“This kid is apparently a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, and is quite clever at coming up with stories,” says Ingólfur.
“This kid has had quite a bit of problems as of late,” says Helgason. “He has checked into a rehabilitation center for youths.”
The police told Helgason they never asked the teenager any questions about WikiLeaks, and that the teenager brought up the organization, claiming that a laptop he had on him at the time of his arrest was owned by WikiLeaks.
In regards to the laptop, Helgason says “we only have the word of the police for what he said. And if he said it, we don’t know if it’s the truth.”
More broadly, the police and the Icelandic Minster of Justice denied to Hegalson that they are involved in any investigation of WikiLeaks.
Assange or someone else writing at WikiLeaks’ official Twitter account admitted that perhaps not all about the interrogation was as originally suggested. On March 28, after Icelandic journalists had had a chance to report out his claims, the account was updated with the following:
There is debate as to what happened during the interrogation in Iceland [not other matters]. We are seeking clarification.
Whatever clarification Assange may have sought, he hasn’t offered any himself—the WikiLeaks site and Twitter feed have since been essentially silent on Assange’s surveillance charges. (Hegalson and Ingólfur’s attempts to reach Assange failed or went without response, as did CJR’s.)
And while Assange’s brackets insist that there is no debate about other surveillance matters, Icelandic journalists have been unable to substantiate his claims about the two people “operating under the name of the U.S. State Department” who boarded his flight to Norway.
When asked about Assange’s allegations, State Department spokesperson Darby Holladay it was the “first anyone’s heard of this in the State Department.” Further inquiries made to spokespeople in the Diplomatic Security and Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs branches of the department were not responded to by press time.
While WikiLeaks’s front page offered a new document—the political profiles—on March 29, Assange has not released the purported passenger records that could help substantiate his claims that State Department officials tailed him on an international flight. He also says that he was able to trace the license plate of a car involved in surveillance to a private security company in Iceland.
Whatever the ultimate truth of these other claims, Assange’s haste to disseminate such baroque charges, based on the unproven claims of a possibly troubled youth with a criminal record, do not inspire the sort of cool-headedness, taut B.S. detector, judgement in personnel, or respect for accuracy that one would like to see in a journalist involved in disseminating and analyzing some of the world’s most sensitive documents.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Assange has stepped beyond the known facts in claiming persecution. Assange’s recent statement also mentioned the Pentagon’s 2008 reporton WikiLeaks, published by the site on March 15, that identified the site as a “potential … threat.”