in our coverage perhaps some of their mistakes could have been averted.

Those who lobby against al-Jazeera seek to delegitimise the work of dedicated and courageous journalists who put their lives on the line. For 14 years we have committed ourselves to safeguarding our editorial independence. Our audiences rely on us for this, and we will not be affected by pressure from regimes, states, media or other centres of power. We have full confidence in our mission as journalists.

Wadah Khanfar
The Guardian, Friday 10 December 2010 21.46 GMT

Find this story at 10 December 2010

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

WikiLeaks ignores ‘deaths’ warning, threatens to name NSA-targeted country

Internet, Mass media, Security, USA, WikiLeaks
Despite warnings that doing so “could lead to increased violence” and potentially deaths, anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks says it plans to publish the name of a country targeted by a massive United States surveillance operation.

On Monday this week, journalists at The Intercept published a report based off of leaked US National Security Agency documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden which suggested that the NSA has been collecting in bulk the contents of all phone conversations made or received in two countries abroad.

Only one of those nations, however — the Bahamas — was named by The Intercept. The other, journalists Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras wrote this week, was withheld as a result of “credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence.”

WikiLeaks has since accused The Intercept and its parent company First Look Media of censorship and says they will publish the identity of the country if the name remains redacted in the original article. The Intercept’s Greenwald fired back over Twitter, though, and said his outlet chose to publish more details than the Washington Post, where journalists previously reported on a related call collection program but chose to redact more thoroughly.

“We condemn Firstlook for following the Washington Post into censoring the mass interception of an entire nation,” WikiLeaks tweeted on Monday.

“It is not the place of Firstlook or the Washington Post to deny the rights of an entire people to know they are being mass recorded,” WikiLeaks added. “It is not the place of Firstlook or WaPo to decide how a people will [choose] to act against mass breaches of their rights by the United States.”

When Greenwald defended his decision to publish the names of four countries where telephony metadata is collected by the NSA but withhold a fifth where content is recorded as well, WikiLeaks said it could be interpreted as meaning that the unknown country doesn’t deserve to know they’re being surveilled, but Greenwald said The Intercept was “very convinced” it could lead to deaths. Later, WikiLeaks equated this as an act of racism.

But as the conversation escalated, the WikiLeaks Twitter announced it would disclose the nation’s identify if The Intercept did not, despite requests from the US government to leave that information redact over fears of what the response could be.

“When has true published information harmed innocents?” WikiLeaks asked. “To repeat this false Pentagon talking point is to hurt all publishers.”

“We will reveal the name of the censored country whose population is being mass recorded in 72 hours,” WikiLeaks wrote at 6:35 p.m. EST Tuesday evening. If the organization intends to uphold that promise, that the identity of the country could be revealed before the weekend.

As RT reported earlier this week, The Intercept story made claims that the NSA has used a program codenamed MYSTIC to collect basic phone records in at least five countries, similar to the metadata that has been controversially collected in bulk domestically as revealed in one of the first documents released by Snowden last year. In the Bahamas and one more locale, though, The Intercept reported that NSA documents reveal another program, codenamed SOMALGET, is deployed in order to process “over 100 million call events per day.”

SOMALGET, the document reads, is a “program for embedded collection systems overtly installed on target networks, predominantly for the collection and processing of wireless/mobile communications networks.” According to The Intercept, the decision to wiretap all calls in and out of the Bahamas was made unilaterally and without the knowledge of the island’s government or its quarter-of-a-million people.

Published time: May 20, 2014 18:38
Edited time: May 22, 2014 11:17 Get short URL

Find this story at 20 May 2014

© Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”, 2005–2014

Greenwald: Washington Post ‘suppressed’ foreign countries under NSA eavesdropping program

It’s been a couple of months since the Washington Post published a scoop on the extraordinary overseas eavesdropping capabilities of the U.S. government. Under the bylines of Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, the paper revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had amassed a system — known as “MYSTIC” — enabling it to “rewind and review” all of the telephone conversations of a foreign country.

From the story: “A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.” Details on the program came from documents supplied by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as well as from sources familiar with the program.

A really juicy scoop, with one desiccating caveat: The Post withheld a detail critical to understanding the scope and capabilities of the program:

At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.

Ah, a legacy media outlet acceding to a request from the U.S. government. Or, in other words, the raison d’etre of Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian columnist and current First Look Media talent who has long criticized American media outlets for wimping out on disclosure of sensitive information. In a recent interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Greenwald riffed, “[t]he editors at The Washington Post are very much old-style, old-media, pro-government journalists, the kind who have essentially made journalism in the U.S. neutered and impotent and obsolete.”

Following the Post’s story on MYSTIC, the Erik Wemple Blog waited a couple of weeks and then asked Greenwald, essentially, where’s your story on this thing? He responded, “I can’t comment on that yet, except to say that, obviously, if we were to publish something that the WashPost has announced it thinks shouldn’t be published, it would take work (and thus time) with editors, lawyers and the like.”

Time, indeed. Yesterday, The Intercept, First Look Media’s magazine on national security matters, published its version of the Post’s MYSTIC story. In the very headline of the piece, it drew a distinction between its piece and that of the Washington Post: “Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas.”

The Bahamas? The what?

Under the bylines of Ryan Devereaux, Greenwald and Laura Poitras, The Intercept reports that the NSA worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to secure a “backdoor” to the cell phone network of the island nation, “without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government.” Noting that the agency commonly cites such life-and-death imperatives as anti-terrorism to justify its eavesdropping program, in this case it’s going after drug traffickers and smugglers, “a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction,” notes the story.

If the Bahamas sounds like an odd place on which to focus such a spy initiative, that’s perhaps by design, notes the story: It could well be a “sort of guinea pig to beta-test improvements and alterations without impacting the system’s operations elsewhere.”

As for the “elsewhere,” Greenwald and The Intercept go there, to a point. Here’s the big reveal of the story: “Documents show that the NSA has been generating intelligence reports from MYSTIC surveillance in the Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines and one other country, which The Intercept is not naming in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence. The more expansive full-take recording capability has been deployed in both the Bahamas and the unnamed country.”

John Cook, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief, declined an interview request about the decisions behind the story, instead leaving the matter to Twitter. Which provides a rich back-and-forth for this case.

Following publication of the story, Wikileaks ripped The Intercept for failing to embrace a more radical form of transparency:

The principals then went off to the races:

And then some input from The Intercept’s priest of adversarial press-government relations:

Compare that sentiment with what Greenwald tweeted the day the Washington Post published its MYSTIC story:

As part of the back-and-forth Wikileaks made a bid for renewed relevance with this boast:

The exchange proves that in the world of radical media-government adversarialists, purity is a prerequisite. Here, Greenwald apparently thought his publication was sticking to its governing principles in publishing the names of four countries, only to get shouted down by Wikileaks for not going far enough (Greenwald couldn’t be reached for comment). In a previous post, Greenwald has criticized the NSA for allegedly spilling details of top-secret programs when it suits its propaganda mission, only to turn around and insist to media outlets that lives will be endangered if they publish sensitive information.

The Intercept’s partial defiance of the NSA in publishing the names of four countries surely adds contour to the story of MYSTIC — the example of the Bahamas alone fleshes out various legal and diplomatic considerations involved in foreign surveillance. The more careful Washington Post version of the story was interesting yet unsatisfying: Absent a specific country, it was more difficult to reach hard conclusions on the program’s legitimacy, legality and efficacy. Those are the dangers of scaling back detail in consideration of security concerns. When asked if naming just the Bahamas as a way of explaining NSA capabilities would have been a tolerably cautious approach, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron replied, “You make some assumptions here, but I’m not going to address them.”

There are also perils to The Intercept’s approach. It may have touched off a macho-transparentist scramble to out that one country whose secretness The Intercept genuinely wants to protect.

Whatever the outcome, each outlet apparently got the same pitch from the government: “We shared with both news outlets the very same concerns about risks to human life and national security,” says NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines in a statement to this blog. She also sent along this statement:

Every day, NSA provides valuable intelligence on issues of concern to all Americans – such as international terrorism, cyber crime, international narcotics trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The fact that the U.S. government works with other nations, under specific and regulated conditions, mutually strengthens the security of all.

NSA’s efforts are focused on ensuring the protection of the national security of the United States, its citizens, and our allies through the pursuit of valid foreign intelligence targets. Moreover, all of NSA’s efforts are strictly conducted under the rule of law and provide appropriate protection for privacy rights.

The Agency collects data to meet specific security and intelligence requirements such as counterintelligence, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, cyber security, force protection for U.S. troops and allies, and combating transnational crime.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

BY ERIK WEMPLE May 20

Find this story at 20 May 2014

© 1996-2014 The Washington Post

Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters

Top-secret documents from the National Security Agency and its British counterpart reveal for the first time how the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution.

The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous.

One classified document from Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s top spy agency, shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.

Another classified document from the U.S. intelligence community, dated August 2010, recounts how the Obama administration urged foreign allies to file criminal charges against Assange over the group’s publication of the Afghanistan war logs.

A third document, from July 2011, contains a summary of an internal discussion in which officials from two NSA offices – including the agency’s general counsel and an arm of its Threat Operations Center – considered designating WikiLeaks as “a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting.” Such a designation would have allowed the group to be targeted with extensive electronic surveillance – without the need to exclude U.S. persons from the surveillance searches.

In 2008, not long after WikiLeaks was formed, the U.S. Army prepared a report that identified the organization as an enemy, and plotted how it could be destroyed. The new documents provide a window into how the U.S. and British governments appear to have shared the view that WikiLeaks represented a serious threat, and reveal the controversial measures they were willing to take to combat it.

In a statement to The Intercept, Assange condemned what he called “the reckless and unlawful behavior of the National Security Agency” and GCHQ’s “extensive hostile monitoring of a popular publisher’s website and its readers.”

“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” Assange said. “Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.”

Illustrating how far afield the NSA deviates from its self-proclaimed focus on terrorism and national security, the documents reveal that the agency considered using its sweeping surveillance system against Pirate Bay, which has been accused of facilitating copyright violations. The agency also approved surveillance of the foreign “branches” of hacktivist groups, mentioning Anonymous by name.

The documents call into question the Obama administration’s repeated insistence that U.S. citizens are not being caught up in the sweeping surveillance dragnet being cast by the NSA. Under the broad rationale considered by the agency, for example, any communication with a group designated as a “malicious foreign actor,” such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous, would be considered fair game for surveillance.

Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in surveillance issues, says the revelations shed a disturbing light on the NSA’s willingness to sweep up American citizens in its surveillance net.

“All the reassurances Americans heard that the broad authorities of the FISA Amendments Act could only be used to ‘target’ foreigners seem a bit more hollow,” Sanchez says, “when you realize that the ‘foreign target’ can be an entire Web site or online forum used by thousands if not millions of Americans.”
GCHQ Spies on WikiLeaks Visitors

The system used by GCHQ to monitor the WikiLeaks website – codenamed ANTICRISIS GIRL – is described in a classified PowerPoint presentation prepared by the British agency and distributed at the 2012 “SIGDEV Conference.” At the annual gathering, each member of the “Five Eyes” alliance – the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – describes the prior year’s surveillance successes and challenges.

In a top-secret presentation at the conference, two GCHQ spies outlined how ANTICRISIS GIRL was used to enable “targeted website monitoring” of WikiLeaks (See slides 33 and 34). The agency logged data showing hundreds of users from around the world, including the United States, as they were visiting a WikiLeaks site –contradicting claims by American officials that a deal between the U.K. and the U.S. prevents each country from spying on the other’s citizens.

The IP addresses collected by GCHQ are used to identify individual computers that connect to the Internet, and can be traced back to specific people if the IP address has not been masked using an anonymity service. If WikiLeaks or other news organizations were receiving submissions from sources through a public dropbox on their website, a system like ANTICRISIS GIRL could potentially be used to help track them down. (WikiLeaks has not operated a public dropbox since 2010, when it shut down its system in part due to security concerns over surveillance.)

 

In its PowerPoint presentation, GCHQ identifies its target only as “wikileaks.” One slide, displaying analytics derived from the surveillance, suggests that the site monitored was the official wikileaks.org domain. It shows that users reached the targeted site by searching for “wikileaks.org” and for “maysan uxo,” a term associated with a series of leaked Iraq war logs that are hosted on wikileaks.org.

The ANTICRISIS GIRL initiative was operated by a GCHQ unit called Global Telecoms Exploitation (GTE), which was previously reported by The Guardian to be linked to the large-scale, clandestine Internet surveillance operation run by GCHQ, codenamed TEMPORA.

Operating in the United Kingdom and from secret British eavesdropping bases in Cyprus and other countries, GCHQ conducts what it refers to as “passive” surveillance – indiscriminately intercepting massive amounts of data from Internet cables, phone networks and satellites. The GTE unit focuses on developing “pioneering collection capabilities” to exploit the stream of data gathered from the Internet.

As part of the ANTICRISIS GIRL system, the documents show, GCHQ used publicly available analytics software called Piwik to extract information from its surveillance stream, not only monitoring visits to targeted websites like WikiLeaks, but tracking the country of origin of each visitor.

It is unclear from the PowerPoint presentation whether GCHQ monitored the WikiLeaks site as part of a pilot program designed to demonstrate its capability, using only a small set of covertly collected data, or whether the agency continues to actively deploy its surveillance system to monitor visitors to WikiLeaks. It was previously reported in The Guardian that X-KEYSCORE, a comprehensive surveillance weapon used by both NSA and GCHQ, allows “an analyst to learn the IP addresses of every person who visits any website the analyst specifies.”

GCHQ refused to comment on whether ANTICRISIS GIRL is still operational. In an email citing the agency’s boilerplate response to inquiries, a spokeswoman insisted that “all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight.”

But privacy advocates question such assurances. “How could targeting an entire website’s user base be necessary or proportionate?” says Gus Hosein, executive director of the London-based human rights group Privacy International. “These are innocent people who are turned into suspects based on their reading habits. Surely becoming a target of a state’s intelligence and security apparatus should require more than a mere click on a link.”

The agency’s covert targeting of WikiLeaks, Hosein adds, call into question the entire legal rationale underpinning the state’s system of surveillance. “We may be tempted to see GCHQ as a rogue agency, ungoverned in its use of unprecedented powers generated by new technologies,” he says. “But GCHQ’s actions are authorized by [government] ministers. The fact that ministers are ordering the monitoring of political interests of Internet users shows a systemic failure in the rule of law.”
Going After Assange and His Supporters

The U.S. attempt to pressure other nations to prosecute Assange is recounted in a file that the intelligence community calls its “Manhunting Timeline.” The document details, on a country-by-country basis, efforts by the U.S. government and its allies to locate, prosecute, capture or kill alleged terrorists, drug traffickers, Palestinian leaders and others. There is a timeline for each year from 2008 to 2012.

 

An entry from August 2010 – headlined “United States, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Iceland” – states: “The United States on August 10 urged other nations with forces in Afghanistan, including Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany, to consider filing criminal charges against Julian Assange.” It describes Assange as the “founder of the rogue Wikileaks Internet website and responsible for the unauthorized publication of over 70,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan.”

 

In response to questions from The Intercept, the NSA suggested that the entry is “a summary derived from a 2010 article” in the Daily Beast. That article, which cited an anonymous U.S. official, reported that “the Obama administration is pressing Britain, Germany, Australia, and other allied Western governments to consider opening criminal investigations of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and to severely limit his nomadic travels across international borders.”

The government entry in the “Manhunting Timeline” adds Iceland to the list of Western nations that were pressured, and suggests that the push to prosecute Assange is part of a broader campaign. The effort, it explains, “exemplifies the start of an international effort to focus the legal element of national power upon non-state actor Assange, and the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The entry does not specify how broadly the government defines that “human network,” which could potentially include thousands of volunteers, donors and journalists, as well as people who simply spoke out in defense of WikiLeaks.

In a statement, the NSA declined to comment on the documents or its targeting of activist groups, noting only that the agency “provides numerous opportunities and forums for their analysts to explore hypothetical or actual circumstances to gain appropriate advice on the exercise of their authorities within the Constitution and the law, and to share that advice appropriately.”

But the entry aimed at WikiLeaks comes from credentialed officials within the intelligence community. In an interview in Hong Kong last June, Edward Snowden made clear that the only NSA officials empowered to write such entries are those “with top-secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates” – a kind of digital ID card enabling unique access to certain parts of the agency’s system. What’s more, Snowden added, the entries are “peer reviewed” – and every edit made is recorded by the system.

The U.S. launched its pressure campaign against WikiLeaks less than a week after the group began publishing the Afghanistan war logs on July 25, 2010. At the time, top U.S. national security officials accused WikiLeaks of having “blood” on its hands. But several months later, McClatchy reported that “U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone’s death.”

The government targeting of WikiLeaks nonetheless continued. In April 2011, Salon reported that a grand jury in Virginia was actively investigating both the group and Assange on possible criminal charges under espionage statutes relating to the publication of classified documents. And in August of 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald, citing secret Australian diplomatic cables, reported that “Australian diplomats have no doubt the United States is still gunning for Julian Assange” and that “Australia’s diplomatic service takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents.”

Bringing criminal charges against WikiLeaks or Assange for publishing classified documents would be highly controversial – especially since the group partnered with newspapers like The Guardian and The New York Times to make the war logs public. “The biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening,” James Goodale, who served as chief counsel of the Times during its battle to publish The Pentagon Papers, told the Columbia Journalism Review last March. “If you go after the WikiLeaks criminally, you go after the Times. That’s the criminalization of the whole process.”

In November 2013, The Washington Post, citing anonymous officials, reported that the Justice Department strongly considered prosecuting Assange, but concluded it “could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists” who had partnered with WikiLeaks to publish the documents. According to the Post, officials “realized that they have what they described as a ‘New York Times problem’” – namely, that any theory used to bring charges against Assange would also result in criminal liability for the Times, The Guardian, and other papers which also published secret documents provided to WikiLeaks.
NSA proposals to target WikiLeaks

As the new NSA documents make clear, however, the U.S. government did more than attempt to engineer the prosecution of Assange. NSA analysts also considered designating WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign actor” for surveillance purposes – a move that would have significantly expanded the agency’s ability to subject the group’s officials and supporters to extensive surveillance.

Such a designation would allow WikiLeaks to be targeted with surveillance without the use of “defeats” – an agency term for technical mechanisms to shield the communications of U.S. persons from getting caught in the dragnet.

That top-secret document – which summarizes a discussion between the NSA’s Office of the General Counsel and the Oversight and Compliance Office of the agency’s Threat Operations Center – spells out a rationale for including American citizens in the surveillance:

“If the foreign IP is consistently associated with malicious cyber activity against the U.S., so, tied to a foreign individual or organization known to direct malicious activity our way, then there is no need to defeat any to, from, or about U.S. Persons. This is based on the description that one end of the communication would always be this suspect foreign IP, and so therefore any U.S. Person communicant would be incidental to the foreign intelligence task.”

In short, labeling WikiLeaks a “malicious foreign target” would mean that anyone communicating with the organization for any reason – including American citizens – could have their communications subjected to government surveillance.

When NSA officials are asked in the document if WikiLeaks or Pirate Bay could be designated as “malicious foreign actors,” the reply is inconclusive: “Let us get back to you.” There is no indication of whether either group was ever designated or targeted in such a way.

The NSA’s lawyers did, however, give the green light to subject other activists to heightened surveillance. Asked if it would be permissible to “target the foreign actors of a loosely coupled group of hackers … such as with Anonymous,” the response is unequivocal: “As long as they are foreign individuals outside of the US and do not hold dual citizenship … then you are okay.”
NSA Lawyers: “It’s Nothing to Worry About”

Sanchez, the surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, says the document serves as “a reminder that NSA essentially has carte blanche to spy on non-Americans. In public statements, intelligence officials always talk about spying on ‘terrorists,’ as if those are the only targets — but Section 702 [of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act] doesn’t say anything about ‘terrorists.’ They can authorize collection on any ‘persons reasonably believed to be [located] outside the United States,’ with ‘persons’ including pretty much any kind of group not ‘substantially’ composed of Americans.”

Sanchez notes that while it makes sense to subject some full-scale cyber-attacks to government surveillance, “it would make no sense to lump together foreign cyberattackers with sites voluntarily visited by enormous numbers of Americans, like Pirate Bay or WikiLeaks.”

Indeed, one entry in the NSA document expressly authorizes the targeting of a “malicious” foreign server – offering Pirate Bay as a specific example –“even if there is a possibility that U.S. persons could be using it as well.” NSA officials agree that there is no need to exclude Americans from the surveillance, suggesting only that the agency’s spies “try to minimize” how many U.S. citizens are caught in the dragnet.

Another entry even raises the possibility of using X-KEYSCORE, one of the agency’s most comprehensive surveillance programs, to target communications between two U.S.-based Internet addresses if they are operating through a “proxy” being used for “malicious foreign activity.” In response, the NSA’s Threat Operations Center approves the targeting, but the agency’s general counsel requests “further clarification before signing off.”

If WikiLeaks were improperly targeted, or if a U.S. citizen were swept up in the NSA’s surveillance net without authorization, the agency’s attitude seems to be one of indifference. According to the document – which quotes a response by the NSA’s Office of General Counsel and the oversight and compliance office of its Threat Operations Center – discovering that an American has been selected for surveillance must be mentioned in a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

The attempt to target WikiLeaks and its broad network of supporters drew sharp criticism from the group and its allies. “These documents demonstrate that the political persecution of WikiLeaks is very much alive,” says Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish former judge who now represents the group. “The paradox is that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organization are being treated as a threat instead of what they are: a journalist and a media organization that are exercising their fundamental right to receive and impart information in its original form, free from omission and censorship, free from partisan interests, free from economic or political pressure.”

For his part, Assange remains defiant. “The NSA and its U.K. accomplices show no respect for the rule of law,” he told The Intercept. “But there is a cost to conducting illicit actions against a media organization.” Referring to a criminal complaint that the group filed last year against “interference with our journalistic work in Europe,” Assange warned that “no entity, including the NSA, should be permitted to act against a journalist with impunity.”

Assange indicated that in light of the new documents, the group may take further legal action.

“We have instructed our general counsel, Judge Baltasar Garzón, to prepare the appropriate response,” he said. “The investigations into attempts to interfere with WikiLeaks’ work will go wherever they need to go. Make no mistake: those responsible will be held to account and brought to justice.”

By Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher
18 Feb 2014, 1:50 AM EST

Find this story at 18 February 2014

© 2014 First Look Productions, Inc.

Leaked NSA documents show debate over tracking WikiLeaks, The Pirate Bay, and others

Leaked documents posted by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher hint at the discussions that took place around online actors like WikiLeaks, The Pirate Bay, and Anonymous, as well as the standards for spying on foreign and domestic internet users. At The Intercept, Greenwald and Gallagher have revealed details about when the NSA and agencies abroad believe it’s acceptable to target a person or site without “defeats” or measures to prevent collecting American information, with an eye towards groups that have proved a thorn in the side of government agencies.

Julian Assange appears in national security ‘Manhunting Timeline’

“Can we treat a foreign server who stores, or potentially disseminates leaked or stolen US data on it’s [sic] server as a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting with no defeats? Examples: WikiLeaks, thepiratebay.org, etc.” says one of several frequently asked questions apparently posted to an intelligence wiki for the US and other nations in the Five Eyes surveillance partnership. “Let us get back to you,” said a response from the NSA/CSS [Central Security Service] Threat Operation Center and the NSA’s Office of General Counsel. Another question asks whether it’s legal to target members of Anonymous who operate outside the US. “As long as they are foreign individuals outside of the US and do not hold dual citizenship… then you are okay,” came the answer. Agencies were not, however, apparently allowed to store copies of classified documents leaked by Anonymous or other groups in order to analyze the data.

WikiLeaks in particular came under fire. In addition to these questions, The Intercept leaked parts of a “Manhunting Timeline” that details where and how the US government is attempting to find, capture, or kill terrorists, drug traffickers, and others. This timeline apparently included information on Julian Assange, including attempts to pressure foreign governments into taking legal action against him and “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” None of this comes as a surprise — the government’s attempts to get governments to put pressure on Assange is well known. Likewise, Anonymous has allegedly compromised government computers, and it’s not strange that the NSA wants to monitor it. The question of treating leaked document repositories as malicious foreign actors is thornier, playing into much larger debates over whether non-traditional journalism should be given the same protection as older outlets like The New York Times.

“If you ‘guess’ foreign and it’s not, then it is a serious violation.”

More generally, the document shows a complicated dance between minimizing US data collection and casting an expansive net over foreign surveillance. According to the FAQ, it’s legal to monitor foreign servers that Americans visit (The Pirate Bay is cited again) so long as agents attempt to filter out US information. The same goes for botnets that are operated from hacked US computers by a foreign source. As before, the document points to a fairly low standard for being certain that a target is foreign: 51 percent. A more complicated question is how agents are allowed to search traffic from US-based web giants like Gmail and Twitter. If an agency knows that a foreign potential threat is using one of these sites, it’s theoretically possible to look for traffic from it. But “if you ‘guess’ foreign and it’s not, then it is a serious violation.” In general, though, accidentally making queries a US person who was believed to be foreign was “nothing to worry about,” although it had to be logged for the Office of General Counsel.

The revelations here are far less conclusive than many of the leaked documents published so far. One slide apparently from an expanded version of this GCHQ document shows an analytics page that seems to monitor visits to WikiLeaks, including which countries visitors came from and how they found the site. But it’s not clear whether this is an ongoing program or a proof of concept test, especially given how few visits appear to be logged. The results are also broadly similar to what someone would get from a basic analytics page, not detailed user information. This slideshow and the FAQ do, however, give us a look into how the NSA and other agencies view online spycraft, both inside and outside the US.

By Adi Robertson on February 18, 2014 10:36 am

 

Find this story at 18 February 2014

© 2014 Vox Media,

New Snowden docs show NSA, GCHQ spied on WikiLeaks, Pirate Bay users; GCHQ conducts broad surveillance of social media and watched WikiLeaks users.

Squeaky Dolphin, GCHQ’s broad social media monitoring tool, is part of the agency’s campaign to “understand and shape the Human Terrain”—that is, regional public sentiment.

 

Documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published on The Intercept show that NSA analysts monitored content on The Pirate Bay and used the agency’s surveillance systems to track where it came from. The documents also show that the NSA’s British partners at the GCHQ used XKeyscore data as part of a surveillance program on sites that included WikiLeaks. That was part of a broader psychological profiling and targeting program to collect intelligence, influence individuals online, and disrupt groups like Anonymous that were considered threats.

The new documents show that the GCHQ conducted “broad real-time monitoring of social media activities, processing data on activities like watching YouTube videos and Facebook Likes to profile, categorize, and target individuals for psychological operations.” The NSA documents in the latest disclosure refer to monitoring for content that could be considered “malicious foreign activity.” But it’s clear that the NSA also used its XKeyscore surveillance to dig through traffic to the torrent-sharing site, and it could very well have profiled foreign users of sites like WikiLeaks and monitored their access to that and other websites.

However, the documents—one an internal NSA “frequently asked questions” Wiki page and the other a set of GCHQ slides on psychological operations—do not provide a picture of how much information about people accessing WikiLeaks was shared between the GCHQ and the NSA. And while the documents point to NSA monitoring of Pirate Bay, there’s no suggestion of how the information gathered was used or if it was used at all.

A third, unpublished document shows that the Obama administration apparently encouraged foreign governments in 2010 (including the UK) to pursue charges against WikiLeaks for the publication of diplomatic “wires” provided by Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning.
“Squeaky Dolphin,” “Airwolf,” and “AnticrisisGirl”

The GCHQ slide deck, published in 2012, highlights two tools used to conduct social networking, Web monitoring, and profiling. The first, called “Squeaky Dolphin,” pulls online activities within Web traffic caught by the agency’s monitoring systems. The monitoring systems are called “Airwolf” in the slides, which may be a UK codeword for the GCHQ’s equivalent of XKeyscore. That data includes webmail, blogs visited, YouTube views, Facebook “likes” clicked on websites themselves, and other data culled from individual users’ captured activity.

It runs those activities, captured in real-time, through IBM’s InfoSphere Streams processing software to create analytical feeds. Those feeds are then piped into a Splunk database and surfaced through a “dashboard” view that allows analysts to find trends in sentiment. As an example, the slides showed activity related to cricket matches in London and the surge in Facebook likes for Conservative member of Parliament Liam Fox. It can also be used to spot trends in traffic that might indicate upcoming events such as protests or other civil unrest.

While Squeaky Dolphin tends to look at things with a wider view, “AnticrisisGirl” is a bit more targeted. It can be used to passively monitor specific websites—including traffic to WikiLeaks, as the slides demonstrate. The tool can be tuned to a specific set of Internet user signatures or keywords, and it provides analytics of their behavior in real time, capturing search terms or direct Web addresses used to get to the sites in question.
“Nothing to worry about”

The final document in the latest disclosure, from an NSA internal Wiki, is entitled “Discovery SIGINT Targeting Scenarios and Compliance.” Created in 2011, it provides guidance on what is and isn’t allowed in performing XKeyscore queries and using other analytics tools to capture and analyze data. The document explains when it’s allowed to query against US “selectors”—people or systems running within the United States.

One of the entries is entitled “Unknowingly targeting a US person”:

I screwed up…the selector had a strong indication of being foreign, but it turned out to be US…now what?

NOC/OGC RESPONSE: With all querying, if you discover it actually is US, then it must be submitted and go in the [Office of General Counsel] quarterly report…’but it’s nothing to worry about.’ (Source #001)

Several of the entries on the Wiki page relate to monitoring of PirateBay. One question posted asked whether it was OK to back-trace connections to thepiratebay.org “even if it hops through US based proxies.” The NSA’s Office of General Counsel responded that it was allowed only by use of metadata “chaining” in compliance with the Department of Defense’s Supplemental Procedures Governing Communications Metadata Analysis” (SPCMA). That order requires that analysts “enter a foreign intelligence (FI) justification for making a query or starting a chain”—in other words, analysts can’t just start a query of a post on The Pirate Bay without documenting their cause.

Another question posted about The Pirate Bay asked if a password for an account associated with a US person was enough to rule out tracking the source. “If a list of .mil passwords were released to thepiratebay.org…can we go back into [XKeyscore data] (using a custom created fingerprint) to search for traffic containing that password in foreign traffic just before the release?” The official response was that while a password alone would not normally be considered to a “US person,” searching for the password data for military accounts would be allowed due to the NSA’s support role for the Defense Department. Such actions would be “consistent with the SIGINT Consensual Collection package signed by [the commander of] USCYBERCOM and [director of the NSA], appropriate to both of his hats”—referring to Gen. Keith Alexander’s dual role as head of both DOD’s cyber operations and the NSA.

Ironically, the NSA’s privacy regulations do keep it from collecting one type of data—private information published by hackers. In a response to a question on whether it was legal to store data exposed by Anonymous or other groups for forensic purposes, the NSA general counsel said it was only legal to retain “.mil information.” It wasn’t clear whether it was legal to retain data from other government agencies.

by Sean Gallagher – Feb 18 2014, 8:35pm +0100

 Find this story at 18 February 2014

© 2014 Condé Nast.

NSA, GCHQ targeted WikiLeaks network; U.K. and U.S. governments used surveillance and political pressure against publishers of government abuses

The latest report from the Intercept based on Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks reveals how the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ targeted WikiLeaks and its supporters. The report details how the U.S. and U.K. governments deployed surveillance tools against WikiLeaks networks and supporters, while pressuring international governments to persecute the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, over the publication of the Afghanistan war logs. The documents also show that the NSA considered ways to spy on Anonymous affiliates and hackers as well as users of file-sharing site Pirate Bay.

The documents are some of the most significant to come to light yet in highlighting the government’s engagement in what Snowden’s attorney Jesselyn Raddack has long called a “war on information.” Publishers and activists have been specifically targeted for making public otherwise secrecy-shrouded instances of abuses of power by the government and the military. “This is a very troubling report,” said Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director. “Publishers who disclose abuses of government power should not be subjected to invasive surveillance for having done so, and individuals should not be swept up into surveillance dragnets simply because they’ve visited websites that report on those abuses.”

The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous.

One classified

Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 07:31 PM +0100
Natasha Lennard

Find this story at 18 February 2013

© 2014 The Associated Press

NSA, British spy agency targeted Assange & the WikiLeaks’ ‘human network’

American and British spy agencies conducted a campaign against the WikiLeaks website and its surrounding “human network,” according to a new report.

The article, appearing Tuesday in the online publication The Intercept, is based on new information found in documents previously released by Edward Snowden. He is the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who has made public — through WikiLeaks — a large cache of otherwise secret NSA materials.

One classified document from the British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) appears to be presenting a primer on passive monitoring of websites. But the Intercept story adds the factor that GCHQ’s monitoring system, called ANTICRISIS GIRL, secretly monitored visitors to WikiLeaks via a tap into Internet backbone cables, capturing in real time the IP addresses of site visitors.

Also included is a 2011 document of an internal NSA wiki with a brief discussion about whether the classification “malicious foreign actor” can be applied to WikiLeaks:

“Can we treat a foreign server who stores or potentially disseminates leaked or stolen data on its server as a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting with no defeats? Examples: WikiLeaks, thepiratebay.org, etc.”

The response by an unnamed NSA employee says, “Let me get back to you.” The term “no defeats” is considered to mean “with no protections.” The inclusion of the Pirate Bay site, which has been cited for copyright violations, either indicates that classified material was thought to be part of its inventory, or the national security agency was expanding its scope to include copyright.

There is no indication that WikiLeaks or Pirate Bay was actually classified as a “malicious foreign actor” by the NSA. But a 2008 U.S. Army report did identify WikiLeaks as an enemy.

The “human network” also included, of course, WikiLeaks’ founder and editor-in-chief, Julian Assange. An August, 2010 unclassified document also unearthed by The Intercept indicates that the U.S. urged other countries fighting in Afghanistan to file criminal charges against Assange for the publication of more than 70,000 classified documents relating to the war, which had been provided by Army Private First Class Bradley Manning.

The document said that this “appeal exemplifies the start of an international effort to focus the legal element of national power upon non-state actor Assange and the human network that supports WikiLeaks.”

Last year, James Goodale, then the chief counsel of The New York Times, told the Columbia Journalism Review that “the biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened persecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening.” The Times worked with WikiLeaks in publishing the content of some of the secret documents.

February 18, 2014 1:00 PM
Barry Levine

 Find this story at 18 February 2014

© Copyright 2014 VentureBeat

Visited WikiLeaks? NSA and GCHQ know about it

Julian Assange in 2011 after losing appeals against extradition to Swedenacidpolly/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Efforts undertaken by the NSA and GCHQ to target groups including WikiLeaks, Anonymous and Pirate Bay using internet surveillance and prosecution have been detailed in an article published by The Intercept.

The latest documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA went to great lengths to target individuals associated with WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange and “the human network that supports it”.

One particular document revealed that GCHQ tapped into fibre-optic cables to monitor visitors to the site in real time by tracking their IP addresses. It also tracked the search terms that visitors were using to reach the site, all as part of an operation codenamed ANTICRISIS GIRL. This suggests that internet users from anywhere in the world who visited WikiLeaks regularly could potentially have become a target for the NSA.

The documents also reveal that the NSA labelled WikiLeaks “a malicious foreign actor”. The US government encouraged foreign regimes to press charges against Assange over WikiLeaks’ publication of Afghanistan war logs.

“WikiLeaks strongly condemns the reckless and unlawful behaviour of the National Security Agency,” said Julian Assange in a statement published on the WikiLeaks site. He called upon the Obama administration to conduct an investigation into the extent of the NSA’s activity regarding the media, including the WikiLeaks network. He also criticised the media-monitoring activities of GCHQ, saying it shows no respect for the rule of law.

“No entity, including the NSA, should be permitted to act against journalists with impunity. We have instructed our General Counsel Judge Baltasar Garzón to prepare the appropriate response. The investigations into attempts to interfere with the work of WikiLeaks will go wherever they need to go. Make no mistake: those responsible will be held to account and brought to justice.”

The Intercept — the new publication launched by ex-Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has headed up the reporting on the Snowden documents — points out that the WikiLeaks surveillance reveals just how far the NSA’s actions stray from its “self-proclaimed focus on terrorism”.

“The documents call into question the Obama administration’s repeated insistence that US citizens are not being caught up in the sweeping surveillance dragnet being cast by the NSA. Under the broad rationale considered by the agency, for example, any communication with a group designated as a ‘malicious foreign actor,’ such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous, would be considered fair game for surveillance,” the site points out.

The targeting of WikiLeaks, Anonymous and Pirate Bay follows earlier revelations that GCHQ used DDoS attacks to target hacker collectives Anonymous and LulzSec. These latest accusations do not reflect well on GCHQ, which maintains its stance that “all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight”. It’s hard to see how this would apply to the monitoring of citizens from the UK and abroad who might be doing nothing more than reading the WikiLeaks site.

Politics / 19 February 14 / by Katie Collins

 

Find this story at 19 February 2014

© Condé Nast UK 2014

 

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.

Barrett Brown Faces 105 Years in Jail; But no one can figure out what law he broke. Introducing America’s least likely political prisoner

The mid-June sun is setting on the Mansfield jail near Dallas when Barrett Brown, the former public face of Anonymous, shuffles into the visitors hall wearing a jumpsuit of blazing orange. Once the nattiest anarchist around, Brown now looks like every other inmate in the overcrowded North Texas facility, down to his state-issued faux-Crocs, the color of candy corn.

Who Are America’s New Political Prisoners?

Brown sits down across from his co-counsel, a young civil-liberties lawyer named Ahmed Ghappour, and raises a triumphant fist holding several sheets of notebook paper. “Penned it out,” he says. “After 10 months, I’m finally getting the hang of these archaic tools.” He hands the article, titled “The Cyber-Intelligence Complex and Its Useful Idiots,” to his lawyer with instructions to send it to his editor at The Guardian. Brown used to write for the British daily, but since he’s been in prison, it’s written about him and his strange legal ordeal that has had him locked up for nearly a year while he awaits trial next month. Should he be found guilty of all the charges the federal government is bringing against him – 17 counts, ranging from obstruction of justice to threatening a federal officer to identity fraud – he’ll face more than 100 years in prison.

Given the serious nature of his predicament, Brown, 32, seems shockingly relaxed. “I’m not worried or panicked,” he says. “It’s not even clear to me that I’ve committed a crime.” He describes his time here as a break from the drug-fueled mania of his prior life, a sort of digital and chemical fast in which he’s kicked opiates and indulged his pre-cyber whims – hours spent on the role-playing game GURPS and tearing through the prison’s collection of what he calls “English manor-house literature.”

Brown has been called many things during his brief public career – satirist, journalist, author, Anonymous spokesman, atheist, “moral fag,” “fame whore,” scourge of the national surveillance state. His commitment to investigating the murky networks that make up America’s post-9/11 intelligence establishment set in motion the chain of events that culminated in a guns-drawn raid of his Dallas apartment last September. “For a long time, the one thing I was happy not to see in here was a computer,” says Brown. “It appears as though the Internet has gotten me into some trouble.”

Encountering Barrett Brown’s story in passing, it is tempting to group him with other Anonymous associates who have popped up in the news for cutting pleas and changing sides. Brown’s case, however, is a thing apart. Although he knew some of those involved in high-profile “hacktivism,” he is no hacker. His situation is closer to the runaway prosecution that destroyed Aaron Swartz, the programmer-activist who committed suicide in the face of criminal charges similar to those now being leveled at Brown. But unlike Swartz, who illegally downloaded a large cache of academic articles, Brown never broke into a server; he never even leaked a document. His primary laptop, sought in two armed FBI raids, was a miniature Sony netbook that he used for legal communication, research and an obscene amount of video-game playing. The most serious charges against him relate not to hacking or theft, but to copying and pasting a link to data that had been hacked and released by others.

“What is most concerning about Barrett’s case is the disconnect between his conduct and the charged crime,” says Ghappour. “He copy-pasted a publicly available link containing publicly available data that he was researching in his capacity as a journalist. The charges require twisting the relevant statutes beyond recognition and have serious implications for journalists as well as academics. Who’s allowed to look at document dumps?”

Brown’s case is a bellwether for press freedoms in the new century, where hacks and leaks provide some of our only glimpses into the technologies and policies of an increasingly privatized national security-and-surveillance state. What Brown did through his organization Project PM was attempt to expand these peepholes. He did this by leading group investigations into the world of private intelligence and cybersecurity contracting, a $56 billion industry that consumes 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget.

Meet Jacob Applelaum, the American Wikileaks Hacker

“Barrett was an investigative journalist who was merely doing his professional duty,” says Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders. “The sentence that he is facing is absurd and dangerous.”

B
rown grew up in the affluent North Dallas neighborhood of Preston Hollow, where, following his parents’ divorce, he lived with his New Age mother. Karen Lancaster always believed her only son was special – he once wrote that she called him “an indigo child with an alien soul.” Among her house rules was that mother and son meditate together daily. She instructed him in the predictions of Nostradamus and made sure he kept a dream journal for the purpose, as Brown described it, “of helping him divine the future by way of my external connection to the collective unconscious.” (For her part, Brown’s mother says she was progressive, but not “New Age”, and that her son’s comments were made in jest.)

The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond, Enemy of the State

A precocious pre-adolescent reader and writer, Brown produced a newspaper on his family’s desktop computer while in elementary school. When he started writing for the student paper at his private high school in the mid-Nineties, he quickly clashed with the paper’s censors over his right to criticize the administration. “Barrett always challenged authority, even as a kid, and anytime you go up against authority, you’re going to get in trouble,” says Brown’s father, Robert. “You could sort of always see this coming.”

By the time he reached high school, Brown had discovered Ayn Rand and declared himself an atheist. He founded an Objectivist Society at school and distinguished himself from other Randians by placing second out of 5,000 entrants in a national Ayn Rand essay contest. (Brown now expresses regret over this.) By all accounts, Brown hated everything about organized education, preferring to follow his own curricula and chat up girls on the bulletin-board systems of a still-embryonic Internet.

After his sophomore year, Brown told his parents he wasn’t going back. He signed up for online courses and spent his junior year in Tanzania with his father, a Maserati-driving conservative, safari hunter and serial entrepreneur who was trying to launch a hardwood-harvesting business. “Barrett loved living in Africa,” says his father. “He preferred adventure to being in school with his peers. We weren’t far from the embassy that was bombed that year.”

Brown returned to the U.S. and in 2000 joined some of his childhood friends in Austin, where he spent two semesters taking writing classes at the University of Texas. After dropping out, he spent a summer doing what one friend calls a “heroic” amount of Ecstasy and acid before settling into the charmed life of a pre-crisis Austin slacker – working part-time, smoking pot and paying cheap rent in a series of group houses with enormous porches. Brown’s roommates remember his rooms as being strewn with leaning towers of books and magazines – he especially liked Gore Vidal, P.J. O’Rourke and Hunter S. Thompson – but say he was not especially political. “After 9/11 and Iraq, there were a lot of protests in Austin,” says Ian Holmes, a childhood friend of Brown’s. “I don’t remember him participating in it or being extra vocal, but he was against it all like everyone else.”

As Brown built up his clip book and matured as a writer, his ambitions began to outgrow Austin. In 2007, Brown moved to Brooklyn with a group of old friends that called itself “the Texadus.” Their Bushwick apartment emerged as a hub for Lone Star State refugees who liked to get high, crush beers and play video games. “People were always hanging out and coming and going,” says Caleb Pritchard, a childhood friend of Brown’s who lived with him in Austin and Brooklyn. Among the apartment’s large cast of characters were a crew of weed-delivery guys from Puerto Rico and Honduras who used the apartment as a daytime base of business operations. “They brought over an Xbox, bought us beer and food and played strategy games with us,” Pritchard says. “It was a good cultural exchange for a bunch of skinny white kids from Dallas.”

As virtual-world games grew increasingly sophisticated, Brown spent more time in front of his computer. But he didn’t play the games like most people. In Second Life, he linked up with a group of people known as “griefers,” the term for hackers who in the mid-00s became known for generating chaos inside video-game worlds. Socializing on the bulletin board 4chan.org, they formed the first cells of what would later become Anonymous. In the documentary We Are Legion, about the hacktivist group, Brown waxes nostalgic over his griefer period, when he’d spend entire nights “on Second Life riding around in a virtual spaceship with the words ‘faggery daggery doo’ written on it, wearing Afros, dropping virtual bombs on little villages while waving giant penises around. That was the most fun time I ever had in my life.”

When everyone else went out to the bars, Brown stayed in. Aside from video games and the odd afternoon of pick-up basketball, he also pounded out columns, diaries and blog posts for Vanity Fair, Daily Kos and McSweeney’s, as well as restaurant reviews and essays for weeklies like New York Press and The Onion’s A.V. Club. Though he had some paying gigs, he published most heavily in unpaid, self-edited community forums like Daily Kos and The Huffington Post. “Barrett wasn’t really working in New York so much as getting by with the help of friends and family,” says Pritchard. Among his unpaid gigs was his work as the spokesman for the Godless Americans PAC, which led to Brown’s first TV appearance, on the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends.

In Brooklyn, Brown resumed shooting heroin, which he’d dabbled in off and on since he was 19. Over the years, doctors have diagnosed him with ADHD and depression. Accurate or not, the diagnoses suggest Brown was drawn to opiates for more than just the high. “When I joined him in Brooklyn in ’08, Barrett was already basically a functional junkie,” says Pritchard.

Heroin did not mellow Brown when it came to America’s pundit class. Brown’s critique made clear he didn’t want to join the journalistic establishment so much as lash it without mercy. Then, in March 2010, he announced in a blog post the goal of replacing it, of making its institutions irrelevant and rebuilding them in the image of an overly self-confident 28-year-old junkie named Barrett Brown. It was perhaps his first public manifestation of extreme self-assurance that could come off as imperious self-importance. Brown himself did not deny it, once saying, “I don’t think arrogance is something I’m in a position to attack anyone on.”

The project envisioned by Brown was a new kind of crowdsourced think tank to be “established with a handful of contributors who have been selected by virtue of intellectual honesty, proven expertise in certain topics and journalistic competence in general.” He named it Project PM, after a gang in William Gibson’s Neuromancer called the Panther Moderns.

Brown conceived his new network partly as a response to what he saw as the sad state of affairs at the two main homes for his work, Daily Kos and HuffPo. After years of vibrancy, both now suffered from “the watering-down of contributor quality,” he said. At Project PM, he assured that “below-average participants will have only very limited means by which to clutter the network.”

How Anonymous Took Down the Music Industry’s Websites

With typical cigarette-waving flourish, Brown declared, “Never has there existed such opportunity for revolution in human affairs.”

Had Project PM developed along the lines of Brown’s original vision – as a kind of exclusive, experts-only, friends-of-Barrett blogger network – it is extremely unlikely that Brown would now be in jail. Or that the FBI would have subpoenaed the company hired to secure its server, as it did in March. But Project PM ended up taking a different route.

Julian Assange: The Rolling Stone Interview

T
he event that locked Brown’s path into a collision course with the federal government came on February 11th, 2010, when he posted an essay on Huffington Post that he grandiloquently titled “Anonymous, Australia and the Inevitable Fall of the NationState.”

At the time, Anonymous was in the news after some of its hackers, in an action they called Operation Titstorm, brought down Australian government servers in retaliation for the government’s attempt to block certain kinds of niche pornography. For Brown, Titstorm was a world-historic game-changer, a portent of an age in which citizens could successfully challenge state power on their laptops and neutralize government propaganda and censorship.

In the comically aggrandizing tone that had become his trademark, Brown concluded, “I am now certain that this phenomenon is among the most important and underreported social developments to have occurred in decades.”

Among those taken by Brown’s interpretation of Titstorm was Gregg Housh, a Boston Web designer and early Anonymous associate, who had emerged as a sort of quasi-spokesman for the group. Through Housh, Brown gained entrance to the online inner sanctums of the hackers he thought were turning history on its head. Housh, who was starting to feel burned out from fielding the barrage of international media requests, saw Brown as someone who could step in and talk to reporters for Anonymous.

“Barrett ‘got it’ in a way few journalists did,” says Housh. “Soon, he was one of us, and that pretty much set the course for everything that happened next.”

Brown always denied holding any official capacity as the spokesman of Anonymous, maintaining such a thing was not even possible given the amorphous nature of the group. Yet he embraced the media role with relish, sometimes using the royal “we” during interviews. In March 2011, Brown described himself to a visiting NBC News crew as a “senior strategist” for Anonymous. He also, along with Housh, began writing a book about the group, detailing the transformation of Anonymous from a community of amoral videogame-playing punks into an ethical crusade, assisting street protests across the globe during the Arab Spring.

From the beginning, Brown’s public role was a subject of internal controversy. A minority dismissed and attacked him as a preening “name fag” – Anonymous slang for people who use their real names and speak to the press. Others were more bothered that Brown was a “moral fag,” the term used by unrepentant griefers to describe the new generation of hacktivists who began flocking to the Anonymous banner in 2008. In We Are Legion, Brown makes his allegiance clear, hailing the hacktivists for turning a “nihilist, ridiculous group” into a “force for good.”

Yet something of the old griefer remained in Brown even after his and the group’s politicization process had converged to take on the world of intelligence outsourcing. “He was just trolling the hell out of these corporate-surveillance guys,” says Joe Fionda, a New York activist who assisted Brown in his investigations. “Not just doing the serious research work no one else was doing – getting tax files and all that – but calling them at their homes to introduce himself, sometimes straight up pranking them. He’s legit funny and sees the humor and the absurd in everything.”

Another former colleague, a Boston Web developer and activist named Lauren Pespisa, shared Brown’s love of prank calls: “Sometimes we’d drink and prank-call lobbyists for fun. We went after this one group, Qorvis, because they were helping the kingdom of Bahrain handle its image when they were shooting people. So we’d call them up and ‘dragon shout’ at them,” she says, referring to a sound effect in one of Brown’s favorite video games, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

By combining the two ethos of Anonymous, Brown won over more people than he alienated. Part of his appeal was the act of his drily affected pseudo-aristocratic-asshole persona, which he exaggerated during media appearances. He preferred a corduroy sports jacket to the Guy Fawkes mask that Anonymous members favor. A typical portrait showed Brown’s arm slung over a chair, a Marlboro dangling off his bottom lip and a stuffed bobcat on the wall behind him. He was oth loved and hated for being one of the more colorful characters found in the Internet Relay Chat rooms where hackers gathered. He famously once conducted a strategy session while drinking red wine in a bubble bath.

“Barrett became a bit like the court jester of Anonymous,” says Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who has written about the network. “His behavior was legendary because he was the ethical foil. Anonymous isn’t just for hackers. People like Barrett Brown can thrive: the organizer, the media-maker, the spectacle-maker.”

W
hen Brown met Housh, he was nearing the end of his three-year stint in Brooklyn. In the spring of 2010, Brown called his parents and told them he had a heroin problem. At their urging, he returned to Dallas and began an outpatient treatment that included the heroin replacement Suboxone. It was from a tiny Dallas apartment that Brown deepened his involvement with Anonymous. Since most of his friends lived in Austin, his new social life consisted of the IRC rooms populated by hacktivists. It was a world of nonstop, petty cyberintrigue, which to outsiders can appear like a hellish fusion of The Hollywood Squares, WarGames and Degrassi Junior High.

Bradley Manning Explains His Motives

Pritchard remembers the first time Brown crashed on his couch in Austin after his return to Dallas. “I’d wake up, and he’d be online having conversations with these kids on Skype or something,” he says. “Barrett would say, ‘I know what you’re doing!’ The other guy would be stroking his chin like he’s Dr. Claw, saying, ‘No, I know what you’re doing.’ It was nonstop cyberwar, with these dorks just dorking it out with each other. It seemed like a bunch of kids trolling each other.”

Still, Pritchard appreciated that beneath the dorkery, Brown was involved in serious business. This was Brown’s first year as an unofficial spokesman for Anonymous, and it was eventful. The hackers were aiding the uprisings of the Arab Spring, and assaulted PayPal and credit-card companies in retaliation for their refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks. This latter action, called Operation PayBack, earned the attention of the Justice Department. In the summer of 2011, the FBI issued 35 search warrants and arrested 14 suspected hackers.

The Trials of Bradley Manning

By the time of the arrests, Brown’s focus had settled squarely on the nexus between government agencies, private intelligence firms and the information-security industry – known as InfoSec – contracted to build programs and technologies of surveillance, disruption and control that Brown suspected were in many cases unconstitutional. What’s more, he was as bratty as ever about it. He phoned CEOs and flacks at their homes and called them liars. He boasted about bringing the whole system down. As the first raids and arrests took place following Operation PayBack, some observers of Brown’s antics began to suspect that the court jester of Anonymous was not a very safe thing to be.

“You could just tell it was going to end badly,” says an Anonymous member and veteran hacker. “When he really started making noise about going after these intel-contracting companies, I was like, ‘You’re going to get locked up, kid.'”

A
fter Operation Payback, Anonymous was on the radar of every private security firm looking to build a quick reputation. In the office of Aaron Barr, CEO of a struggling digital-security contractor called HBGary Federal, it was the biggest thing on the radar. Barr was convinced that taking down Anonymous before it struck again was a fast track to industry juice and massive contracts. In February 2011, he bragged to The Financial Times about the supersecret sleuthing techniques he had developed to get the goods on Anonymous. He claimed to know the identities of the group’s leaders. Implicit in Barr’s comments was the possibility of federal raids on those identified.

Partly to avoid that outcome, and partly out of curiosity, an Anonymous cell hacked HBGary’s servers. They discovered that Barr’s techniques involved hanging out on major social-media sites and compiling lists of mostly innocent people. It wasn’t the only example of his staggering miscalculation: Within minutes, the hackers easily got around the firm’s security defenses, ransacking company servers, wiping Barr’s personal tablet and absconding with 70,000 internal e-mails. Stephen Colbert devoted a segment to the fiasco, based around the image of Barr sticking his penis in a hornets’ nest.

Once the hackers who broke into HBGary’s servers discovered that Barr was basically a clown, they abandoned pursuit. “There were tens of thousands of e-mails and no one wanted to go through them,” says an Anonymous associate who observed the HBGary hack. “Everyone was like, ‘We’re not even going to dump these, because there’s no point.'”

Brown disagreed. When the hackers posted the e-mails on a BitTorrent site, he used Project PM to organize the painstaking work of collating and connecting the dots to see what picture emerged.

“Nobody was reading more than a couple of the e-mails before getting bored,” says the Anonymous associate. “But Barrett has this strangely addictive and journalistic kind of mind, so he could stare at those e-mails for 10 hours. He’d be sitting alone in the HBGary channel, yelling at everyone, ‘You’ve got to pay attention! Look at the crap I found!'” Brown quickly drew in some 100 volunteers to help him trawl through and make sense of the e-mails.

The HBGary cache offered one of the fullest looks ever at how corporate-state partnerships were targeting groups they considered subversive or inimical to the interests of corporate America. The projects under consideration at HBGary ranged from cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns targeting civic groups and journalists to Weird Science-supermodel avatars built to infiltrate and disrupt left-wing and anarchist networks.

Project PM volunteer investigator Joe Fionda remembers the disturbing thrill of uncovering HBGary’s use of a Maxim pinup to create online personas designed to spy for corporate and government clients. “I couldn’t believe how much crazy shit they were up to,” Fionda says. “My brain still feels like it’s going to explode.”

The biggest fish flopping in Brown’s net was the story of a cluster of contractors known as Team Themis. The origins of Team Themis dated to Bank of America’s alarm over Julian Assange’s 2010 claim to possess documents that “could take down a bank or two.” The Department of Justice recommended Bank of America retain the services of the white-shoe D.C. law firm Hunton & Williams and the high-­powered intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. On behalf of Bank of America, Hunton & Williams turned to the large and growing world of InfoSec subcontractors to come up with a plan, settling on HBGary and two dataintelligence shops, Berico Technologies and Palantir Technologies.

The Themis three were also preparing a proposal for Hunton & Williams on behalf of another client, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The leaked HBGary documents revealed that Themis was exploring ways of discrediting and disrupting the activities of organized labor and its allies for the Chamber. The potential money at stake in these contracts was considerable. According to Wired, the trio proposed that the Chamber create a $2-milliona-month sort of cyber special-forces team “of the kind developed and utilized by the Joint Special Operations Command.” They also suggested targeting a range of left-of-center organizations, including the SEIU, watchdog groups like U.S. Chamber Watch, and the Center for American Progress. (The Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America have denied ever hiring Team Themis or having any knowledge of the proposals.)

In pursuit of the Chamber and Bank of America contracts, the Themis three devised multipronged campaigns amounting to a private-sector information-age COINTELPRO, the FBI’s program to infiltrate and undermine “subversive” groups between 1956 and 1971. Among the The mis ideas presented to Hunton & Williams: “Feed the fuel between the feuding groups. Disinformation. Create messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization. Submit fake documents and then call out the error.”

The revelations represented a triumph for Brown and his wiki. A group of Democratic congressmen asked four Republican committee chairs to hold hearings on the “deeply troubling” question of whether “tactics developed for use against terrorists may have been unleashed illegally against American citizens.” But the calls for investigation went nowhere. The lack of outrage in Washington or on influential editorial pages didn’t shock Brown, who had long ago lost hope in the politicians and pundits who are “clearly intent on killing off even this belated scrutiny into the invisible empire that so thoroughly scrutinizes us – at our own expense and to unknown ends.”

It was Brown’s finest moment, but his relationship with Anonymous was rapidly deteriorating. By May 2011, Brown had begun turning on the network. “There’s little quality control in a movement like [Anonymous],” Brown told an interviewer. “You attract a lot of people whose interest is in fucking with video-game companies.”

Brown’s haughty dismissal of the new crop of hacktivists was not a feeling shared by the FBI. The government continued to see Anonymous as a major and growing threat. And in the summer of 2011, it acquired a key piece in its operation to destroy the network. On the night of June 7th, four months after the HBGary hack, two federal agents visited the Jacob Riis publichousing project on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and introduced themselves to a 27-year-old unemployed hacker named Hector Monsegur, known inside Anonymous as “Sabu.” As a leader of an Anonymous offshoot called Lulzsec, he had hacked a number of state and corporate servers. In early 2011, he made some rookie errors that led the FBI to his door: Facing the prospect of being indicted on 12 counts of criminal conspiracy, Sabu rolled over on his old hacker associates. He signed a cooperation agreement and began feeding the FBI information on Anonymous plots. The biggest of these involved a private global intelligence contractor located in Barrett Brown’s backyard, the Austin-based Stratfor.

I
n early December 2011, a young Chicago Anon named Jeremy Hammond cracked Stratfor’s server and downloaded some 5 million internal documents. With the apparent blessing and supervision of the FBI, Sabu provided the server for Hammond to store the docs. Hammond then proceeded to release them to the public. Sifting through the data dump would require a massive coordinated effort of exactly the kind Project PM had been training for. Brown and his dedicated volunteers attacked the mountains of e-mails. “We had between 30 and 50 people involved, usually 15 at a time,” says Lauren Pespisa, the Boston Project PM volunteer who now helps organize Brown’s legaldefense fund.

Did the Mainstream Media Fail Bradley Manning?

After six months of work, Brown would discover what he considered the fattest spider amid the miles of Stratfor web: a San Diego-based cybersecurity firm called Cubic. As Brown followed the strings, he discovered links between Cubic and a data-mining contractor known as TrapWire, which had ties to CIA vets. Brown thought that he had stumbled on a major find illuminating new technologies for spying and surveillance, but the media pickup was not what Brown had hoped. Major dailies shrugged off the story, and Gawker and Slate poured cold water on his alarm, calling it “outlandish.” Brown responded to the criticism with a rambling, connect-the-conspiracy-dots YouTube video.

It wasn’t just gossip sites that viewed Brown’s reading of the Stratfor docs with a skeptical eye. Even sympathetic students of intelligence contracting urged caution about interpreting the TrapWire materials. “I applaud anyone digging into this stuff, but you can’t really draw conclusions from what these contractors say in these e-mails because they’re bragging and they’re trying to land business,” says Tim Shorrock, whose 2008 book Spies for Hire first exposed the scope of the intelligence-contracting industry. “Some of the quote-unquote intelligence that Stratfor was reporting on was ludicrous. Why would an intelligence agency buy this stuff?”

WikiLeaks Stratfor Emails: A Secret Indictment Against Julian Assange?

Meanwhile, deeply buried in the TrapWire debate was the fact that included in the Stratfor docs were the credit-card numbers of 5,000 Stratfor clients. Brown likely did not give the numbers a second thought. But it’s these numbers that form the most serious charges against Brown. The government alleges that when Brown pasted a link in a chat room to the alreadyleaked documents, he was intentionally “transferring” data for the purpose of credit-card and identity fraud.

“If the Pentagon Papers included creditcard info, then would The New York Times have been barred from researching them?” says Brown’s co-counsel Ghappour. “There is nothing to indicate Barrett wanted to profit from this information, or that he ever had the information in his possession. He was openly critical of such motives and disapproved of hacking for the sake of it. This was a big part of his rift with Anonymous – why he was considered a ‘moral fag’ by some.”

The FBI raided Brown’s Dallas apartment on the morning of March 6th, 2012, three months after the Stratfor hack, and one day after Jeremy Hammond was arrested in Chicago. More than a dozen feds led by agent Robert Smith knocked down the door with warrants for Brown’s computers and seized his Xbox. Brown was staying at his mother’s house nearby. Later that morning, the agents appeared at the home of Brown’s mother with a second warrant. They found his laptop in a kitchen cabinet, and she was later charged with obstruction. Brown, who was in the shower preparing for a TV interview when the agents arrived, was not arrested. The agents left with his laptop.

Among hacktivists, theories differ on the motive behind the FBI action. As one of the few public figures associated with Anonymous, Brown made a soft target with a potentially very valuable hard drive or two. Some say it was meant as a warning; others say Brown had simply pissed off too many powerful people, or was getting too close to something big.

Then there is the theory, advanced by Gregg Housh, that Brown and Hammond were targeted out of frustration with a blown sting against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. After looking into the Stratfor hack, Housh believes that the FBI allowed the hack to proceed not in order to arrest Hammond but Assange. “The idea was to have Sabu sell the stolen Stratfor material to Assange,” says Housh. “This would give them a concrete charge that he had knowingly bought stolen material to distribute on WikiLeaks.”

Housh believes Hammond got wind of Sabu’s plan to sell the documents to Assange and dumped them before the transaction could take place. While there is no proof of contact between Sabu and Assange, Sabu reportedly communicated with Sigurdur Thordarson, a teenage Icelandic WikiLeaks volunteer and an FBI informant.

“Hammond had no idea what he’d done,” says Housh. “The FBI were a day away from having evidence against Assange, and Hammond screwed it up for them. That’s why they went after him so hard.”

Yet Hammond, who led the Stratfor hack, faced only 30 years before cutting a plea deal for 10. Why is Brown facing 105?

F
ollowing the March raid, Brown continued his investigations and planned for the future of Project PM. 2012 was going to be a big year. He had a new nucleus of friends and colleagues in Boston, where he was going to move and live in an activist group house. His investigations increasingly took place outside the Anonymous network. Brown had new allies in groups like Telecomix, a collective that operated its own crowdsourcing investigations into the cybersurveillance industry. That summer, he visited New York for the Hackers on Planet Earth conference, an annual gathering of hackers and activists, where he met a few of his Project PM colleagues offline for the first time. “I remember he was wearing a full suit in this crazy heat, sweating profusely in the lobby of the Hotel Pennsylvania,” says Fionda. “He was still struggling with kicking heroin, he had tremors and looked like he was in a lot of pain. But he was full of energy. He was telling everyone, ‘We’re going to the center of the Earth with this story!'”

But Brown’s mental state seemed to deteriorate during the summer of 2012. Having battled depression throughout his life, he had gone off his meds and was simultaneously struggling with cold-turkey breaks from Suboxone for heroin withdrawal. His YouTube channel documents the effects. In August, Brown posted a clip that showed him skeet-shooting over the words of Caligula’s lament: “If only all of Rome had just one neck.” In early September, as Brown planned his move to Boston, he struggled to contain his rage at the local FBI agent Robert Smith, who had raided his mother’s home and taken his beloved Xbox.

In September, Brown uploaded a discombobulated three-part video series, the last one titled “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith.” In the videos, Brown struggles to maintain focus. He demands the return of his Xbox and warns that he comes from a military family that has trained him with weapons – weapons he says he’ll use to defend his home. He calls Smith a “fucking chickenshit little faggot cocksucker” before uttering the words he has since admitted were ill-considered, as well as the result of a chemically combustive mental state.

Why Shouldn’t Freedom of the Press Apply to WikiLeaks?

“Robert Smith’s life is over,” says Brown. “And when I say his life is over, I don’t say I’m going to go kill him, but I’m going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids. How do you like them apples?”

It takes a suspension of disbelief to hear a credible physical threat as defined by law. The rail-thin Brown appears a desperate, pathetic character in need of psychiatric help. A more humane FBI office might have sent a doctor rather than a car of armed agents. But the FBI didn’t send a shrink. That evening a team of armed agents stormed Brown’s apartment, threw him violently to the ground and arrested him for threatening a federal officer.

WikiLeaks Releases ‘Beat the Blockade’ Benefit CD

Over the next four months, federal grand juries issued three multicount indictments for obstruction and “access devicefraud” related to the Stratfor link. It is the last of these that concern civil-liberties activists and that could have a possible chilling effect. “One can’t apply the transfer provision of the statute to someone conducting research,” says Ghappour. “If cutting and pasting a link is the same as the transfer of the underlying data, then anyone on the Internet is prone to violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.”

The FBI has shown interest in expanding that theoretical “anyone” to include Brown’s circle of volunteers. In March, the bureau went hunting for the digital fingerprints of Project PM administrators with a subpoena. The action has shaken the group’s inner circle, as it was surely intended. “It was a pretext to sow discord and fear in Barrett’s project,” says Alan Ross, a U.K. investigator for Project PM. “They were desperate to bolster their case. After the subpoena, people began to worry about being monitored. I worry about my personal safety even though I acted within the confines of the law. I worry about travel.”

Travel is one thing Brown does not have to worry about at the moment. Nor, if the government gets its way, will he have to worry about handling the media, his former specialty. In August, the prosecution requested a gag be placed on Brown and his lawyers, a move that suggests they understand the dangers of public scrutiny of the legal peculiarities of United States vs. Barrett Lancaster Brown.

Meanwhile, Brown has not joined the prison tradition of mastering the law behind bars. Rather than study up on cyberfraud statutes, he has resumed his writing on intel contractors and the pundits who defend them. “Nobody talks to me here,” Brown says of his year in jail, “but I was pretty unsociable on the outside too.” One of the hardest things about incarceration for the atheist has been contending with his cellmates’ singing of hymns. “Prison is great for reading and for thought, until they start in with their Pentecostal nonsense,” says Brown. “It ruins everything.”

His friends keep him supplied with articles and printouts, which lately have included material related to the Edward Snowden leak. Snowden gained access to information about secret NSA spying on private citizens while working for the intelligence subcontractor Booz Allen Hamilton, a company that had been on Brown’s radar long before most Americans learned of it in the wake of Snowden’s bombshells.

“This is all much bigger than me,” Brown says in the visiting room. “What matters is this.” He leans over to tap his handwritten manuscript. The pages of the essay are messy on the table, and sticking out from under the pile is the last sentence on the last page. “This is the world that we accept if we continue to avert our eyes,” it says. “And it promises to get much worse.”

This story is from the August 29th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.
http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/barrett-brown-faces-105-years-in-jail-20130905

by Alexander Zaitchik
SEPTEMBER 05, 2013

Find this story at 5 September 2013

Copyright ©2013 Rolling Stone

The Strange Case of Barrett Brown

In early 2010, journalist and satirist Barrett Brown was working on a book on political pundits, when the hacktivist collective Anonymous caught his attention. He soon began writing about its activities and potential. In a defense [2] of the group’s anti-censorship operations in Australia published on February 10, Brown declared, “I am now certain that this phenomenon is among the most important and under-reported social developments to have occurred in decades, and that the development in question promises to threaten the institution of the nation-state and perhaps even someday replace it as the world’s most fundamental and relevant method of human organization.”

By then, Brown was already considered by his fans to be the Hunter S. Thompson of his generation. In point of fact he wasn’t like Hunter S. Thompson, but was more of a throwback—a sharp-witted, irreverent journalist and satirist in the mold of Ambrose Bierce or Dorothy Parker. His acid tongue was on display in his co-authored 2007 book, Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and the Easter Bunny, in which he declared: “This will not be a polite book. Politeness is wasted on the dishonest, who will always take advantage of any well-intended concession.”

But it wasn’t Brown’s acid tongue so much as his love of minutia (and ability to organize and explain minutia) that would ultimately land him in trouble. Abandoning his book on pundits in favor of a book on Anonymous, he could not have known that delving into the territory of hackers and leaks would ultimately lead to his facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison. In light of the bombshell revelations published by Glenn Greenwald and Barton Gellman about government and corporate spying, Brown’s case is a good—and underreported—reminder of the considerable risk faced by reporters who report on leaks.

In February 2011, a year after Brown penned his defense of Anonymous, and against the background of its actions during the Arab Spring, Aaron Barr, CEO of the private intelligence company HBGary, claimed to have identified the leadership of the hacktivist colletive. (In fact he only had screen names of a few members). Barr’s boasting provoked a brutal hack of HBGary by a related group called Internet Feds (it would soon change its name to “LulzSec”). Splashy enough to attract the attention of The Colbert Report [3], the hack defaced and destroyed servers and websites belonging to HBGary. Some 70,000 company emails were downloaded and posted online. As a final insult to injury, even the contents of Aaron Barr’s iPad were remotely wiped.

The HBGary hack may have been designed to humiliate the company, but it had the collateral effect of dropping a gold mine of information into Brown’s lap. One of the first things he discovered was a plan to neutralize Glenn Greenwald’s defense of Wikileaks by undermining them both. (“Without the support of people like Glenn, wikileaks would fold,” read one slide.) The plan called for “disinformation,” exploiting strife within the organization and fomenting external rivalries—“creating messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization,” as well as a plan to submit fake documents and then call out the error.” Greenwald, it was argued, “if pushed,” would “choose professional preservation over cause.”

Other plans targeted social organizations and advocacy groups. Separate from the plan to target Greenwald and WikiLeaks, HBGary was part of a consortia that submitted a proposal to develop a “persona management [4]” system for the United States Air Force, that would allow one user to control multiple online identities for commenting in social media spaces, thus giving the appearance of grassroots support or opposition to certain policies.

The data dump from the HBGary hack was so vast that no one person could sort through it alone. So Brown decided to crowdsource the effort. He created a wiki page, called it ProjectPM [5], and invited other investigative journalists to join in. Under Brown’s leadership, the initiative began to slowly untangle a web of connections between the US government, corporations, lobbyists, and a shadowy group of private military and information security consultants.

One connection was between Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce. WikiLeaks had claimed to possess a large cache of documents belonging to Bank of America. Concerned about this, Bank of America approached the United States Department of Justice. The DOJ directed it to the law and lobbying firm Hunton and Williams [6], which does legal work for Wells Fargo and General Dynamics and also lobbies for Koch Industries, Americans for Affordable Climate Policy, Gas Processors Association, Entergy among many other firms. The DoJ recommended that Bank of America hire Hunton and Williams, explicitly suggesting Richard Wyatt [7] as the person to work with. Wyatt, famously, was the lead attorney in the Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit against the Yes Men.

In November 2010, Hunton and Williams organized a number of private intelligence, technology development and security contractors—HBGary, plus Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies, and, according to Brown, a secretive corporation with the ominous name Endgame Systems—to form “Team Themis” —‘themis’ being a Greek word meaning “divine law.” Its main objective was to discredit critics of the Chamber of Commerce, like Chamber Watch [8] using such tactics as creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” giving it to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then subsequently exposing the document as a fake to “prove that US Chamber Watch cannot be trusted with information and/or tell the truth.” In addition, the group proposed creating a “fake insider persona” to infiltrate Chamber Watch. They would “create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second.” The leaked emails showed that similar disinformation campaigns were being planned against WikiLeaks and Glenn Greenwald.

It was clear to Brown that these were actions of questionable legality, but beyond that, government contractors were attempting to undermine Americans’ free speech—with the apparent blessing of the DOJ. A group of Democratic Congressmen asked for an investigation [9] into this arrangement, to no avail.

By June 2011, the plot had thickened further. The FBI had the goods on the leader of LulzSec, one Hector Xavier Monsegur, who went under the nom de guerre Sabu. The FBI arrested him on June 7, 2011 and (according to court documents) turned him into an informant the following day. Just three days before his arrest, Sabu had been central to the formation of a new group called AntiSec, which comprised his former LulzSec crew members, as well as members as Anonymous. In early December AntiSec hacked the website of a private security company called Stratfor Global Intelligence. On Christmas Eve, it released a trove of some five million internal compnay emails. AntiSec member and Chicago activist Jeremy Hammond [10], has pled guilty to the attack and is currently facing ten years in prison for it.

The contents of the Stratfor leak were even more outrageous than those of the HBGary hack. They included discussion of opportunities for renditions and assassinations. For example, in one video, Statfor’s Vice President of Intelligence, Fred Burton, suggested taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to render Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who had been released from prison on compassionate grounds due to his terminal illness. Burton said that the case “was personal.” When someone pointed out in an email that such a move would almost certainly be illegal—“This man has already been tried, found guilty, sentenced…and served time”—another Stratfor employee responded that this was just an argument for a more efficient solution: “One more reason to just bugzap him with a hellfire. :-)”

(Stratfor employees also seemed to take a keen interest in Jeremy Scahill’s writings about Blackwater in The Nation, copying and circulating entire articles, with comments suggesting a principle interest was in the question of whether Blackwater was setting up a competing intelligence operation. Emails also showed grudging respect for Scahill: “Like or dislike Scahill’s position (or what comes of his work), he does an amazing job outing [Blackwater].”)

When the contents of the Stratfor leak became available, Brown decided to put ProjectPM on it. A link to the Stratfor dump appeared in an Anonymous chat channel; Brown copied it and pasted it into the private chat channel for ProjectPM, bringing the dump to the attention of the editors.

Brown began looking into Endgame Systems [11], an information security firm that seemed particularly concerned about staying in the shadows. “Please let HBGary know we don’t ever want to see our name in a press release,” one leaked email read. One of its products, available for a $2.5 million annual subscription, gave customers access to “zero-day exploits”—security vulnerabilities unknown to software companies—for computer systems all over the world. Business Week [12] published a story on Endgame in 2011, reporting that “Endgame executives will bring up maps of airports, parliament buildings, and corporate offices. The executives then create a list of the computers running inside the facilities, including what software the computers run, and a menu of attacks that could work against those particular systems.” For Brown, this raised the question of whether Endgame was selling these exploits to foreign actors and whether they would be used against computer systems in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the hammer came down.

The FBI acquired a warrant [13] for Brown’s laptop, gaining the authority to seize any information related to HBGary, Endgame Systems, Anonymous, and, most ominously, “email, email contacts, ‘chat’, instant messaging logs, photographs, and correspondence.” In other words, the FBI wanted his sources.

When the FBI went to serve Brown he was at his mother’s house. Agents returned with a warrant to search his mother’s house, retrieving his laptop. To turn up the heat on Brown, the FBI initiated charges against his mother for obstruction of justice for concealing his laptop computer in her house. (Facing criminal charges, on March 22, 2013, his mother, Karen McCutchin, pled guilty to one count of obstructing the execution of a search warrant. She faces up to twelve months in jail. Brown maintains that she did not know the laptop was in her home.)

By his own admission, the FBI’s targeting of his mother made Brown snap. In September 2012, he uploaded an incoherent YouTube video [14], in which he explained that he had been in treatment for an addiction to heroin, taking the medication Suboxone, but had gone off his meds and now was in withdrawal. He threatened the FBI agent that was harassing his mother, by name, warming:

“I know what’s legal, I know what’s been done to me… And if it’s legal when it’s done to me, it’s going to be legal when it’s done to FBI Agent Robert Smith—who is a criminal.”

“That’s why [FBI special agent] Robert Smith’s life is over. And when I say his life is over, I’m not saying I’m going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids… How do you like them apples?”

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50! [15]

The media narrative was immediately derailed. No longer would this be a story about the secretive information-military-industrial complex; now it was the sordid tale of a crazy drug addict threatening an FBI agent and his (grown) children. Actual death threats against agents are often punishable by a few years in jail. But Brown’s actions made it easier for the FBI to sell some other pretext to put him away for life.

The Stratfor data included a number of unencrypted credit card numbers and validation codes. On this basis, the DOJ accused Brown of credit card fraud for having shared that link with the editorial board of ProjectPM. Specifically, the FBI charged him with Traffic in Stolen Authentication Features, Access Device Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft, as well as an Obstruction of Justice charge (for being at his mother’s when the initial warrant was served) and charges stemming from his threats against the FBI agent. All told, Brown is looking at century of jail time: 105 years in federal prison if served sequentially. He has been denied bail.

Considering that the person who carried out the actual Stratfor hack had several priors and is facing a maximum of ten years, the inescapable conclusion is that the problem is not with the hack itself, but with Brown’s journalism. As Glenn Greenwald remarked in the Guardian: “it is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism.”

Today, Brown is in prison and ProjectPM is under increased scrutiny by the DOJ, even as its work has ground to a halt. In March, the DOJ served the domain hosting service CloudFlare with a subpoena [16] for all records on the ProjectPM website, and in particular asked for the IP addresses of everyone who had accessed and contributed to ProjectPM, describing it as a “forum” through which Brown and others would “engage in, encourage, or facilitate the commission of criminal conduct online.” The message was clear: Anyone else who looks into this matter does so at their grave peril.

Some journalists are now understandably afraid to go near the Stratfor files. The broader implications of this go beyond Brown; one might think that what we are looking at is Cointelpro 2.0—an outsourced surveillance state—but in fact it’s worse. One can’t help but infer that the US Department of Justice has become just another security contractor, working alongside the HBGarys and Stratfors on behalf of corporate bidders, with no sense at all for the justness of their actions; they are working to protect corporations and private security contractors and give them license to engage in disinformation campaigns against ordinary citizens and their advocacy groups. The mere fact that the FBI’s senior cybersecurity advisor has recently moved to Hunton and Williams shows just how incestuous this relationship has become. Meanwhile the Department of Justice is also using its power and force to trample on the rights of citizens like Barrett Brown who are trying to shed light on these nefarious relationships. In order to neutralize those who question or investigate the system, laws are being reinterpreted or extended or otherwise misappropriated in ways that are laughable—or would be if the consequences weren’t so dire.

While the media and much of the world have been understandably outraged by the revelation of the NSA’s spying programs, Barrett Brown’s work was pointing to a much deeper problem. It isn’t the sort of problem that can be fixed by trying to tweak a few laws or by removing a few prosecutors. The problem is not with bad laws or bad prosecutors. What the case of Barrett Brown has exposed is that we confronting a different problem altogether. It is a systemic problem. It is the failure of the rule of law.

Links:
[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOW7GOrXNZI
[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barrett-brown/anonymous-australia-and-t_b_457776.html
[3] http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/426198/may-09-2013/colbert-s-book-club—learning–the-great-gatsby-
[4] http://boingboing.net/2011/02/18/hbgarys-high-volume.html
[5] http://wiki.echelon2.org/wiki/Main_Page
[6] http://www.hunton.com/
[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/19/chamber-of-commerce-still_n_768076.html
[8] http://images2.americanprogress.org/ThinkProgress/ProposalForTheChamber.pdf
[9] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/28/AR2011022805810.html
[10] http://www.dailydot.com/news/lulzsec-jeremy-hammond-bail-denied-hacker/
[11] http://wiki.echelon2.org/wiki/Endgame_Systems
[12] http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/cyber-weapons-the-new-arms-race-07212011.html
[13] http://www.buzzfeed.com/mhastings/exclusive-fbi-escalates-war-on-anonymous
[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOW7GOrXNZI
[15] https://subscribe.thenation.com/servlet/OrdersGateway?cds_mag_code=NAN&cds_page_id=122425&cds_response_key=I12SART1
[16] http://leaksource.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/doj-issues-subpoena-for-info-on-barrett-browns-project-pm-site/

Peter Ludlow | June 18, 2013

Find this story at 18 June 2013

© 2012 The Nation

Jeremy Hammond Pleads Guilty to Stratfor Hack Cyber-activist faces up to 10 years in federal prison

Jeremy Hammond pleaded guilty today to the infamous Stratfor hack, as well as taking responsibility for eight additional hacks of law enforcement and defense contractor websites in 2011 and 2012. As a condition of the plea, the radical hacker will face a maximum of 10 years in federal prison, and restitution costs of up to $2.5 million. After Hammond entered his plea, his legal team framed his prosecution as part of the government’s larger attempt to control the flow of information and punish those who seek to distribute it to journalists and the public.

“There’s a war going on about corporate spying and access to information,” said defense attorney Sarah Kunstler at a press conference immediately following the hearing. “Jeremy is someone who worked toward making information public.”

In a statement posted online after the plea deal, Hammond echoed this point. “I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors,” Hammond wrote. “I did what I believe is right.”

The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State

Hammond entered his plea – admitting to one count of conspiracy to engage in computer hacking – in a federal courtroom in lower Manhattan, surrounded by observers and supporters. One of those in attendance was his twin brother, Jason, who had just flown in from Chicago. When Hammond initially addressed the judge, he raised his right hand to be sworn in, and clenched his fist in a symbol of defiance.

The hack Hammond pleaded guilty to involved accessing information from the servers of Stratfor, a private intelligence company, and providing it to Wikileaks, who then published some of the information. Hammond was charged under the controversial 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the same law used to charge the late Aaron Swartz and other cyber-activists. “Included among the leaked internal documents were millions of emails that exposed Stratfor’s wide-ranging spying activities, including surveillance of Bhopal activists at the behest of Dow Chemical, of PETA on behalf of Coca-Cola, and of Occupy Wall Street under contract to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” supporters said in a statement.

Beyond Stratfor, Hammond took responsibility for eight other hacks, all of which involved either law enforcement, intelligence firms or defense contractor websites. From June 2011 to February 2012, Hammond obtained unauthorized information from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the FBI virtual academy, a marketing firm that builds websites for law enforcement called Brooks Jeffreys, Special Forces Gear, Vanguard Defense Industries, the Jefferson County sheriffs department, the Boston Police Patrolman’s Institute and a Pennsylvania firm called Combined Systems that makes tear gas. Hammond was granted immunity from federal prosecution for any of those hacks in exchange for taking responsibility for them. Kunstler said he could potentially face charges at the state level, though she said there may be some double jeopardy protection.

The New Political Prisoners: Leakers, Hackers and Whistleblowers

Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center For Constitutional Rights and lawyer for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, said that journalists should stand up for Hammond. “He should be looked at as a source, as a whistle-blower,” Ratner said after the plea deal. “He, like other whistle-blowers in this country, ought to be protected, because they’re the only thing that let us know what our government and our private security companies are doing and they’re the only things that can keep this government even close to honest.”

Earlier in the case, Hammond’s legal team made a motion for Judge Loretta Preska to recuse herself because her husband was a victim of the Stratfor leak. That motion was denied. (Full disclosure: This reporter previously spoke at a rally that called for Preska to recuse herself.)

Other hackers in the Anonymous-affiliated group called Lulzsec who were charged in similar leaks – but were tried in the U.K. – have received much lighter sentences, from 20 to 32 months. Jason Hammond has asked supporters to sign a Change.org petition on his brother’s behalf calling for Judge Preska to sentence Hammond to time served. Jeremy Hammond’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 6th.

by John Knefel
MAY 28, 2013

Find this story at 28 May 2013

©2013 Rolling Stone

The Global Intelligence Files

LONDON—Today, Monday 27 February, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files – more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example :

“[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control… This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase” – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.

The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.

Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees : “We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either.”

Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to “utilise the intelligence” it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS : “What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like”. The emails show that in 2011 Goldman Sach’s Morenz invested “substantially” more than $4million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. Throughout 2011, a complex offshore share structure extending as far as South Africa was erected, designed to make StratCap appear to be legally independent. But, confidentially, Friedman told StratFor staff : “Do not think of StratCap as an outside organisation. It will be integral… It will be useful to you if, for the sake of convenience, you think of it as another aspect of Stratfor and Shea as another executive in Stratfor… we are already working on mock portfolios and trades”. StratCap is due to launch in 2012.

The Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff. It is preparing the 3-year Forecast for the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and it trains US marines and “other government intelligence agencies” in “becoming government Stratfors”. Stratfor’s Vice-President for Intelligence, Fred Burton, was formerly a special agent with the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and was their Deputy Chief of the counterterrorism division. Despite the governmental ties, Stratfor and similar companies operate in complete secrecy with no political oversight or accountability. Stratfor claims that it operates “without ideology, agenda or national bias”, yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.

Ironically, considering the present circumstances, Stratfor was trying to get into what it called the leak-focused “gravy train” that sprung up after WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan disclosures :

“[Is it] possible for us to get some of that ’leak-focused’ gravy train ? This is an obvious fear sale, so that’s a good thing. And we have something to offer that the IT security companies don’t, mainly our focus on counter-intelligence and surveillance that Fred and Stick know better than anyone on the planet… Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of ´leak-focused’ network security that focuses on preventing one’s own employees from leaking sensitive information… In fact, I’m not so sure this is an IT problem that requires an IT solution.”

Like WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables, much of the significance of the emails will be revealed over the coming weeks, as our coalition and the public search through them and discover connections. Readers will find that whereas large numbers of Stratfor’s subscribers and clients work in the US military and intelligence agencies, Stratfor gave a complimentary membership to the controversial Pakistan general Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who, according to US diplomatic cables, planned an IED attack on international forces in Afghanistan in 2006. Readers will discover Stratfor’s internal email classification system that codes correspondence according to categories such as ’alpha’, ’tactical’ and ’secure’. The correspondence also contains code names for people of particular interest such as ’Hizzies’ (members of Hezbollah), or ’Adogg’ (Mahmoud Ahmedinejad).

Stratfor did secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists – from Reuters to the Kiev Post. The list of Stratfor’s “Confederation Partners”, whom Stratfor internally referred to as its “Confed Fuck House” are included in the release. While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organisations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation that services governments and private clients these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.

WikiLeaks has also obtained Stratfor’s list of informants and, in many cases, records of its payoffs, including $1,200 a month paid to the informant “Geronimo” , handled by Stratfor’s Former State Department agent Fred Burton.

WikiLeaks has built an investigative partnership with more than 25 media organisations and activists to inform the public about this huge body of documents. The organisations were provided access to a sophisticated investigative database developed by WikiLeaks and together with WikiLeaks are conducting journalistic evaluations of these emails. Important revelations discovered using this system will appear in the media in the coming weeks, together with the gradual release of the source documents.

END

Public partners in the investigation
Comment
Current WikiLeaks status
How to read the data
Public partners in the investigation:

More than 25 media partners (others will be disclosed after their first publication) :

Al Akhbar – Lebanon – http://english.al-akhbar.com
Al Masry Al Youm – Egypt – http://www.almasry-alyoum.com
Bivol – Bulgaria – http://bivol.bg
CIPER – Chile – http://ciperchile.cl
Dawn Media – Pakistan – http://www.dawn.com
L’Espresso – Italy – http://espresso.repubblica.it
La Repubblica – Italy – http://www.repubblica.it
La Jornada – Mexico – www.jornada.unam.mx/
La Nacion – Costa Rica – http://www.nacion.com
Malaysia Today – Malaysia – www.malaysia-today.net
McClatchy – United States – http://www.mcclatchydc.com
Nawaat – Tunisia – http://nawaat.org
NDR/ARD – Germany – http://www.ndr.de
Owni – France – http://owni.fr
Pagina 12 – Argentina – www.pagina12.com.ar
Plaza Publica – Guatemala – http://plazapublica.com.gt
Publico.es – Spain – www.publico.es
Rolling Stone – United States – http://www.rollingstone.com
Russian Reporter – Russia – http://rusrep.ru
Sunday Star-Times – New Zealand – www.star-times.co.nz
Ta Nea – Greece –- http://www.tanea.gr
Taraf – Turkey – http://www.taraf.com.tr
The Hindu – India – www.thehindu.com
The Yes Men – Bhopal Activists – Global http://theyesmen.org
Comment:

WikiLeaks – Kristinn Hrafnsson, Official WikiLeaks representative, +35 4821 7121

Other comment :
Bhopal Medical Appeal (in UK) – Colin Toogood : colintoogood@bhopal.org / +44 (0) 1273 603278/ +44 (0) 7798 845074
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (in India) – Rachna Dhingra : rachnya@gmail.com, +91 98 261 67369
Yes Men – mike@theyesmen.org / +44 (0) 7578 682321 – andy@theyesmen.org, +1-718-208-0684
Privacy International – +44 (0) 20 7242 2836

Twitter tag : #gifiles
CURRENT WIKILEAKS STATUS:

An extrajudicial blockade imposed by VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America, and Western Union that is designed to destroy WikiLeaks has been in place since December 2010. The EU Commission is considering whether it will open a formal investigation, but two lawsuits have been filed (http://wikileaks.org/Banking-Blocka…). There are also other ways to donate (https://shop.wikileaks.org/donate). It is legal to donate, including in the United States. The US Treasury has publicly stated that that there are no grounds to place WikiLeaks on a US government blacklist.

WikiLeaks Founder and Publisher Julian Assange has not been charged with any crime in any country. Four prosecutors are currently trying to charge him under the Espionage Act of 1917 before a closed Grand Jury in Virginia, in the United States. Julian Assange has been detained for 447 days (10,728 hours) since Dec 7, 2010, without charge, and he is currently awaiting a decision from the UK Supreme Court on extradition to Sweden (http://www.justiceforassange.com/Su…). The decision is expected in March. The decision on whether he will be onwardly extradited to the US lies in the hands of the Swedish Executive, but Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has refused to state whether he will protect Assange from a politically motivated extradition to the United States (http://justice4assange.com/US-Extra… ).

The Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has repeatedly attacked WikiLeaks this week in a bizarre manner (http://ferrada-noli.blogspot.com/20… ).

An alleged WikiLeaks US military source, Bradley Manning, has been in pre-trial detention for 639 days (http://bradleymanning.org/ ). His arraignment took place on 24 February 2012. In December 2011, Manning’s attorney revealed in the preliminary hearing that the US government is attempting to enter a plea deal with Manning in order to “go after” Assange. Manning has 22 charges against him, including violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and aiding the enemy. Manning has deferred entering a plea. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are legally represented in the Manning hearings by the US Centre for Constitutional Rights (http://ccrjustice.org/ ). WikiLeaks was denied full access to Manning’s hearing after appeal (http://ccrjustice.org/newsroom/pres… ). WikiLeaks put out a statement relating to Manning’s trial ahead of the Article 32 Hearing : (http://www.wikileaks.org/Statement-… ).

The alleged WikiLeaks-supporting hacktivists known as the “PayPal 14” were arrested in 2011 following co-ordinated online demonstrations against the financial services companies that are carrying out the unlawful financial blockade on WikiLeaks (VISA, MasterCard, Paypal, Western Union, Bank of America). They are represented by attorney Stanley Cohen and will go before court in May 2012 (http://www.cyberguerrilla.org/?p=4644 ).

WikiLeaks is about to launch a distributed, encrypted “Facebook for revolutionaries” (https://wlfriends.org/ ).

Julian Assange is currently directing interviews, from house arrest, for a programme on the future of the world that is syndicated to various broadcasters. The first show will be broadcast in March (http://www.wikileaks.org/New-Assang… )
HOW TO READ THE DATA

This is a glossary and information on how to understand the internal terms and codes used by Stratfor in their emails. It is not a complete list. We call on the public to add to this list by tweeting #gifind

To see a list of the terms George Friedman considers useful for his staff to know please download this PDF : The Stratfor Glossary of Useful, Baffling and Strange Intelligence Terms.

OPEN SOURCE VS. “COVERT”

As you browse through the content, you will notice that a large set of it is what is classified as “open source” (subject lines which include [OS]). These are basically email threads that start with someone posting a published and accessible source, such as news sites, and follow with commentary by the staff. In one of the emails, Joseph Nye is referenced saying :

“Open source intelligence is the outer pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, without which one can neither begin nor complete the puzzle”

CODES IN SUBJECT LINES

Many of the emails have codes in the subject lines as well as in the body, to make it easier for the staff to “quickly identify when we need to go back and have a look-see.” [*] :

Examples : INSIGHT – COUNTRY – Subject – SOURCE CODE INSIGHT – CHINA – Trains and planes – CN1000

Please refer to the glossary for the code names of subject and country tags, as well as mailing list names.

SOURCE CODES

A lot of interesting stuff comes from “sources”. Sources are either informal contacts or people they have a formal relationship with. The IDs for sources have the format of CN120 or ME001. In terms of the character part, it refers to a region or a country :

A) Regions ME – Middle East region EU – European Union EE – Eastern Europe LA- South America SA- South Asia

B) Countries or Orgs CN – China PK – Pakistan IN- India ML – Malaysia VN – Vietnam NP- Nepal

US – United States VZ – Venezuela CO- Colombia BR-Brazil NC- Nicaragua MX- Mexico CL/CH- Chile AR- Argentina PY- Paraguay BOL- Bolivia

RU – Russia UA – Ukraine GE – Georgia TJ – Tajikstan MD – Moldova BG -Bulgaria CR/CZ- Czech Republic PT- Portugal

ZA – South Africa AO – Angola SO – Somalia NG- Nigeria CD- DR Congo CI- Cote D’Ivoire ZW- Zimbabwe ZM- Zambia RW- Rwanda KE- Kenya ET- Ethiopia SD -Sudan MA- Morocco SN- Senegal GN- Guinea SL- Sierra Leone

IR – Iran IQ- Iraq IL or IS- Israel SA- Saudi Arabia SY- Syria KU- Kuwait Y or YN – Yemen HZ – Hizbollah TK – Turkey LN- Lebanon LY- Libya UAE- UAE EG- Egypt (etc.)

C) Odd codes OCH – Old China hand, a finance insider. Stick – Scott Stewart, high level employee Z’s – Zetas, Mexican drug gang

INSIGHTS FORMAT

When “insights” are sent, they usually have the following header information :

SOURCE : The ID of the source, say CN123. Sometimes this is left “no source ID” when it’s a new source.

ATTRIBUTION : How the source is to be attributed, i.e. “Source in the pharma distribution industry in China”, Stratfor source, etc.

SOURCE DESCRIPTION : Describes the source, for example : “Source works with Mercator Pharmaceutical Solutions, distributing pharma to developing countries.” These include concrete details on the source for internal consumption so that there’s a better understanding on the source’s background and ability to make assessments on the ground.

PUBLICATION : Yes or No. If the option is yes it doesn’t mean that it would be published, but rather that it _can_ be published.

SOURCE RELIABILITY : A/B

SOURCE RELIABILITY : A-F, A being the best and F being the worst. This grades the turnaround time of this source in responding to requests.

ITEM CREDIBILITY : 1-10, 1 being the best and 10 being the worst (we may change the range here in the future). this changes a lot based on the info provided. 1 is “you can take this to the bank” and 10 would be an example of maybe – “this is a totally ridiculous rumor but something that is spreading on the ground”

SPECIAL HANDLING : often this is “none” but it may be something like, “if you use this we need to be sure not to mention the part about XXX in the publication” or any other special notes

SOURCE HANDLER : the person who can take follow-up questions and communicate with the source.

MAILING LISTS

alpha@stratfor.com Discussions circulated exclusively among analysts, writers and higher-ups, including ’insights’ and discussions about sources and source meetings. secure@stratfor.com Discussions circulated exclusively among analysts and higher-ups, and only for use within continental US (analysts traveling ’overseas’ are removed from the list for the duration of their journey). analysts@stratfor.com – Discussion among analysts only, who manage sources, gather and analyze intelligence. ct@stratfor.com Ongoing discussions to collect and analyze counterterrorism intelligence, circulated among select group of analysts. tactical@statfor.com Non-time sensitive discussions for internal training on technical and tactical matters within field of counterterrorism. intelligence@stratfor.com gvalerts@stratfor.com – Related to Gas ventures clients military@stratfor.com Military list for pre-approved staff africa@stratfor.com eastasia@stratfor.com mesa@stratfor.com Middle East/South Asia list for pre-approved staff. eurasia@stratfor.com os@stratfor.com List with information from the public domain circulated and discussed among all employees. adp@stratfor.com List for ADPs. See Glossary. translations@stratfor.com alerts@stratfor.com responses@stratfor.com dialog-list@stratfor.com

GLOSSARY

a) Industry and other misc. tags :

HUMINT – Human intelligence OSINT- Open source intelligence DATA FLU BIRDFLU ECON TECH ENERGY MINING GV – Gas Venture CT – Counterterrorism G1-G4 B2-B4 S1-S4 MILITARY or MIL PENTAGON AQ- Al Qaeda AQAP – Al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula SF- Special Forces CONUS- Continental US

b) Special internal codewords :

Hizzies or HZ – Hizbollah Izzies or IZ – Israel A-dogg – Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, Iranian President Baby bashar – Bashar Al-Assad, Syrian President Uncle Mo – Moammar Gaddhafi ADP- Analyst Development Program. Four-month program at STRATFOR from which candidates— mostly recent college graduates— are selected for hire. Strictly protect and protect – Often mentioned in the ’subject’, means that the source is protected. Played- A term used for procuring sensitive information from sources. E.g. from one of the secure list messages circulating the ’complete scenario for the Israeli team in Centcom’s war game,’ the analyst who procured the data wrote : “I played the head of the Mossad which was great fun.” Excomm- Appears to be ’executive committee’ of STRATFOR.

c) Regions and Orgs

AFRICOM – African countries LATAM – Latin American MERCOSUR NATFA ASEAN APEC FSU – Former Soviet Union countries MESA or MIDDLEEAST – Middle East EASTASIA OPEC EURASIA SA – South Asia FSB- Federal Security Service (Russia)

ATTACHED DOCUMENTS

Attached documents can be searched by Filename or part of the file name. Preliminary searches for filenames using the terms ’lists’, ’source lists’ or ’insight lists’, coupled with the names of source handlers (e.g. Reva for Turkey, Brazil or Venezuela) produced Excel lists of the source names, contact info and source descriptions which correspond to the source codes (e.g. ME1315).

Sourcing Criteria

The following are the proposed criteria for analyzing both sources and insight.

1. Source Timeliness 2. Source Accessibility/Position 3. Source Availability 4. Insight Credibility 5. Insight Uniqueness

Source Timeliness : This is the average grade on how long this particular source turns around tasks and replies to inquiries. It may change but is more of a static indicator.

Source Accessibility : Accessibility weighs the source’s position to have certain knowledge in a particular field. So, for example, if we are looking for energy insight and the source is an official in an energy agency, his or her Accessibility would be ranked higher than if s/he was a banker giving insight on energy. While we would welcome a banker giving his/her insight, a good source may not have a high accessibility ranking if they aren’t in a position to offer reliable insight on a certain topic. The source’s access to decision makers, specific training or education in the desired topic area, specific knowledge of events/situations/incidents can also be considered.

Source Availability : How often can we go to this source ? Are they someone we can tap daily, weekly, monthly, yearly ?

Insight Credibility : This is our assessment of the veracity of the insight offered. Here we need to consider whether or not this is disinformation, speculation, correct data or knowledgeable interpretation. Any bias that the source is displaying or any specific viewpoints or personal background the source is using in the assessment provided should also be considered.

Insight Uniqueness : Is this insight something that could be found in OS ? If it is but the analysis of the information is unique, it would still have a high uniqueness ranking. Or, if it is concrete data, but is something that is only offered to industry insiders, i.e. stats that aren’t published but that aren’t secret, it would still have a high uniqueness score.

Scoring

All of the above factors will be scored on an A-F scale, with A being exemplary and F being useless.

Source Timeliness : A = turnaround within 24 hours B = turnaround within 48 hours C = turnaround within a week D = turnaround within a month F = lucky to receive a reply at all

Source Accessibility : A = Someone with intimate knowledge of the particular insight B = Someone within the industry but whose knowledge of the topic is not exact (e.g. if we were asking someone in the oil industry about natural gas) C = Someone working close to the industry who doesn’t have intimate knowledge of a particular topic but can speak to it intelligently (e.g. a financial consultant asked to gauge the movement of the stock market) D = Someone who may know a country but doesn’t have any concrete insight into a particular topic but can offer rumors and discussions heard on the topic F = Someone who has no knowledge of a particular industry at all

Source Availability : A = Available pretty much whenever B = Can tap around once a week C = Can tap about once a month D = Can tap only several times a year F = Very limited availability

Insight Credibility : A = We can take this information to the bank B = Good insight but maybe not entirely precise C = Insight is only partially true D = There may be some interest in the insight, but it is mostly false or just pure speculation. F = Likely to be disinformation

Insight Uniqueness : A = Can’t be found anywhere else B = Can only be found in limited circles C = Insight can be found in OS, but the source has an interesting take/analysis D = Insight can be found in OS, but still may not be common knowledge F = Insight is accessible in numerous locations

Daily Insight Scoring

SOURCE : code ATTRIBUTION : this is what we should say if we use this info in a publication, e.g. STRATFOR source/source in the medical industry/source on the ground, etc SOURCE DESCRIPTION : this is where we put the more concrete details of the source for our internal consumption so we can better understand the source’s background and ability to make the assessments in the insight. PUBLICATION : Yes or no. If you put yes it doesn’t mean that we will publish it, but only that we can publish it. SOURCE RELIABILITY : A-F. A being the best and F being the worst. This grades the source overall – access to information, timeliness, availability, etc. In short, how good is this source ? ITEM CREDIBILITY : A-F. A = we can take this info to the bank ; B = Good insight but maybe not entirely precise ; C = Insight is only partially true ; D = There may be some interest in the insight, but it is mostly false or just pure speculation ; F = Likely to be disinformation. SPECIAL HANDLING : often this is “none” but it may be something like, “if you use this we need to be sure not to mention the part about XXX in thepublication” or any other special notes SOURCE HANDLER : the person who can take follow-up questions and communicate with the source.

Find this story at 27 February 2012