Assange in the Honey Trap

8-Dec-2010. As these words are being written, Julian Assange, founder of the Wikileaks website, is behind bars in England, awaiting extradition to Sweden. He's charged with violation of sex laws that seem to be unique to Sweden. And it's doubtful that Assange would be in custody at all if his website were not publishing classified US diplomatic cables that, in some cases, embarrass public figures in America and abroad.

Wikileaks has caused outrage among politicians. Joe Lieberman has called for Assange to be prosecuted in the US under an anti-espionage statute of 1917. Mike Huckabee wants Assange prosecuted for treason, even though he's not an American citizen. Newt Gingrich believes Assange should be declared an enemy combatant and, presumably, assassinated or gitmoized. The US Attorney General, Eric Holder, is burning midnight oil looking for a US law that Wikileaks is violating.

There's strong evidence that businesses and foreign governments are being pressured to do what they can to shut down the Wikileaks site. Amazon has kicked Wikileaks data off its servers. Mastercard, Visa and Paypal have been told not to process money transfers to Wikileaks.

Nevertheless, Wikileaks is still alive at dozens of mirror sites. The Swiss-based domain,, seems to work at the moment. Every day a new batch of cables is published. Furthermore, Assange has distributed to thousands of his supporters a copy of a massive, encrypted "doomsday" file containing the remaining unpublished cables and possibly much, much more. If Assange disappears or is murdered, the 256-bit decryption key will be published by Wikileaks staffers.

So, in the short term, Assange's continued incarceration depends on how the Swedish rape case is handled. An excellent piece by Justin Raimondo of describes the strange legal case that's been brought against Assange. However, the quality of the evidence and the persuasiveness of the prosecution are unimportant to the US government. What matters to the US is that Assange is locked up or travel-restricted or communication-restricted until the World's Remaining Superpower decides how to deal with him.

Julian Assange, by all appearances, is the victim of a classic honey trap. So, who are the honey trappers, what's their motivation and who's behind them? Consider the players in the case.

julian assange

The Victim: Julian Assange. The 39-year old Australian is the founder and public face of Wikileaks, a new form of web-based journalism appropriate to the twenty-first century. That is to say, it is suited for an era where Internet access is universal, governments are deceptive, and the corporate media are complicit in propagating or hiding government deception.

Brilliant and articulate, Assange argues in favor of a radical transparency, where the government has no secrets. At Wikileaks digital copies of original leaked documents are analyzed and posted online in a form that invites serious, even scholarly analysis. Wikileaks acquires these documents securely and anonymously from voluntary leakers worldwide. In the case of the leak of diplomatic cables, Bradley Manning, an army private, is suspected of being the leaker and is now held in a military prison.

anna ardin

Honey Trapper #1: Anna Ardin aka Miss A. She is described as a "gender equity" officer at Uppsala University and appears to be a militant feminist. Formerly she was a Swedish embassy official in Buenos Aires and Havana. In the latter assignment she was asked to leave the country because of her interactions with a CIA-related anti-Castro Cuban exile group.

As press secretary to a faction of Sweden's Social Democratic Party, she arranged for Assange to visit Sweden to speak to her group. She also invited him to stay at her apartment, where the alleged offenses occurred. Afterwards, she hosted a party for Assange at her apartment and showed no indication of being upset over the alleged rape. Sofia Wilen, Honey Trapper #2 was a guest at this party.

sofia wilen

Honey Trapper #2: Sofia Wilen aka Miss W. She seems to be a groupie attracted to celebrities and Assange became her target at Anna Ardin's party. Sofia invited him to spend the night back at her place, which was in another town some distance away. They had consensual sexual relations that night and the next morning. They ate breakfast together and Assange departed on good terms, promising to stay in touch.

She seems to have made no accusation or mention of rape until she contacted Anna Ardin a few days after Assange had left the scene.


Attorney representing the Honey Trappers: Claes Borgstrom. He vehemently denies that his clients are honey trappers. He also denies that the prosecution is influenced by the power of the US government. Yet he expresses awareness of the negative publicity his clients get from their pursuit of revenge against Assange, who is now, in the minds of many, about to become a free press martyr. So why doesn't Bergstrom advise his clients to avoid all this bad publicity by dropping their charges?

Anything can happen from here. However, if secret US money (or something equivalent) is flowing into Sweden for the purpose of persecuting Assange, he will stay behind bars for at least a couple of years as ridiculous legal proceedings drag on and on. The process may take on the character of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings two decades ago. The prosecuting attorneys, the judges, the courts and the honey trappers will become laughing stock of the world. But it's likely they'll be well compensated by the US taxpayer.

If the two females are bringing charges because they actually feel aggrieved by the inconsiderate treatment they got from Julian Assange, they should realize events are now being controlled from the highest levels of governments for purposes unrelated to the justice they may be seeking in the courts of Sweden. Their most moral action at this point would be to cease cooperating with the prosecution. In this way they would frustrate US efforts to capture and kill Assange. If their purpose in bringing charges was to take revenge on Assange, they've already achieved their goal. From here, they should put the incident behind them and get on with their lives.

Is There Anything We Can Learn From History?

Philip Knightley, a prolific writer of spy-vs-spy history books, has posted a "History of the Honey Trap." He cites five espionage-related cases that offer lessons for modern people. They are

  • The 1986 Vanunu affair, in which "Cindy," a young female Mossad agent, lured a former technician from the Israeli Dimona atomic bomb-making plant from London to Rome, where he was kidnapped, drugged, and smuggled back to Israel. Before he was kidnapped, Mordechai Vanunu had leaked photographs of the interior of Israel's nuclear weapons factory to a UK newspaper.
  • The case of Mata Hari, a female Dutch spy from WWI, who was executed by the French for "seducing prominent French politicians and officers" and passing information to the Germans.
  • The 1963 Christine Keeler affair, in which both the British Secretary of War and a Soviet military attache were found to be sleeping with the same seductress.
  • The tragic tale of Jeremy Wolfenden, a British spy who was lured into a homosexual honey trap and blackmailed by the Soviets in the 1960's.
  • The story of Markus Wolf, chief of the East German intelligence for most of the Cold War, who used a stable of male "Romeos" to seduce West German women who were in positions to acquire secret material.

Of these five, only the case of Mordechai Vanunu seems to have any relevance. Knightley writes:

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli technician who had worked in Israel's Dimona nuclear facility, went to the British newspapers with his claim that Israel had developed atomic bombs. His statement was starkly at odds with Israel's official policy of nuclear ambiguity -- and he had photos to prove it.

The period of negotiation among the newspapers was tense, and at one point the London Sunday Times was keeping Vanunu hidden in a secret location in suburban London while it attempted to verify his story. But Vanunu got restless. He announced to his minders at the paper that he had met a young woman while visiting tourist attractions in London and that they were planning a romantic weekend in Rome.

The newspaper felt it had no right to prevent Vanunu from leaving. It was a huge mistake: Soon after arriving in Rome with his lady friend, Vanunu was seized by Mossad officers, forcibly drugged, and smuggled out of Italy by ship to Israel, where he was eventually put on trial for treason. Vanunu served 18 years in jail, 11 years of it in solitary confinement. Released in 2004, he is still confined to Israel under tight restrictions, which include not being allowed to meet with foreigners or talk about his experiences. Britain has never held an inquiry into the affair.

The woman who set the honey trap was a Mossad officer, Cheryl Ben Tov, code-named "Cindy." Born in Orlando, Fla., she was married to an officer of the Israeli security service. After the operation, she was given a new identity to prevent reprisals, and eventually she left Israel to return to the United States. But her role in the Vanunu affair was vital. The Mossad could not have risked a diplomatic incident by kidnapping Vanunu from British soil, so he had to be lured abroad -- an audacious undertaking, but in this case a successful one.

mordechai vanunu The Victim: Mordechai Vanunu.. Human rights groups worldwide have honored Vanunu for his principled opposition to Israel's nuclear weapons program. Daniel Ellsberg has called him "the preeminent hero of the nuclear era." He wants to emigrate to the US, but Israel won't let him out. (Picture date: 2009.)
Cheryl Ben Tov The Honey Trapper: Cheryl Ben Tov nee Cheryl Hanin aka "Cindy." Shortly after the kidnapping, a UK Sunday Times journalist located her living in Netanya, Israel with her husband. In 2004 the St. Petersburg Times reported she had a residence in an upscale, gated golf-course community in central Florida, where she was selling real estate. (Picture date unknown. 2008 images can be seen here.)

The similarity between Vanunu and Assange is that they both released government secrets to the general public, on grounds of principle, rather than directly to an enemy. This fact confounds the US attempt to indict Assange for espionage. Furthermore, as a journalist, his publications are protected by the First Amendment. Finally, he's an Australian outside of US boundaries and he's never signed a nondisclosure agreement required by holders of security clearances. US authorities have few options for nailing Assange under US law, so they must get him using the laws of other countries or else violate US law outright, as they now do with "enemy combatants."

So, at present the US is relying on the bizarre rape laws of Sweden and the compliance of Swedish courts and the two honey trappers to keep Assange locked up. If he ever falls into the hands of US authorities, it's unlikely he'll get off as easily as Vanunu (although Vanunu had it rough). The American government doesn't want to create a free-speech martyr, so it probably won't kill him. Rather, it will get a foreigner to kill him, maybe a Russian or Israeli.

As for the honey trappers, they will probably get their fifteen minutes of fame and fade off into obscurity. It's hard to imagine them living in an upscale, gated golf-course community in Florida. But anything seems possible as this affair evolves.