Wikileaks Russian Ties: Julian Assange’s Forgotten Trips To Moscow

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Julian Assange, who rang in the New Year in Her Majesty’s Prison, Belmarsh, appears to have spent a significant amount of time in Russia in the 1990s. Additionally, he lived in Paris with a Russian-speaking ‘girlfriend’ and was part of group of hackers intimately connected with Russia and the then KGB as a teenager. Assange has also admitted to being deeply steeped in Russian culture, reading Russian and pro-Russian Ukranian authors, and even being devoted to Russian vintage children’s cartoons.

Biographies and profiles of Assange have, inexplicably, glossed over the Wikileaks’ founder’s youth and activities prior to starting Wikileaks. As attention focused on Assange’s ties to Russia in 2016, and even before then, as Assange fled to the Ecuadorean Embassy while dodging a trial for rape in Sweden, countless biographies and profiles of Assange have been published.

Bizarrely, most of them completely omitted Assange’s clearly extensive ties to Russian intelligence, that go back as far as his early years as a proto-hacker, part of an international group of ‘phone phreakers’. The general impression has been left of Wikileaks as an idealistic organization that somehow ‘went wrong’ as Assange’s anti-Americanism drove him into the arms of the Kremlin, as an ‘unwitting idiot’. The facts, however, make it clear that this approach gives the Australian both too much, and too little, credit. Too much, in that it assumes Assange meant no harm, and was merely tricked by the GRU into his assault on American democracy; too little, in that it underestimates the length and witting depth of Assange’s treacherous association with Russian intelligence, dating back to the days of Yeltsin and the KGB.

Biographies and profiles such as those on Wikipedia, The New Yorker, the Guardian, (by no less an authority than David Leigh and Luke Harding), the Independent, and several others this author found simply omit, and apparently do not even know about, Assange’s travels to Russia before founding Wikileaks and his connections to Russian intelligence. The LA Times profile of Assange, for example, published last spring, says only:

Born in 1971, Assange’s coming of age coincided, somewhat fatefully, with the dawn of the internet era. He showed an early talent for puzzle-solving and mathematics that swiftly morphed into a knack for computer programming and coding – and for hacking, which led to a brush in his 20s with Australian law enforcement.

A 2013 CNN ‘Fast Facts’ on Assange simply starts in 2006, with the foundation of Wikileaks. The New York Times’ timeline on Assange and the United States likewise starts in 2010, with the Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley Manning) link to Wikileaks.

In 1996, Julian Assange was tried for hacking in Australia. In 2006, he founded Wikileaks.  In the ten years in between, according to almost all public biographies, Assange ‘lived quietly’ in Melbourne, attending, then dropping out of, university. Nothing to see here. In their book on Assange, “Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”, David Leigh and Luke Harding, both highly respected Guardian journalists, describe some (not all) of Assange’s programming activities after the trial and before Wikileaks, but they also mistakenly report:

As early as 1999 he came up with the idea of a leakers’ website, he said, and registered the domain name ‘Wikileaks[.]org’. But otherwise, he didn’t do much about it. Assange was living in Melbourne and quietly raising his son.

That wasn’t true. In 1998 and 1999, Julian Assange was traveling in Eastern Europe, Russia and China. And since 1999 is when “he came up with the idea of a leakers’ website” this seems galactically significant.

Julian Assange Pre-Wikileaks: Money and Moscow

According to Assange himself, in a 2011 interview originally hosted on Wikileaks,  and preserved on archives of both Wikileaks mirrors and other sites, he was a frequent visitor to Moscow, and was intimately familiar with its system and even its TV shows:

When I was in Russia in the 1990s, I used to watch NTV in Moscow. NTV was the freest TV I have ever seen. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Spitting Image. It was a British public satire that was very politically aggressive, but NTV and other Russian channels had far more guts. And that was because at that time, Russia had something like 10 independent points of power. It had the army. It had the remnants of the KGB and the external KGB, which ended up becoming the SVR. It had Yeltsin, and his daughter, and that mob. It had some broader mish-mash of bureaucracy that was left over from the Soviet Union. And it had seven oligarchs. That meant, in terms of media control, the state plus the oligarchs with own their own independent media. As a result, you could actually put out almost anything you wanted under the patronage or protection of one of these groups. And when Putin came in, he tamed the oligarchs. Some were arrested, some had their assets seized, and some were exiled. The result was that they fell in under Putin’s centralized patronage pyramid. The ownership of the TV stations also reined popular democracy under Putin’s pyramid. And now, in order to get anything of scale done in Russia, you have to have a sponsor in the pyramid somewhere.

Assange carried this deep knowledge with him into Wandsworth prison, where Russian authors and popular culture inspired him:

As for inspirational texts, well, there isn’t one in particular. But when I was in prison, I read Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and I’ve been a long-term appreciator of Solzhenitsyn and other Russian literature….Pasternak and Dostoyevsky, and yes, Tolstoy when I was younger, and Bulgakov, though he’s a Ukrainian who wrote in Russian. Cancer Ward is a wonderful book. Solzhenitsyn was in a cancer ward after being released from prison and exiled in Siberia, and he draws parallels between experiences in a Soviet labor camp and a hospital ward, but also uses these as a way to get at power relationships within a Sovietized state. But having cancer in a cancer ward is even worse than being locked in the basement of Wandsworth Prison in solitary confinement. So I found it oddly cheering.

Asked what ‘the most beautiful story you ever heard’ was, Assange says:

I’m very fond of Russian children’s cartoons from the 1970s and 80s. These cartoons embody the highest representation of childhood and beauty and innocence and curiosity—all together. This is terribly underappreciated in Western society in this particular period. For something that I find beautiful, this is what comes to mind instantly.

Russophilia is not, of course, a crime. But the facts on Assange’s history indicate actual recruitment. Several biographers did go as far as to note his co-byline on the early history of a hacking group he was involved in, “Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession”. This includes a limited amount on himself, “Mendax”, as his nom-de-phreak had it. But Assange is an author of the book, and thus intimately involved with all the hackers in it. Take this early mention of Germany’s “Chaos Computer Club”:

Pengo… a well-known hacker with links to the German hacking group called the Chaos Computer Club…. Pengo had been involved with people who sold US military secrets – taken from computers – to the KGB.

Oh. Well, OK then.

His real interest was in hacking, not spying. The Russian connection simply enabled him to get access to bigger and better computers. Beyond that, he felt no loyalty to the Russians.

More on the ‘Chaos Computer Club’ and its KGB assets shortly. But Assange also writes a long chapter on ‘Anthrax’, who was involved in human trafficking and liked, in his off-time, to listen to Radio Moscow.

In 1996 Assange was tried in Australia for a string of hacking offenses, including of United States military sites, the same targets his KGB-connected friends in the Chaos Computer Club had hit. He was convicted, and, essentially, let off with a warning. He was 25.

Most Assange biographies gloss over the next few years. But that is a horrible dereliction of duty. As soon as the trial was over, Assange, formerly an indigent teenage hacker, met his biological father again and “came into money”. This money was large enough to allow him to travel all over the world:

Well, I’ve been traveling all over the world on my own since I was twenty-five, as soon as I had enough money to do it.

Not only, even before skating on charges of attacking the US military, did Assange get enough cash to travel the world, an unnamed “Italian real estate investor” [sic] gave him and his anti-US-military co-conspirator “Trax” enough money to buy a mainframe computer at an Italian university. 

Note how this models what Assange wrote of ‘Pengo’ – the Russians gave Pengo access to ‘bigger and better computers’

In 1992 Mendax and Trax teamed up with a wealthy Italian real-estate investor, purchased La Trobe University’s mainframe computer (ironically, a machine they had been accused of hacking) and started a computer security company. The company eventually dissolved when the investor disappeared following actions by his creditors.

Uh-huh.

It is genuinely amazing that the Guardian would wrongly report in 2011, of the time when Assange himself said he had enough money to travel the world, that:

Convicted but leniently treated, Assange was now an unemployed father in Melbourne surviving on a single parent pension.

 

Assange’s Choice of Travel – Moscow, St. Petersburg, Irkutsk, Beijing

In 1998 Assange was in the long period of traveling that he admitted started in 1996. According to the biography he refused to allow to be published, which has not come out in e-book, he announced some few of the destinations in a round-robin email for his “international” group of hackers: Frankfurt, Berlin, Poland, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Irtkutsk, and Beijing. 

If anyone feels like getting together for beer, vodka, Siberian bear steak…. just let me know

It is apparent, then, that several of his round-robin emailees lived in Russia. It would be pretty hard to meet him for Siberian bear steak in Irkutsk if they did not.

The Chaos Computer Club, the KGB, and… the 2016 Election?

Starting in Frankfurt and Berlin was also significant. The Chaos Computer Club was the one Assange wrote about back in 1997 – admitting one of his friends there had sold US military secrets to the KGB.

But what is this? A 2018 Washington Post profile of Andy Muller-Maguhn, going to visit Assange, says that in 2016, Muller-Maguhn:

…typically brings Assange books, clothes or movies. Once in 2016, he delivered a thumb drive that he says contained personal messages for the WikiLeaks founder, who for security reasons has stopped using email.

These visits have caught the attention of U.S. and European spy chiefs, who have struggled to understand how Assange’s organization operates and how exactly WikiLeaks came to possess a trove of hacked Democratic Party emails that the group released at key moments in the 2016 presidential campaign.

No, ma’am, Ms. Nakashimae – US and European spy chiefs have no problems whatsoever understanding how Wikileaks operates – it’s a lazy as hell mainstream media that overlooked how Wikileaks operates.

The piece continues:

The roots of Müller-Maguhn’s relationship with Assange trace back to his teenage years in the 1980s when his walk to school in Hamburg took him past the offices of the Chaos Computer Club.

Oh.

In a Herculean effort to whitewash Muller-Maguhn, the profile then goes on to admit that the German works for the Chinese state and has attended conferences in Moscow.

One of his clients is in China, a state known for its suppression of the Internet and its surveillance of dissidents….In recent years, Müller-Maguhn’s consulting and advocacy work has carried him all over the world, including Moscow, where in 2016 and 2017 he attended a security conference organized by the Russian Defense Ministry.

Riigggghhhhhht. (Dr. Evil voice)

In the superseding espionage indictment of Assange, the Chaos Computer Club is mentioned by name.

In 2007, Assange admitted he had a “girlfriend” in Paris helping him build the Wikileaks website by translating Russian for him:

I had a girlfriend who would come round. She just brought food and I stayed at the computer. She spoke Russian, and would sometimes lend a hand with that

Why would Mr. Assange need Russian translated to build the Wikileaks website? Before he’d received a single, solitary leak?

Because Russians were helping him build it and directing the build.

Timeline of Assange’s Russian Connections

Here is a partial timeline of Julian Assange’s Russian connections, as demonstrated in this piece from open source research. Taken as a whole, it should be amply clear that Assange has been working, knowingly, with Russian intelligence since the days of the KGB; that he has been funded by outlets working for Russia; that the ‘Chaos Computer Club’ is an offshoot of the GRU, best considered as contractors to Russian and Chinese intelligence; and that Wikileaks was a Russian-intelligence approved effort to use naive Western hackers and activists to help Russian military intelligence access United States Military facilities.

 

This blog has long exclusively reported that the Mueller Grand Jury case is ‘United States vs Wikileaks, et al,’ and that the Government’s case is that Wikileaks has always been a witting partner of the GRU. Once this is proven, the Trump campaign’s partnership with Wikileaks becomes a legally chargeable partnership with the GRU, and DOJ can and will charge them with collusion.

Julian Assange’s completely forgotten and overlooked trips to Moscow and other Russian cities, and the influx of money he received after hacking the US military, entirely support our reporting and analysis. In their book on Wikileaks, David Leigh and Luke Harding describe the meeting the paper’s journalists had with a triumphant Assange just before the Guardian dutifully published the leaks the GRU and Assange had jointly taken from Chelsea Manning.

The partners again headed for dinner in the Rotunda restaurant beneath the Guardian offices… Here, as the journalists sank pints of Pilsner… Assange confided he was thinking about going to Russia. Russia was an odd choice – especially in the light of soon-to-be-published cables describing it as a ‘virtual mafia state’…..

 

But, of course, Russia was not at all an ‘odd choice’, and had the Guardian done any research whatsoever into the man they were assisting and his motives, they would have realized that.

Later, Guardian journalists would hide behind their opposition to the Russian anti-semite and open Russian intelligence asset Israel Shamir, who scorned to hide his affiliation with, and payment by, Assange and Wikileaks. ‘Oh look, as soon as we realized Assange was deep in with Russian racists, we pulled back.’ But by then, the damage to Western security had been done, by Russia, with their willing assistance.

The Guardian, the New York Times, and all the other Western institutions who unwittingly helped Russian intelligence attack their own nations by giving Assange such a platform, now had a built-in disincentive to ever really examine the origins of Wikileaks and the motivations of its deeply repellent founder. Because if they “committed journalism”, as Assange apologists like to say, they would have to report that they, themselves, had been so-called ‘useful idiots’. And a headline like that is unlikely to make the front page.

Timeline of Assange’s Early Russian Connections

Here is a partial timeline of Julian Assange’s Russian connections, as demonstrated in this piece from open source research. Taken as a whole, it should be amply clear that Assange has been working, knowingly, with Russian intelligence since the days of the KGB; that he has been funded by outlets working for Russia; that the ‘Chaos Computer Club’ is an offshoot of the GRU, best considered as contractors to Russian and Chinese intelligence; and that Wikileaks was a Russian-intelligence approved effort to use naive Western hackers and activists to help Russian military intelligence access United States Military facilities.

 

1971 – Julian Assange born.

Late 80s – Julian Assange becomes part of an international group of hackers including the Chaos Computer Club in Germany

1986 – 1988 – ‘Pengo’, of the CCC, has been hacking the US military and selling its secrets to the KGB for ‘access to better computers’. Assange gleefully records this in his book. Pengo hands himself in to German authorities after his fellow hacker of the US, Habgard, who also sold secrets to the KGB is burned alive before a court case, presumably because the KGB thought he would talk.

1989 – Julian Assange hacks NASA with the WANK worm, dropping the name of Midnight Oil into his code.

1989-1991 Assange befriends another hacker, Anthrax, an antisemite who likes to listen to Radio Moscow

1991 – Assange hacks the US military Milnet and gets caught, but the trial date takes several years

1992 – Assange and a fellow hacker suddenly come into enough money to buy a huge mainframe computer at an Italian University

1992-1996 Assange starts reading extensively in Russian literature

1996 – Assange is convicted but let off by an Australian judge, despite having done extensive damage to the US military

1996 – Assange comes into a large amount of money and begins extensively to travel the world alone. He sets up bulletin boards for international hackers, including hackers in Germany with the Chaos Computer Club, the KGB’s partners, and Russia

1997 – Assange writes and publishes his self-laudatory book about hackers, from which many of the above facts are sourced

1990s in general – Assange spends enough time in Moscow to become intimately familiar with their TV shows and cartoons

1998 – Assange sends a ’round robin email’ to his string of hacker friends asking to meet them in Berlin ‘or Siberia’ . He announces he will be visiting Germany, then Moscow, St. Petersburg and Irkutsk in Siberia, followed by Beijing, China

1999 – Assange registers Wikileaks

1999- 2007 – These years are obscured by Assange, apart from a short stint dropping out of college in 2003, but, of course, despite having convictions and no gainful employment, he is able to travel all around the world on, it may fairly be assumed, Russian money. Assange has never explained the source of the wealth he came into at 25, once he was ‘let off’ for hacking the US military

2006 – Wikileaks ‘soft launches’ in Iceland

2007 – Assange’s Russian-speaking girlfriend in Paris is helping him code the Wikileaks website, and he uses her for Russian translations

2009 – the Chaos Computer Club and Assange solicit US military materials in Malaysia, as described in Assange’s superseding indictment for espionage

2009 – Chelsea/Bradley Manning responds to the solicitation and Assange helps her crack US military passwords with the help of “Wikileaks Affiliates” who, I submit, are clearly agents of the GRU; the superseding indictment states:

ASSANGE, WikiLeaks Affiliates,and Manning Shared the Common Objective to Subvert Lawful Restrictions on Classified Information and to Publicly Disseminate it.

Readers will note the indictment does not speak of other members of Wikileaks, but “Wikileaks Affiliates”.

2012 – Russia Today gives Assange his own television show, paying him handsomely, and sets up his flight to the Ecuadorean embassy by arranging for Correa to be his guest

2016 – the Chaos Computer Club’s Andy Muller Maughn delivers Assange a thumb drive, while openly boasting he works for Russian intelligence and the Chinese government

 

 

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