from Wired.com: 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
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
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
“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
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).