It seems there has been more spying on members of the press by the U.S. government as Wired revealed that the FBI was paying an informant inside Wikileaks. Posing as a volunteer, Sigurdur Thordarson worked for Wikileaks while also giving information to the FBI.
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.
$5000? What a chump he could have gotten a lot more than that.
The incident does prove that from the beginning America’s imperial apparatus was bent on treating Wikileaks as an enemy and was therefore not at all interested in respecting the freedom of the press.
“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.”
To be fair, the New York Times has a complicated if not sycophantic relationship with the national security state. There is a lot of backscratching and incestuous intrigue, but when push comes to shove, the Times plays ball with the state. So perhaps Wikileaks was never going to be viewed as equivalent to the Times. Then again, maybe the FBI is paying reporters at the Times for information on their colleague’s stories.