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The Media Crime Government United States Your Rights Online

FBI Paid Informant Inside WikiLeaks 458

Posted by timothy
from the anything-to-keep-the-nsa-off-your-mind dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Wired: "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 Reykjavik, 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."
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FBI Paid Informant Inside WikiLeaks

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  • Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NemosomeN (670035) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:00PM (#44138767) Journal
    $5,000? Seems like quite a bit of work and risk for just $5,000.
  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:08PM (#44138813) Journal
    Why shouldn't someone part of WikiLeaks, a secret leaking site, leak WikiLeaks' secrets? Surely you can't be surprised by this.
  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:15PM (#44138881) Journal

    $5000 might be reasonable for a bit of work copying some data to some disks, but it is not nearly enough to cover being known as an evil traitor everyone in the world. His reputation is now destroyed and is essentially unemployable in any company or organization that cares about its own image.
     

  • Re:Cheap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ark1 (873448) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:27PM (#44138957)
    Before he got recruited, he was a long time volunteer of Wikileaks which means he was probably in trouble with the law. I think he was fortunate to get any money at all from this deal as he had not much leverage. Risk going to jail with nothing or cut a deal for some pocket change and a jail free card - he made the smart move.
  • Re:Cheap (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NemosomeN (670035) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:34PM (#44138997) Journal
    Loss of reputation. Also, he probably violated laws in the process. Lastly, there's a risk he screws up enough that the US Gov't not only disavows any association with him, but also prosecutes him to prove even more that he's not a co-conspirator.
  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Motard (1553251) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:38PM (#44139015)

    And we're supposed to be afraid of the NSA.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:47PM (#44139045)

    His reputation is now destroyed and is essentially unemployable in any company or organization that cares about its own image.

    So that rules out maybe two, even three potential employers.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:54PM (#44139075) Journal

    $5,000? Seems like quite a bit of work and risk for just $5,000.

    What risk? Are you confusing Julian Assange for Vladamir Putin, now?

  • Re:Cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Motard (1553251) on Friday June 28, 2013 @09:23PM (#44139255)

    An excellent use of confirmation bias. My hat is off to you sir.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fredprado (2569351) on Friday June 28, 2013 @09:30PM (#44139299)
    If they'd be fucking dead that would make it VERY stupid to do it, not courageous.

    But in the end these are only your fantasies about Russia and China. Both countries are completely content in just claim whatever they want no matter what evidence exists against it. US is the only country in the world that goes postal when its "good" image is threatened, because, unlike in these two other countries, US government control over its citizens is based on propaganda alone.
  • Re:Cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bonehead (6382) on Friday June 28, 2013 @09:31PM (#44139307)

    Depending on your lifestyle, a "get out of jail free card" can be worth more than any amount of cash.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Friday June 28, 2013 @09:36PM (#44139329)

    Reputation for what? Isn't wikileaks supposed to be about opening all secrets? What secrets is wikileaks hiding that he traitorously revealed?

    Just FWIW: I'm against this whole NSA thing and support Snowden, so I'm neither pro-spying nor pro big-brother. But, wikileaks has built its reputation upon lying about stuff. It's first claim to fame was the collateral murder video where it tried to paint some US soldiers as murderers when indeed the people they killed were in fact armed combatants. I have zero tolerance for lies on these matters no matter who does it, and therefore think wikileaks deserves whatever the hell they get. I also think it is far more of a stretch to believe that Sweden wants Assange so that they can turn him over to the US - the UK is far more likely to turn them over than he is, because they're far more in bed with the US government. Assange is nothing but an attention whore, and I'm sick of hearing his sob story. From what I gather, a lot of people in wikileaks left for the exact reasons I just described.

    If you need an underdog to support, support Snowden. He's a patriot, and so is the guy who "betrayed" wikileaks.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flimflammer (956759) on Friday June 28, 2013 @09:57PM (#44139443)

    "Betray entire nations?" Really?

    I guess if you define a nation as its government and not its people.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:00PM (#44139461)

    I think you significantly overstate the support for Assange and his activities.

    That you unquestioningly believe the "polls" and other propaganda which
    has been disseminated to confuse the masses speaks volumes about
    your intellect. In case you are confused by what I just wrote, which is
    likely given that you are an idiot, I will say it in plain English :

    You are a naive and easily led fool, and your opinion means less than
    nothing among intelligent people who are capable of doing independent
    critical thinking.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zedrdave (1978512) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:10PM (#44139515)
    > I think you significantly overstate the support for Assange and his activities. Living in a bubble with do that to you
    > [...]
    > Poll: Americans say WikiLeaks harmed public interest; most want Assange arrested

    I think you significantly overstate the extent to which the rest of the world is part of the United States of America.

    Assange is far from universally loved outside of the US, but I would say his side enjoys considerably greater support than the side of US' spying on everybody else's communications at their fancy. Something that they make absolutely no secret of, since it is indeed in no way against US laws.
  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:14PM (#44139527)

    Can anyone who understands the US TLA agencies explain why the FBI was doing this, rather than the CIA?

    My guess is that the FBI was trying to catch American citizens in the act of whistleblowing, so that they can make an arrest. America is not kind to people that expose corruption. Although we have "whistleblower protection programs", they have so many exceptions that they are a sham. Whether they go to the press, the police, or directly to the FBI, many whistleblowers end up in serious legal trouble and often spend time in jail. Citation: List of whistleblowers [wikipedia.org].

  • Re: Cheap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John Howell (2861885) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:41PM (#44139671)
    And of course, the us paid an informant to break the laws of another country to gather information without a warrant, or due process. Infant, wouldn't that make the informants actions industrial espionage? That might be illegal in some countries.
  • Re:Cheap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:47PM (#44139701)

    Fair enough, but you need to clarify. Are you referring to Manning, Snowden, or this guy?

  • by Rougement (975188) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:48PM (#44139709)
    Older people tend to remember the struggles needed to gain freedom.
  • Re:Cheap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by YukariHirai (2674609) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:54PM (#44139763)
    The US is one thing, but did he do things of any benefit to anyone else? The US isn't the only place that matters.
  • "Ego trip" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:57PM (#44139777) Homepage Journal

    I want to point something out. I noticed it earlier tonight over at another tech-related site, and then at several other sites.

    Whenever there is a story about Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, you can practically set your watch by a host of comments, usually from Anonymous Cowards, talking about Assange and Snowden's "big egos" and their arrogance and their many other personal failings. In many cases, these comments will come one after the other, uninterrupted, with the same message worded slightly differently, but always mentioning their "ego" and what jerks they are and in many cases wishing bodily harm, prison rape or death on one or both of the men.

    None of the comments ever mentions the most important part of the story, that we have powerful countries, purportedly "free" countries, that have secret courts ordering secret surveillance by secret agencies (both government and private industry) because they supposedly are suspected of breaking secret laws, and who, if caught, will be held at secret prisons. Nor do they mention that the citizens of this country, though not accused or suspected of any crimes, are having each of their phone conversations registered by a secret program, looking for secret data, held in secret databases, under warrants that if they exist at all, are secret. The kind of fascistic public/private police state operations that would have made the East German secret police green with envy.

    No mention in these many comments referencing these "egotistical jerks" about the totalitarian surveillance state they have uncovered. No mention of the crimes and beyond-sleazy behavior they have exposed for us to see, at the expense of their own ruined lives.

    It's almost as if someone really, really wants this discussion to be about a couple of jerks instead of the massive transformation of our societies into police states, something that will effect and has effected each of our lives and behavior. The kind of transformation that once complete, is very very hard to roll back. It's almost as if someone doesn't want a discussion about how we all suddenly became suspects of our own governments and how that changes everything.

    Fuck Julian Assange and fuck Edward Snowden, but their transgressions and personal defects are nothing compared to the ugly, hungry monster revealed by them.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:24PM (#44139907) Journal

    how did I, as an american, benefit from assange's actions against my country?

    You don't think it benefits our country for the people to know when our government commits crimes?

    -jcr

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:26PM (#44139917) Homepage
    I would say he woke up a bunch of people. like him or hate him, he got a lot of people talking about what the government is doing right now. Id say thats more than what anyone else has done lately.
  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @12:06AM (#44140095) Homepage Journal

    The poll [washingtonpost.com] asks two questions:

    On another subject, from what you've heard and read, do you think the release of classified documents about the State Department and U.S. diplomacy by WikiLeaks serves the public interest or harms the public interest?

    Do you think the United States should try to arrest the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange (Ah-SANGH), and charge him with a crime for releasing these documents, or do you think this is not a criminal matter?

    Not blatantly misleading, but there is the distinct odor of bias in these questions, especially when asked one after the other.

    The first question didn't directly ask what people thought, it asked them to conclude based on what the media presents. This is very different from an opinion poll. (From what *I've* heard and read, he is a criminal, but when I add experience, logic, and ethics I conclude that he is a hero.)

    Then they present the second question in a leading manner by highlighting criminality several ways. "Arrest-Charge-Crime-or-Not-Crime - what do you think?" (A recent poll asked people if "Ben Ghazi" should be deported for his crimes, and many people said "yes, definitely!". It's easy to lead people into the position you want by framing it in the right way.)

    Biasing the 1st question the other way might be something like:

    Do you believe releasing the documents will make our country stronger?

    An unbiased way to do the 2nd question might be something like:

    Do you believe Julian Assange is a hero or a criminal?

    I agree with the 1st reply-poster above: WaPo is a rag, and these polls hold little merit.

  • Re:"Ego trip" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2013 @12:10AM (#44140115)

    I think people underestimate the number of right wing nutjobs in America. Cowards? Yes. I wouldn't consider posting as AC being cowardly in and of itself. Viewing political beliefs contrary to the powers that be demand it as evidence has shown. On the other hand these type of comments are from cowards. They're siding with the government despite the evidence. These people have nothing to fear.

  • Re:"Ego trip" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by copponex (13876) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:16AM (#44140347) Homepage

    Tell me about the 'secret laws'

    You don't fucking get it, do you? How can he tell you about a secret law? The ACLU and other organizations continue to ask the government that very same question, but the government refuses. [aclu.org]

    The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a motion today with the secret court that oversees government surveillance in national security cases, requesting that it publish its opinions on the meaning, scope, and constitutionality of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That section, which authorizes the government to obtain "any tangible thing" relevant to foreign-intelligence or terrorism investigations, was the legal basis for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order revealed last week by The Guardian requiring Verizon to turn over months' worth of phone-call data.

    "The ultimate check on governmental overreach is the American public," said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "For years, the government has secretly relied on sweeping interpretations of its surveillance powers, preventing the very debate it has now belatedly invited on the wisdom and legality of those powers."

    In addition to the initial rulings by the court on Section 215, the motion filed today also asks whether earlier opinions have been revisited in light of more recent rulings by other courts, such as the Supreme Court's 2012 decision in the GPS tracking case U.S. v. Jones. Another answer sought by the motion is whether the FISA Court has considered the constitutionality of the "gag order" that bars companies from revealing that they have been ordered to turn over information under Section 215. (In 2008, a federal appeals court agreed with the ACLU that an analogous gag order provision relating to "national security letters" was unconstitutional.)

    "In a democracy, there should be no room for secret law," said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. "The public has a right to know what limits apply to the government's surveillance authority, and what safeguards are in place to protect individual privacy."

    Also, don't wonder why the world tells you to go fuck yourself when you ask for Snowden. If you weren't murdering teenagers with completely illegal and immoral drone strike programs after killing a few hundred thousand civilians in multiple wars of aggression, maybe everyone wouldn't burst out in laughter every time you uttered the phrase "rule of law."

  • Re:"Ego trip" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Galactic Dominator (944134) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:35AM (#44140391)

    Certain people use the term Libertarian to mean "I'm a Republican, but I smoke pot and it should be legalized". For others, it means "I'm really an anarchist but feel uncomfortable with word". Pretty much anyone I've ever met who has used the term to describe themselves does so in an evasive way. It's mostly just a wishy washy nudge nudge way of saying "Hey look, I'm different". The problem with such labels(and agnostic is other of this ilk) is that when a label can mean anything, it means nothing. Just white noise.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @03:53AM (#44140687)

    I'm going to tell you a story.

    I used to troll a blog. It was a political blog, but the faction doesn't matter, and it was run by a person I shall just call 'AHole.' AHole was a recurring opponent of someone running another blog, I think with a focus on native americal issues, who I shall just call 'Victim.' He ran this blog at, to make up a name as I forget the real one, nativemediablog.blogspot.com. It was certainly a blogspot - this was all some years ago.

    AHole was very aggressive in politics - he was one of those people who believed he was a True Patriot, and all those who disagreed were treasonous scum, and it was his civic duty to fight these people wherever possible. Not that this is limited to politics - I've seen people get just as rabid about sports teams, or defending a celebrity they admire. But in this case, it was politics. And, this being the internet, his arguments with Victim tended to follow the usual internet lines - a lot of accusations going both ways, and usually ending with someone being compared to Hitler.

    One day, AHole took it to a new level. Seeing nativemediablog.blogspot.com, he created nativemediablog.com - purchased the domain. He this proceded to set up a website, under the handle used by Victim, mimicking his style, on which he wrote many posts promoting the abolishion of age of concent laws and promoting sex with children as psychologically beneficial. When Victim objected, AHole argued that he paid money for that domain and that gave him the right to post whatever he wanted there. As far as AHole was concerned, Victim was a piece of sub-human liberal scum, a threat to the survival of the country, and must be destroyed by any means.

    At this point I, along with everyone else who had been arguing on AHole's blog, fled - afraid of being the victim of his next smear campaign. Fortunately, Victim had never used his real name. But imagine he had - what would have stopped AHole from setting up fake social networking profiles or posting comments under that name? Victim would have become unemployable: Every time an employer googled him (And they all do, even if they don't admit it) they would have found him to be a proud and active proponent of pedophilia. The only way to stop it would be to hire a lawyer and spend a sizeable chunk of his live savings on legal fees to identify and sue AHole, a process that could take years. AHole could have taken it even further, perhaps by printing notices on false government stationary and sending them to all of Victim's neighbours to warn them he was a convicted sex offender.

    The internet is full of some very vicious people. This is why you should never, ever reveal your real name. In the case of AHole it was politics that set him off, but you never know when you are going to upset an AHole somewhere, somehow. These people exist. So be afraid of them.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saihung (19097) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @04:20AM (#44140749)

    Yeah, if you're some Iraqi kid that the Americans shot from a helicopter for no particular reason? HA HA SCREW YOU BUDDY. If you're some German used car salesman who got sent to Syria to be tortured for 10 months by the Americans for no particular reason? OH WELL I'M NOT FEELING IT.

    Except oh, wait. There were American journalists in that group of people who got shot, too. And oh, wait, when someone discloses the fact that the American government was lying through its teeth, not for "national security" but to hide its own wrongdoing? Then as far as I'm concerned that person has done us all a favor. The government should not be able to hide behind "national security" to protect itself from embarrassment or hide its own law breaking. And it matters when our government carelessly destroys someone's life, because that shit is going to come back to bite us one day. This is why people hate us; we stomp all over everything like an elephant, not even paying attention, and then say loudly, "WHY DOES EVERYONE HATE US?" This is why you callous jackass.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @06:05AM (#44141003) Homepage Journal

    The parent shows you the effects of a careful propaganda campaign to divide the voters.

    The propaganda machine counts pensioners together with welfare recipients to "prove" that government is keeping everyone dependent. That's Romney's "47%": anyone who pays into the system and expects to get anything back out is a "taker".

    Two mainstream Presidential candidates tried to make food stamps a racial issue and claimed that all the children, disabled people, and Wal-Mart workers who receive them are lazy deadbeats.

    If you can keep half the victims resenting the other half, you are well prepared to implement Jay Gould's solution: 'I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half".

    >I could be in a better financial position if I quit my job, declared bakruptcy, and took the handouts.

    See the victory of the propaganda? They've got somebody believing this even though he has an Internet connection and could find out the truth within minutes.

  • Re:"Ego trip" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @09:12AM (#44141579) Homepage Journal

    Most of us are quite moderate

    I used to think that, but I think a steady diet of the polarizing political media has really put most people in one camp or the other. It's really not that hard to radicalize someone, especially when there is economic pressure.

    I think it's pretty clear that the elites do not want anything like a political consensus among the working class, because they're afraid it will end up looking like the liberal New Deal that was so successful for the U.S.

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flyneye (84093) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @09:24AM (#44141659) Homepage

    He really benefits me. Did you ever read any leaks? Not just the famous government ones. Corporate ones. Know who is screwing you, cheating you, having a boost at your expense. Do you pay taxes? Buy goods? Actually read? Capable of processing what you read? I'm guessing not, it looks like you just get your information ,5th hand ,from the government extorted media. Too bad you can't just delete your post...

  • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BrokenHalo (565198) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @09:32AM (#44141691)

    You don't think it benefits our country for the people to know when our government commits crimes?

    Indeed. The parent (and GP) seem to be under the illusion that Assange is American, whereas in fact, he is Australian. The whole issue arises from the US Government's toxic attitude to other sovereign nations and their citizens. Whatever one might think of his (or Wikileaks') sources, Assange is not a traitor to the US. All he has done is expose some of their dirty dealings to the light of day.

    I can understand why the US Government might not care for that, but they could always try behaving less dishonourably.

  • Re: Cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by murdocj (543661) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @10:00AM (#44141841)

    sure it is. He revealed the secrets of the group whose purpose is... to reveal secrets.

Two can Live as Cheaply as One for Half as Long. -- Howard Kandel

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