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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 @07:00PM (#44138767) Journal
    $5,000? Seems like quite a bit of work and risk for just $5,000.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Cheap doesn't do it justice. Laughable is more like it. I was expecting at least 2 orders of magnitude above that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      What work and risk? What is the risk he is taking?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by NemosomeN (670035)
        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.
        • by Motard (1553251)

          Yes, because the U.S. Government needs to prove that they don't have co-conspirators.

        • by bonehead (6382)

          Loss of reputation.

          How is that even possible for somebody that nobody has ever even heard of in the first place? You can't lose a reputation until you have one.

          • Re:Cheap (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Entropy98 (1340659) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:52PM (#44139411) Homepage

            Loss of reputation.

            How is that even possible for somebody that nobody has ever even heard of in the first place? You can't lose a reputation until you have one.

            Mr. Thordarson, your resume is very impressive. All we have left to do is google your name and you're hired! Hmm.. seems you sold out your last employer to the US Government... Yeah, we'll let you know..

        • by jamstar7 (694492)
          So he probably violated laws in the process. There are enough laws on the books right this minute in the US to put anybody behind bars. Want to stop a whistleblower from outting your illegal actions? Cloak it in 'national security' blankets, that way, any whistleblower is automatically a traitor. You can do the character assassinations all you want once you throw the 'national security' card.
    • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:15PM (#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:5, Funny)

        by sentientbeing (688713) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:18PM (#44138903)
        Off to the NSA with him then
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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:5, Informative)

        by cold fjord (826450) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:57PM (#44139091)

        $5000 ... 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.

        I think you significantly overstate the support for Assange and his activities. Living in a bubble with do that to you [commentarymagazine.com].

        Poll: Americans say WikiLeaks harmed public interest; most want Assange arrested [washingtonpost.com] - December 14, 2010

        The American public is highly critical of the recent release of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks Web site and would support the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by U.S. authorities, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

        Most of those polled - 68 percent - say the WikiLeaks' exposure of government documents about the State Department and U.S. diplomacy harms the public interest. Nearly as many - 59 percent - say the U.S. government should arrest Assange and charge him with a crime for releasing the diplomatic cables.

        World opinion is more favorable, but also split.

        • by rthille (8526)

          I haven't the time to investigate the methodology of the poll, but WaPo is a rag, so I'd take it with a grain of salt...

        • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

          by zedrdave (1978512) on Friday June 28, 2013 @09:10PM (#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:3, Insightful)

            by John Howell (2861885)
            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.
        • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:06PM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by AlphaWolf_HK (692722)

        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 toler

        • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Informative)

          by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday June 28, 2013 @09:02PM (#44139471)

          Isn't wikileaks supposed to be about opening all secrets?

          No, they are not. They believe in transparent government. But they also believe in personal privacy.

          What secrets is wikileaks hiding that he traitorously revealed?

          The identity of people exposing corruption. Some of these people have risked their lives to do so.

          • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Informative)

            by cold fjord (826450) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:47PM (#44140255)

            They believe in transparent government. But they also believe in personal privacy.

            Wikileaks has been a bit "uneven" in its respect for privacy.

            Wikileaks Fails “Due Diligence” Review [fas.org]

            ...calling WikiLeaks a whistleblower site does not accurately reflect the character of the project. It also does not explain why others who are engaged in open government, anti-corruption and whistleblower protection activities are wary of WikiLeaks or disdainful of it. . . .

            WikiLeaks says that it is dedicated to fighting censorship, so a casual observer might assume that it is more or less a conventional liberal enterprise committed to enlightened democratic policies. But on closer inspection that is not quite the case. In fact, WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.

            Last year, for example, WikiLeaks published the “secret ritual” of a college women’s sorority called Alpha Sigma Tau. Now Alpha Sigma Tau (like several other sororities “exposed” by WikiLeaks) is not known to have engaged in any form of misconduct, and WikiLeaks does not allege that it has. Rather, WikiLeaks chose to publish the group’s confidential ritual just because it could. This is not whistleblowing and it is not journalism. It is a kind of information vandalism.

            In fact, WikiLeaks routinely tramples on the privacy of non-governmental, non-corporate groups for no valid public policy reason. It has published private rites of Masons, Mormons and other groups that cultivate confidential relations among their members. Most or all of these groups are defenseless against WikiLeaks’ intrusions. The only weapon they have is public contempt for WikiLeaks’ ruthless violation of their freedom of association, and even that has mostly been swept away in a wave of uncritical and even adulatory reporting about the brave “open government,” “whistleblower” site.

            On occasion, WikiLeaks has engaged in overtly unethical behavior. ... more [fas.org]

      • $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.

        The real question is how did he get outed? I thought the FBI didn't out their informants. You're right, it's dumb to be an informant for precisely the reason you mention. No one wants to be labeled the snitch, it's equal to being blacklisted.

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

      I hadn't heard that Wikileaks operated in the style of the KGB.

      Just Like Old Times: KGB Murders Continue [humanevents.com]

    • They gave him a lifetime supply of Twinkies as well.

      • The next payment of twinkies is next month?
    • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:26PM (#44138951) Journal

      RTFA. He didn't get paid for his work and risk, just for the time he missed from his regular job.

      "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.

      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.

      As to why

      He offered a second reason that he admits is more truthful: "The second reason was the adventure."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ark1 (873448)
      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:4, Insightful)

        by bonehead (6382) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:31PM (#44139307)

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

      • Re:Cheap (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:47PM (#44139385)

        Before he got recruited, he was a long time volunteer of Wikileaks which means he was probably in trouble with the law.

        Not in Iceland where he lived - they lurv wikileaks there.

        Since then he's got himself in trouble with the law in Iceland for stealing computer equipment from a retailer via fraud and for embezzlement by setting up a fraudulent webstore selling wikileaks branded t-shirts.

    • Re:Cheap (Score:4, Informative)

      by asmkm22 (1902712) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:31PM (#44138975)

      Read the article. It wasn't exactly an agreed-upon amount for his services or anything. As far as I can tell, he didn't even bother asking for anything until he got canned from wikileaks over setting up a website to sell wikileaks shirts for his own profit, and even then he just asked the FBI if they could help him out with some cash. Hardly a great position to be asking for compensation for services already rendered...

    • All I can think of is Judas for some reason
      • That is probably a good thing. I am quite certain that Assange isn't Christ.

      • by Motard (1553251)

        Judas did what he did with the full knowledge of Jesus, then committed suicide. Siggi...well, it's not really the same.

    • Re:Cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:54PM (#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, Interesting)

      by niftydude (1745144) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:06PM (#44139145)
      Cheap? Think of all the other news organisations the FBI need to keep informants in, so that no investigative journalism embarrassing to politicians can get done. Even at $5000 a pop, it gets expensive fast.

      On another topic, can anyone who understands the US TLA agencies explain why the FBI was doing this, rather than the CIA? I would have though that using someone from Iceland to investigate an Australian working in Europe would have been considered an international, rather than domestic matter. I'm interested how spending money on an international situation like this falls under the FBI's charter?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bonehead (6382)

        Legally speaking, that's a very, VERY good question. And one that I'm sure will never get answered.

        Dealing with a foreign national, on foreign soil, is quite clearly a CIA matter and not what the FBI is supposed to be doing.

        The are probably a couple dozen US citizens (myself being one) who understand this, and would REALLY like to know what happened to these promises of "oversight" that we've been given, the sad truth is that most are more worried about upgrading their 55" TV to a 65" model, and just plain

        • Re:Cheap (Score:4, Informative)

          by Aighearach (97333) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:17PM (#44140149) Homepage

          You're way off base on numerous points. The FBI is law enforcement regardless of location; the CIA never is. You imagine a US/rest of the world split between the CIA and the FBI, but the reality is, the CIA is doing the intelligence gathering and the FBI is doing the law enforcement. Regardless of location. The specific location split that does exist is that the CIA is restricted in a lot of its activities inside the US; and the FBI is tasked with oversight of the CIA inside the US.

          For somebody grousing about the government, and how different things are, you sure don't know much civics.

      • Re:Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday June 28, 2013 @09:14PM (#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].

    • by jcr (53032)

      What risk? WIkileaks wasn't going to have him killed.

      -jcr

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

      Some men just want to watch the world burn.

    • by metlin (258108)

      30 pieces of silver.

    • by jonfr (888673)

      It is about exchange rate and Icelanders scrambled sense of money.

      Current exchange rate (1 USD = 123.29 ISK) (it is about the same now as it was back then when this took place) makes $5000 at 621900 ISK. In Iceland that is a decent amount of money, since most people only have 180.000 - 350000 ISK a month. For this guy this was maybe worth 1 to 3 month worth of his regular income in Iceland, if he was on unemployment benefits at the time, we are speaking about up to 4 months worth of his regular income.

      I hig

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:08PM (#44138813) Journal
    Why shouldn't someone part of WikiLeaks, a secret leaking site, leak WikiLeaks' secrets? Surely you can't be surprised by this.
  • I mean, it ain't minimum wage but effectively committing treason on your people for the benefit of the corporations isn't really worth that little money.

    • by Motard (1553251)

      Depends on who "your people" are, doesn't it? This simple fact explains much of this situation.

  • who did not see this coming?
    • by Kreplock (1088483) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:50PM (#44139055)
      Assange's narcissism facilitated this - the kid got put to work after the Wikileaks schism, and there surely was not enough manpower to properly vet the new guys. Longest lasting fallout is probably talent that would otherwise have gotten involved now have to wonder whether they are talking to just Wikileaks, or Wikileaks and the FBI/NSA/CIA.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:32PM (#44138979) Homepage
    FBI: what did you learn from infiltrating wikileaks?
    Sigurdur: Its headed by Julian Assange
    FBI: okay...and....
    Sigurdur: and he is on a mission to expose a ton of sensitive information about governments...especially american governments.
    FBI:OKAY. AND...
    Sigurdur: he intends to release any leaks he receives to the public.
    FBI: How much have we paid this asshole already?
  • by skegg (666571) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:33PM (#44138989)

    The FBI had an internal data corruption, and paid this guy $5,000 to help them restore from "off-site back-up"

  • Profit? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    1. Spell Reykjavik with Unicode U+00ED (LATIN SMALL LETTER I WITH ACUTE)
    2. Send to Slashdot as UTF-8: C3 AD
    3. ?
    4. Slashdot receives ISO-8859-1: C3 AD
    5. Slashdot prints U+00C3 (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH TILDE) and discards AD

  • Gee, the FBI thinks it's valuable to have an informant inside an organization that actively solicits classified intelligence and data of all kinds and seeks to distribute it? I'd be shocked (and disappointed) if the FBI (or other agency) didn't have an informant, or try to obtain one.

    This is kind of what we pay an intelligence apparatus to do.

    I put this in the same category as the shocking revelations that we try and hack Chinese computer systems.

  • Sounds fair (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evilviper (135110) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:59PM (#44139107) Journal

    Wikileaks was only too happy to reveal internal documents of private organizations the world over, of no prohibitive value to the public, just damaging the companies involved. So they should be HAPPY about the same being done to them, and for the same reasons they did it. After all, if they weren't doing anything illegal, then there's no harm in the FBI having copies of their internal documents, right? Right?

    I admit, going through the FBI is a rather roundabout way to get that info to the public, but it should work out in the long-term.

    • by kromozone (817261)
      A leak showing that their 70gb "insurance" file actually contains some high-quality damaging information would certainly be to their advantage. Would give them more leverage dealing with the US govt.
  • An organization that specializes in betrayal of trust by insiders is complaining of the same. Not sure if serious.....

    Getting real, I would imagine every intelligence service worth their weight has multiple moles planted in wikileaks. You would be incompetent as hell to run an intelligence service and not plant moles in wikileaks.

    Hell, for that matter I'm sure more than a few corporations have their own agents planted. With the sheer commercial value of the material they get I would imagine organized crime

  • jurisiction issues? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hurwak-feg (2955853) on Friday June 28, 2013 @08:06PM (#44139143)
    If the FBI was flying him internationally, aren't they going a bit out of there reach? I thought the FBI was (should anyway) only concerned with things happening on US soil. Am I wrong?
  • America (Score:4, Funny)

    by future assassin (639396) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:37PM (#44139957) Homepage

    Fuck Yeah!!!!

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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