A prize-winning Swedish journalist noted for his left-wing, pro-NATO and anti-WikiLeaks commentary was revealed this month to have been a paid agent of Säpo, his nation’s security service.
Andrew Kreig JusticeIntegrityProject March 20, 2016
Martin Fredriksson, shown in a file photo and a winner of a major investigative reporting prize in 2014 for his work exposing right-wing groups opposed to NATO, has been secretly paid for years by Säpo, the Swedish Security Service, according to news reports based on his own admissions.
In deep intrigue that resembles a spy novel, Fredriksson’s story undermines conventional wisdom on both sides of the Atlantic that journalists work independently from power centers, including government agencies.
Also, the tale is timely, especially because of Sweden’s ongoing persecution of Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange and new revelations by that transparency advocacy group involving Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.
Authorities have targeted Assange (shown in a file photo) for what appears to be a trumped up sex scandal probe that has extended for nearly six years, apparently in reprisal for massive and ongoing disclosures by WikiLeaks of Western governments’ dark secrets.
More generally, United States and NATO pressures upon European leaders are tainting the latter’s carefully nurtured images of independence.
Sweden, which has long boasted of an official position of neutrality in world affairs and close adherence to humanitarian and democratic principles under a rule of law, has already hurt its image by its pursuit of Assange. The fallout includes a ruling last month by a United Nations panel that Assange’s political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June 2012 to avoid extradition amounts to “arbitrary detention” under international law.
The Indicter, a start-up global human rights commentary site, underscored in columns March 6 and 13 the sinister implications of the revelations, especially the seemingly odd mixture of Fredriksson’s advocacy against Assange and in favor of NATO. The Indicter revealed, for example, that Fredriksson used his clout to lobby for Amnesty International opposition to Assange.
The Indicter’s editor is Marcello Ferrada de Noli, Ph.D., shown at left, and a longtime Swedish medical school professor and leader of Swedish Doctors for Human Rights. He drew on disclosures March 2 about Fredriksson in SVD (Svenska Dagbladet, or Swedish Daily) to illustrate a broader theme: that Swedish officials and thought leaders defer far more to the United States and authoritarian policies than commonly understood in liberal democracies, including Sweden.
Sweden’s highly irregular investigation of Assange illustrates his thesis.
Ecuador granted Assange political asylum in its London embassy three and half years ago to protect him from a relentless effort by Swedish authorities to extradite him for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations arising from two affairs he undertook from invitations by women attending his featured speech at an August 2010 conference in Sweden.
Assange submitted to questioning about the claims from the two women, who had separately invited him to stay with them. Authorities have never charged him with a crime but they have mounted an extraordinary campaign to extradite him to Sweden for further questioning after he left the country.
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Assange has denied any criminal violation. Also, he has argued unsuccessfully in British courts that the investigation has been a ruse to extradite him to Sweden so he could then be extradited to the United States to face reported but still-secret U.S. charges. Assange is not subject to extradition directly from Britain to the United States. U.S. charges are reported to arise from WikiLeaks disclosures that severely embarrassed officials in the United States, Britain, Sweden and elsewhere in Western governments and private power centers.
ASSANGE CASE BACKGROUND
Today’s column summarizes the latest developments in a case that the Justice Integrity Project has covered closely for years, including with major scoops in late 2010 and early 2011 re-reported internationally.
These showed, among other things, that U.S. Republican strategist Karl Rove (shown below in a Bush White House photo) included among his consultant clients Sweden’s governing Moderate Party (a confusing name since it is the country’s leading conservative party). Also, Rove urged in 2010 on Fox News that Assange be executed for his Wikileaks leadership.
Another of reports was Partner at Firm Counseling Assange’s Accusers Helped the CIA In Rendition for Torture. It revealed that Thomas Bodström, a former Justice Minister and name partner in the law firm that has used the two women to level sexual misconduct allegations against Assange, had previously cooperated with the CIA when he was Sweden’s top justice official to send at the CIA’s request an asylum seeker from Sweden to Egypt, where the man was tortured by Egyptian authorities. Bodström later moved to the United States and wrote spy thrillers.
In future columns soon, we shall explore for the first time here the suspicious history of the two female accusers against Assange. Others, including noted American feminist Naomi Wolf, for years have described Sweden’s relentless investigation as highly unusual for activities that began as consensual sex.
Also, we shall explore new disclosures by Wikileaks showing that the State Department under then Secretary Hillary Clinton worked secretly with Google to overthrow Syria’s government, as reported in a column March 19, Clinton email reveals: Google sought overthrow of Syria’s Assad.
The more general background of the recent disclosures includes mention of Sweden’s history of neutrality, including during World War II, as well as its more recent reputation for sinister activities fostered by the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme and the sensational literary and film success of the characters created by the late novelist Stieg Larsson in the Millennium Trilogy of crime novels.
Earlier this month, the Indicter published a column headlined Olof Palme and Julian Assange subjected in Sweden to same hate campaign by the same political forces and with the same purpose: to defend U.S. geopolitical interests. The column commemorated the 30th anniversary of Palme, a left-wing politician who had antagonized rightist and NATO by criticizing the Vietnam War years earlier. This editor is on the Indicter’s board of directors, whose other members are primarily European.
The specific circumstances of the Palme death remain controversial, albeit beyond the scope of today’s column. Perhaps most relevant now is that the Indictor’s editor, Ferrada de Noli, was a torture victim of the Chile’s late U.S.-supported dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and has long worked in Europe with kindred spirits to expose and prevent similar human rights abuses.
Pinochet, who succeeded the murdered Chilean President Salvatore Allende in a coup and ruled Chile from 1974 to 1990, is shown meeting in 1976 with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Aside from his medical school work, two of his most frequent topics as an editor and commentator have been legal irregularities connected with the Assange case and the complacency of Sweden’s conventional thought leaders in the media and legal systems. In a 2011 column The “Duck Pond” Theses: Explaining Swedish journalism and the anti-Assange smear campaign. the professor accused many in the media of succumbing to group-think like so many ducks in a pond.
Another such myth-shatterer was Larsson (below left), who died in 2004 just after his 50th birthday. He was a Swedish journalist who researched right-wing extremism, experiences he drew upon for his breakthrough first novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
It and two sequels, all published after Larsson’s death, chronicled the gripping adventures of fictional heroes Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant and much-abused computer hacker, and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, her friend and fellow researcher into sinister fascists and their allies lurking behind respectable fronts in Sweden.
The journalist Blomkvist and Salander are featured also in films and Larsson’s novels The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. At [right] is a poster showing actress Noomi Rapace as star in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
The kind of murder, terror and intrigue fueling hit spy novels and movies inevitably exceeds that in real life, at least as far as most of us can read in the newspapers or reliably know.
Nonetheless, there are at least some parallels between the Swedish world of Salander/Blomkvst and that of the more sedate journalist Martin Fredriksson, the award-winning investigative report and paid police asset.
THIS MONTH’S MARTIN FREDRIKSSON REVELATIONS
That background brings us to Fredriksson, who achieved honor in Swedish media circles primarily by investigating right-wing organizations. The account below is from a news report March 2 in Svenska Dagbladet (SVD), one of Sweden’s leading daily newspapers, under the headline, When the real Salander sold out to Säpo.
Reporter Sam Sundberg described how Fredriksson had just release a “bomb” on Twitter by revealing his status for many years as a paid Säpo informant during a time when he was active in the Antifascist Action and Research Group. The following translation from Swedish to English is primarily via the Google automatic translation tool, with slight revisions by a non-Swedish-speaking editor to comport with more standard English
Fredriksson is best known as co-founder in the journalist community of the Research Group, which conducted an extensive digging job of the right-wing’s digital activities. In cooperation with the Expressen and Aftonbladet newspapers, he revealed the anonymous authors of racist sites Exposed, Free Times and Avpixlat and hateful writers on the web forum Flashback.
For a collaboration with Expressen, Fredriksson, along with five colleagues in the Research Group, has been awarded the guldspaden, one of Sweden’s greatest prizes for investigative journalism. He has also worked as a researcher for Robert Aschberg TV show “Insider.”
During the 2000s, Fredriksson spied on the extreme right as a part of the left group Antifascist Action Intelligence. In other words, he is one of those who had the best insight into the activity on both the political front flanks of the past decade. By his own account, it was only the investigations of violent right-wing that he handed over to the Security Service. But it is clear from the comments in social media that even his former allies now shivering.
In the activist groups where Martin Fredriksson thrived, there is a general revulsion against the idea of collaborating with the security police, but also a nervousness that Fredriksson may have leaked information about their own activities. Several of Fredriksson’s old colleagues have now hurried to distance themselves from him, including the Research Group. On their website, they write that Säpo-cooperation took place before the group was formed.
But that is not consistent with Fredriksson’s own Twitter confession, in which he writes that the second period of the collaboration occurred in 2009 – 2010. The Research Group was formed in autumn 2009.
Journalist and government spy Martin Fredriksson, center, received Sweden’s “Golden Spade” investigative journalism award in 2014 (Bertil Ericson Photo TT)
The Indicter then followed up March 6 with a Ferrada de Noli column, Former paid agent of Swedish Security Police dictated Amnesty Sweden’s stance against Assange, placing the story into a broader context.
One finding involved efforts by Foreign Minister Carl Bildt to steer Sweden’s foreign policy toward the views of the United States and NATO. Bildt, shown in a photo with Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was foreign minister from 2006-2014, and previously served as both prime minister and leader of the Moderate Party (which, despite its name, is the nation’s most important conservative party).
Also, the Indicter showed how authorities wanted to crack down hard on Assange Affair because the WikiLeaks he founded had released so many secret cables embarrassing Western officials and enlightening the public about diplomatic chatter that is normally secret.
The article focused in detail on Fredriksson’s use of his reputation as a left-leaning journalist to persuade Sweden’s Amnesty International chapter to disdain Assange, whose court case might normally be expected to attract sympathy from a human rights group.
The Indicter published a second follow up on March 13, Paid agent of Swedish security services implicated in second disinformation campaign against Assange. The column analyzed a radio/podcast series created by a research group that Fredriksson founded in 2007 with funding that is secret and identified a systematic anti-Assange and fierce anti-Russia bias, “particularly targeting Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.”
The last word goes to Swedish journalists, including Fredriksson and Sundberg, author of the SVD column March 2. Sundberg quotes leftish activist, Peter Sunde, co-founder of The Pirate Bay, as asking on Twitter why he should trust that Fredriksson has not leaked chat logs to the Security Service.
Sunde served a year in prison after convictions for copyright violations. The Pirate Bay was a controversial file-sharing search engine developed in Sweden in 2003. It is different (albeit with some overlapping support) from the Pirate Party, founded in 2006, and now Sweden’s third largest political party with affiliates elsewhere in Europe.
Sunde, shown in a photo via Flickr following his release from prison, also wrote on Twitter to his onetime Pirate Bay colleague Fredriksson: “Good luck with the loneliness.”
Fredriksson, however, has described himself as a former Security Service agent, saying he wants to get rid of his past and live more normally. “I am transparent about this,” he was quoted as saying, “and tell you now, even though I did not directly profit from it.”
“On the other hand,” the SVD reporter Sundberg wrote of Fredriksson, “he is writing a book about its history: The thrilling documentary thriller about the struggle between left and right violence, and when the real Salander sold out to Säpo.”
“With the right agent (a literary one),” the reporter continued, “it will be a bestseller.”