The Associated Press has published a cache of 10 documents that it says are part of a leaked “larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage, and other documents.”
By – Cyrus Farivar
Among those documents is a purported November 30, 2010 effort by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to seek a Russian visa via its London consulate. That’s just a week before Assange surrendered to British authorities who sought him for questioning on behalf of Swedish prosecutors who wanted him on allegations of sexual misconduct. By June 2012, Assange had entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has remained since. Assange has denied any wrongdoing in the Swedish case.
While the Swedish investigation ended last year, Assange has continued to stay inside the embassy for fear of being arrested by the United Kingdom and possibly extradited to the United States, where he may face prosecution.
This cache adds intrigue to WikiLeaks‘ and Assange’s ongoing saga. Numerous media outletsreported early last month that Assange’s days in the embassy are numbered and that the Ecuadorian authorities could boot him soon.
“The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange’s budding relationship with Moscow,” Satter wrote.
“We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote in a January 7, 2017 report. “Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”
The Icelandic connection
For its part, WikiLeaks responded shortly after the Associated Press story went live on Monday morning by suggesting that, at a minimum, the visa application document was false, tweeting at numerous media outlets:
Mr. Assange did not apply for such a visa at any time or author the document. The source is document fabricator & paid FBI informant Sigurdur Thordarson who was sentenced to prison for fabricating docs impersonating Assange, multiple frauds & pedophilllia. https://t.co/xzMfhctFx4
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) September 17, 2018
Thordarson, who previously spoke to Ars in June 2013 about his former involvement with WikiLeaks and later as an FBI informant, did not respond to our requests for comment via email or text message.
WikiLeaks did not provide any evidence as to why this document was actually authored by Thordarson. However, it tweeted links to Thordarson’s run-ins with Icelandic authorities—three years ago, he was sentenced to three years in prison for having sexually violated boys under 18.
Similarly, WikiLeaks did not respond to Ars’ question on Twitter as to whether this assertion applied to all of the AP’s documents or solely the Russian visa document.
Hi @wikileaks : To be clear you’re saying that all of these AP docs are fabrications by Þórðarsson ?
— Cyrus Farivar (@cfarivar) September 17, 2018
Think globally, act locally
Another one of the documents published by the AP is a list of Assange’s “Key Contacts,” which includes a number of activists and journalists who had some connection with Assange eight to 10 years ago.
The undated list has a ranking for “$” and “:)” and also for their “Connections.” This suggests how well to do and how friendly these people are considered to be toward Assange.
Among that list are three people affiliated with Global Voices, a mostly volunteer organization founded in 2005 that aims to translate news stories from around the world. WikiLeaks itself was only founded in 2006.
“You may remember that Julian presented Wikileaks at GV’s Budapest summit in 2008—he saw us as fellow travelers,” Ethan Zuckerman, one of Global Voices’ founders, wrote to Ars.
This document rated Zuckerman as a 1.5 under the money category and a 2 under the smiley-face category. Similarly, he earned a 2 under the “Connections” category.
There [are] others on the list who are respected online privacy advocates, including Roger Dingledine and Jérémie Zimmerman… Others are prominent activist/media/political figures, like Andrew Raseij and Craig Newmark. I knew Julian pretty well in 2008-9, so it’s not surprising to see myself on this list. I was broadly enthusiastic about WikiLeaks when it was focused on crowdsourced journalism and thought Assange was doing some interesting work in Kenya. I was far less interested in the organization once it started putting forward unredacted document dumps. And I do believe Assange should have chosen to face questioning in Sweden. I was not involved with the efforts to prevent Assange from being extradited in any way.
Another Global Voices figure on this list is Georgia Popplewell, the organization’s managing director.
When Ars asked Popplewell why she might be on the list, she told us it was because Assange attended the Global Voices Summit in Budapest in 2008.
“He and I interacted then,” she wrote. “More like argued, actually. He was ultra-cantankerous and tried to get into the conference for free. In the weeks before, he’d been hounding Solana Larsen and myself about this new organization he had and was angling to get himself on the program, as far as I recall. We didn’t comply, then he ended up trying to hijack the meeting by putting up posters in our meeting space advertising a competing side meeting to present WikiLeaks.”
Popplewell also noted that another listed Global Voices member, Renata Avila, a Guatemalan human rights lawyer, met Assange at this 2008 Budapest conference.
Avila’s name appears on two documents released by the Associated Press: one is a late November 2010 flight that she took from Guatemala to London, where she appears to have stayed for three months.
Another, which the AP has dubbed “Terrible Scenarios” and appears to be dated December 9, 2010, outlines various options for Assange, including possibly trying to flee the United Kingdom to Brazil by boat.
Avila did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment by email or Twitter.
UPDATE 6:30pm ET: Bruce Upbin, then an editor at Forbes, whose name also appears on the “Key Contacts” list, told Ars that he interviewed Assange in 2010 at TEDGlobal in Oxford.
“I’ve never communicated with him otherwise or sent them any money or love,” he wrote. “I also worked a bit on Andy’s cover story.”
Associated Press cache of 10 documents
Read more: From 2017/06/23