The anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks is demanding an investigation into what it says was illegal activity by the American FBI on Danish soil.
A criminal complaint filed on Friday centres around a series of meetings between FBI agents and Sigurdur Thordarson, a young Icelander who was part of Julian Assange’s inner circle before defecting from WikiLeaks, that took place in Denmark between August 2011 and March 2012.
Thordarson has admitted to providing hard drives and other information about WikiLeaks to the American authorities.
WikiLeaks on Friday filed a criminal complaint with East Jutland Police (Østjyllands Politi) against Thordarson and unnamed FBI agents. WikiLeaks also filed an official complaint against the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (Politiets Efterretningstjeneste -PET) to the Independent Police Complaints Authority (Den Uafhængige Politiklagemyndighed).
The WikiLeaks complaints are based on the premise that the FBI activity in Denmark was illegal and that PET was complicit in the American agents’ actions.
“It is illegal activity on Danish soil,” WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnson told Politiken. “We find it hard to believe that it took place without permission from the Danish authorities.”
The meetings between Thordarson and FBI agents first came to light in a June 2013 article in Wired
, in which Thordarson, now 21, described how he joined WikiLeaks when he was just 17 and quickly became close to the organization’s founder, Julian Assange.
In August 2011, Thordarson turned on Assange and sent an email to the American Embassy in Reykjavik that allegedly included information on a hacking threat aimed at Iceland.
The embassy informed the Icelandic police about the email, and the Icelanders gave the FBI permission to come and question Thordarson. When the Icelandic police shortly thereafter discovered that the FBI was not investigating threats against Iceland, but rather WikiLeaks itself, the FBI was told to leave the country. But the Americans were not done with Thordarson.
“The FBI agents said that we needed to continue somewhere else,” Thordarson told Politiken. “I suggested Moscow but they didn’t think that was funny. Instead, they said we should fly to Denmark.”
Thordarson has detailed how he met with the FBI three times in Denmark – twice in Copenhagen and once in Aarhus. He says the FBI paid for his flights to Copenhagen and picked up the bill for his hotel stays. When he met with FBI agents in Aarhus, where Thordarson was enrolled in a course, the FBI gave Thordarson a written receipt and a cash payment for the eight hard drives the WikiLeaks handed over.
Assange: Meetings were "unlawful"
In a lengthy September 2013 affidavit
, WikiLeaks founder Assange repeatedly refers to the FBI’s actions in Denmark as illegal.
“After the FBI was expelled from Iceland, Thordarson was flown to Denmark. There he stayed at the Hilton hotel near Copenhagen airport, where the FBI interrogated him further,” the affidavit states. “He was flown to Copenhagen for further FBI interrogations on 3 October 2013, and on 18 March 2012. I understand by my lawyers that if these interrogations were not approved by the state of Denmark then they would be unlawful.”
The affidavit also claims that the material Thordarson handed over in Aarhus was obtained illegally.
“Thordarson's final meeting with the FBI took place in Aarhus in Denmark, where the FBI acquired data that had been stolen from staff, friends and associates of WikiLeaks. At least some of the material had been stolen at Ellingham Hall, the house where I was staying under house arrest in Norfolk,” it reads. “The FBI allegedly obtained the material in exchange for two payments amounting to US $5,000.”
In the affidavit, Assange says that Danish authorities have not been forthcoming about the FBI’s meetings with Thordarson.
“Danish authorities have refused to comment on whether they were aware that the FBI repeatedly conducted interrogations with Thordarson in Denmark and whether they authorised the FBI's operation, which involved acquiring stolen property belonging to a publishing organisation,” the affidavit states.
No official comment from Denmark
On Sunday, both PET and the justice ministry once again declined to comment to Politiken about the allegations.
The East Jutland Police commissioner, Vagn Martinussen, would only tell Politiken that “no one here has heard anything about such a meeting in Aarhus.”
WikiLeaks spokesperson Hrafnson said that the organization is prepared to take their legal complaint as far as necessary.
“Individual rights have been violated here, and things have been stolen,” Hrafson told Politiken. “If the Danish police won’t investigate this thoroughly, then it is a very serious situation that should be pursued to the highest level.”
Thordarson is currently in a Reykjavik prison serving time on a sex charge. He told Politiken that when he finishes his sentence on November 2nd, “there are some other cases I am awaiting judgement on.” Those cases involve hacking and fraud charges.