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Assange in Sweden: A Perfect Spy
Fiction and truth aren't always that far apart.
Revisiting an old and often overlooked piece by Swedish espionage expert Anders Jallai must give us pause. Jallai really knows what he's talking about and dishes out guesses in small dosages and truths in bigger ones. Anders Jallai is not tin foil and shuns those who are.
And yet when the Assange story broke in the early morning hours of 21 August 2010, when Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge was scrambling to write his internal party memo 'we don't know the man', Anders Jallai had a bit of a think about it all.
Anders Jallai believed then - and likely believes to this day - that Assange was set up in a honeytrap. Assange's sources in ASIO certainly told him it would happen. He was familiar with the Vanunu story. And yet he's stated - unofficially at least - that he felt 'safe' in Sweden. How appearances can deceive.
So discounting all we all know (and don't know) about the Assange case, more specifically the events from 11 to 20 August 2010, what would be, purely hypothetically, the perfect honeytrap? And how would spooks go about preparing it and planning it?
Research is Everything
Research is everything when it comes to honeytraps. That Vanunu was ensnared where he was does not imply Mossad had a single plan and were prepared to wait patiently for their mark to turn up in their preferred location.
Spooks need alternate plans for alternate scenarios. Planting drugs on Assange if he's found in Singapore might be ideal, whilst the classic Keeler honeytrap is beautiful beyond belief if he were to again put his foot inside Sweden.
Sweden has its share of beautiful seductive girls, an antagonistic feminist movement that led to rather distorted legislation, is a member of the EU where arrest warrants with red notices can easily be issued, and has two secret rendition agreements with the US, signed during the Reagan years by cabinet minister Lennart Bodström and during the Bush years by his son Thomas.
Sweden is also small enough a country that the endemic cronyism will both speed things along and also keep the finer details hidden away from the public at large.
And of course all of this information is at the ready - it's not something one works on at such a late stage in the game. This is standard research, ready to be used in any one of any number of given scenarios.
But Julian's next stop would in fact be Sweden.
The Afghan War Diaries appeared in July 2010, and the announcement Assange could be returning to Sweden came shortly afterward. His visit would be coordinated by the obscure 'brotherhood' connected to the powerful Social Democratic party, the party responsible for putting Sweden on the map as a wealthy modern welfare state. The people working in the 'brotherhood' are however a bit of a breed apart, as was the coordinator of the Assange visit, Anna Ardin.
Ardin wasn't unknown in spook circles, surely they all had dossiers and complete psychological profiles on her, what with her stints in South America and Cuba where she got help escaping from a high ranking relative in the Swedish military.
Ardin was also said to be bisexual, always a bonus.
Ardin was referred to by her classmates in high school with a pejorative epithet indicating her hunger not just for men but more importantly for the status trophies they represented. Ardin could be counted on to make a move on Assange. A relationship with him would be a big feather and would also boost her career.
Ardin was also known to be highly temperamental and erratic. She was also known to be a vengeful sort, having published '7 Steps to Legal Revenge' that January.
Ardin was therefore the pivotal mark if the Sweden scenario would be used.
The key plot element would be to find how to push Ardin's buttons and push them at the precise moment necessary to get Assange into trouble and to then leave Ardin as the scapegoat. She could be counted on to run after Assange, so all that was needed was to introduce the green head of jealousy to 'turn' her against the WikiLeaks leader.
And if indeed that were the plan, then it worked beyond all expectations.
Cashmere Ex Machina
And so whilst Ardin is going haywire on Twitter about how Julian is coming to Sweden, a younger girl who lives a short walk from Sweden's PSYOPS national headquarters enters the picture. She's a photographer by ambition if not profession like her father, and according to the talk in Ardin circles, she has better boobs than Ardin. She's very quiet and reclusive, doesn't say much. She's had a boyfriend from San Francisco until recently when he suddenly found funding to attend the hyper-expensive media school Hyper Island further south.
Her name is Sofia Wilén.
Sofia's story as she later tells it is that she sort of accidentally found out about Assange a fortnight or so earlier and became interested in him. He seemed an honest upright man, she was to have said. Wilén is known to have gone on the tour circuit with Lou Reed in 2006 as a sort of photographer-groupie, but Assange is not from the same mold at all.
Ardin is desperately hunting a venue for the Assange gig that week, finds it on about Wednesday, announces it on Twitter, and all the tickets are gone in a flash.
Wilén somehow finds out too, does not have a press card, and still manages to get a ticket the day after the gig's sold out.
She decides to attend with her camera and a tight-fitting pink cashmere jumper that got at least two journalists to react. Pink cashmere jumpers - especially with nice boobs - are fine. But if you're justifiably paranoid about a honeytrap, then they're a bit obvious.
Wilén sits in the front row. Not right in front of Assange as that would be too obvious, and not in the middle of the row as that would be too inconspicuous, but across on the other far side. And she has a camera at the ready that can bat eyelashes at Julian throughout the talk.
Predictably Ardin returns a day early so she can have a chance of bedding the WikiLeaks celebrity. Assange is initially in a 'WTF' state of mind when he hears the key in the lock, but she takes him out to dinner, charms him, then back in her flat tells him that of course he doesn't have to leave and of course he can creep in the sack next to her warm naked body.
That Popping Sound, Part One
Things go much as expected with an Ardin rusty at 'the damned hetero norm' and a considerably taller Assange hindered by linguistic and cultural barriers - Ardin's English is far from adequate and Swedes are very very different, even with rock stars and their current inundation with celebrity worship. So things go as well as may reasonably be expected, with Ardin's own stash of prophylactics with an undetermined expiry date and with one pause where Ardin sees Assange adjust the condom.
Reporter Johannes Wahlström, who's previously spent time with Assange in the UK as part of the research for a coming TV documentary, knocks on Ardin's door in the early hours and is shocked to see Ardin there. He knows Assange has a 'problem' with punctuality and that Assange hardly knows his way about town, so he wants to help Assange find the venue in time. He later remarks that Ardin's flat is tiny in the extreme - his own is only 35 square metres but hers is radically tinier still. He also makes a note of the fact there's little opportunity for two people to sleep together in there - unless of course they're sleeping together.
Wahlström, Assange, Ardin, and Wilén all arrive at the venue, and Wilén sticks out like a sore thumb. Wahlström is disconcerted, smelling foul play. Another reporter, Donald Boström, also hears warning lights go off.
Who is she? Where did she come from? Why is she here? What the bloody hell is going on?
The gig goes off without a hitch, save for brotherhood chairman Peter Weiderud's refusal to vacate centre stage to take his head out of the slides projected on the screen. They all gather afterwards on the grounds outside, as they didn't want to rent the venue for the Q&A too. There they stand as Ardin queues up the media, Wilén moves in on Weiderud, and Wahlström and Boström shoot glances, wondering what's going on. They're both told there will be a late lunch in the area, and Weiderud tells all that Wilén will be coming along - 'she's with us'.
The lunch goes off without a hitch too - save for the reticence of Wilén who seats herself next to Julian and utters a single comment throughout, the unbelievably banal comment about a banal hard bread sandwich with banal cheese on top.
Wahlström, Assange, and of course Wilén wander off afterwards, first to an electronics supply store, and then to stand outside the Nobel Prize venue at the Haymarket, nowhere to go. Wahlström suggests Julian help him move furniture, but Wilén suggests she and Julian go see a movie. Poor Julian - tough decision.
Wilén takes Julian to her place of work, a museum just north of town, accessible by either the subway or the Roslagsbanan commuter train. Wilén's museum has a big cinema, and she and Julian sit in the back for a showing, and mostly just make out instead of watching. Julian's been up most of the night with Ardin, and he's exhausted, so he catches a power nap on the lawn outside. Wilén has a boyfriend at home who should be leaving permanently for the south over the weekend. She and Assange agree to keep in touch, and then Assange travels to Wahlström's flat and then the both of them return to Ardin's flat where there's to be a crayfish party with PC-Stockholm's finest in attendance.
Ardin wants to keep Julian in her flat and in her bed, even though Rick Falkvinge is there to fetch him. Unaware of previous arrangements with the Pirates, Wahlström makes a renewed offer to take care of Julian, but Ardin will have none of that either. Ardin wants Julian, and she uses a lot of her party rhetoric to make it understood she's bedded Assange, and at 02:00 tweets about her new trophy. Julian and Wilén communicate briefly by phone during the party.
Monday's a workday for Wilén. She commutes to Stockholm, completes her shift, then contacts Julian. Julian's not available - he's at Wahlström's flat for an important meeting. He promises to ring her back when the meeting's over.
Wilén spends several hours wandering aimlessly through Stockholm, waiting for Julian's call, then rings him back and sets up the meet. They go to the old town and Munkbroleden where they sit and again make out for a while. Wilén wants Julian to get a hotel room in the capital so they can have sex. Julian, concerned as always about surveillance, disses the idea, saying he prefers girls in their 'natural habitat'. They take the commuter train home to Wilén.
An Assange still a long way from catching up on sleep falls asleep after he and Wilén make out for a while on her bed. She becomes distressed, takes it as an effrontery, and hammers away at her mobile phone, telling everyone who she has naked in her bed. Assange finally wakes up and this time they have sex full out.
And so it goes all night. Wilén says she can't remember too well either, as she was also very tired, but it's likely they had sex four times by daybreak.
She leaves an exhausted Assange sleeping in her bed, goes into her kitchen to make her own breakfast, then gets down to her ICA food store where her younger brother who actually lives across town is miraculously waiting at that same hour. Another five minutes down the same path in the same general direction is Sweden's HQ for PSYOPS.
Wilén returns to her flat after talking with her brother and making a few phone calls, undresses and gets back into bed with Julian. Julian wakes up and they have sex yet again. They start dozing off to sleep, or so Wilén thinks, only to realise she's still having sex with Julian. They get up and she prepares his breakfast. Thereafter they ride her bike to the train station and Julian returns to Stockholm to meet with Aftonbladet.
The groundwork is complete. Now to stir the pot.
Ardin gets a call sometime later. Not the same day but later. It's Wilén ringing. Wilén now has to pull the Ardin trigger and get Ardin to implicate herself when the whole thing comes crashing down. It shouldn't be that difficult. She tells Ardin she's trying to reach Julian. Somehow the girls both become aware of their involvement with Assange at some point and notice 'similarities' in their experiences, the most notable being condom difficulties.
Ardin's testimony mentions this but Wilén's does not. Not anywhere.
Yet in a casual aside in inspector Gehlin's notes on the lab results for the condoms, he notes that Wilén initially spoke about popping balloons.
Further instances of them talking about popping balloons can be found. And truth be told: 'condom difficulties' are about the only thing the stories of the two girls have in common. So where did those popping balloons come from?
They came from Anna Ardin. Wilén is all over Ardin, reads her like a trained asset, and when Ardin finally mentions condom difficulties, Wilén is right on it. 'That happened to me too!' Time to cash in those chips.
That Popping Sound, Part Two
Now this case is too weird for words. What have they found? An Aussie freak who likes to pop condoms? A bit stupefied, Ardin takes Wilén's lead and agrees they should look into it. Ardin also takes Wilén's emotional appeal and places the younger cashmere girl (that nobody knew a week earlier, with the nice rack) under her wing. At that point things spin almost totally out of control.
Linda Wassgren told Eva Finné that both girls mentioned rape when they came to Klara. Linda probably contacted her superior Mats Gehlin as well. An Aussie hacker popping condoms like balloons! Whoah!
Ardin stays on a while, but she's on her way to a party with her friend Kajsa. Wilén stays behind to speak with Irmeli Krans about the condom popper.
And yet at no time in that interview does Wilén mention any popping. Not once.
Ardin assumed she would - she mentions them herself the following day in her telephone interrogation.
The popping's what got Ardin to the police station in the first place. Ardin told Alex Gibney that the whole thing was 'no big deal' and got blown up out of proportion. She's also complained that she got all the blame and Wilén got none.
The popping's what got the Klara Kops interested - two girls with the same remarkable story. But Irmeli Krans didn't hear about the popping condoms, and Wilén wasn't telling. Ardin was already being hung out to dry and Wilén was mostly home free.
Which is only natural - Sofia Wilén had expert help. She came out of nowhere and went on back again. She got a ticket to the WikiLeaks gig when no tickets were left, wore a pink cashmere jumper to show off her boobs, took Julian to a nice quiet corner in a theatre for afternoon sexual delights - and then replaced all her online photos of Julian with pics (using the same file names) of dwarf rabbits until the Google caches cleared, then wiped out everything - website, Facebook page, blog, the works. Swallowed up by Mother Earth, went up in smoke. She's gone. She's not even officially registered as living in the country anymore. No one knows where she is. And all this takes place in a fortnight.
- Determine target, set goal. Target is Julian Assange, visible head of WikiLeaks, goal is to neutralise the WikiLeaks organisation.
- Study likely attack locations and vectors. Singapore would be obvious: drugs. Sweden is obvious too: the honeytrap. And so forth.
- Find the scapegoat. As soon as details of Assange's visit to Sweden are known, the scapegoat is obvious: Anna Ardin. Almost too easy a prey.
- Send in the asset. Sofia Wilén appears out of nowhere, nothing much about that, a few strings are pulled in important places, Sofia gets Julian's attention.
- Compromise the target. A long night in Sofia's flat is all they could ever ask for.
- Lay the groundwork for the police investigation. Sofia keeps her friends and acquaintances 'briefed' on her affair with Assange, etc.
- Compromise the scapegoat. Lure Ardin into a telephone conversation and cold-read her. Make her think the very same thing happened with Sofia. Tug at Ardin's motherly/sisterly instincts to turn her against Assange. And make sure Assange doesn't interfere - give him promises to meet and square things etc, but proceed directly to the police where it looks like Ardin is managing everything.
- Trip up the scapegoat. Tell a different story to the interrogating officer once Ardin is gone, leaving Ardin on the spot. Don't bother approving the interrogation - avoids further implication and the damage is already done anyway.
- Cleanup, wipe all tracks. Do a professional web scrubbing job, even fooling Google. Then go underground for good. Change hair colour, bit of nip 'n' tuck, permanent bank roll for a little drummer girl on a permanent holiday in the sun.
The Klara Kops come later in the afternoon of 21 August to pick up Ardin's condom - later proven to have been fabricated evidence. Wilén doesn't have to fake anything, save the popping bit. Rip a piece of condom drenched in genomic DNA and place it beside the bed. Done deal.
It's so easy, so utterly brilliant, so utterly simple.
What Really Happened
Of course no one knows things actually worked that way. There's no proof. None at all. There are certain indications things aren't as they appear to be, but not more than that.
Yet looking at the myriad glaring anomalies reminds one that fiction and truth aren't always that far apart.
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