On Monday, anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks announced it had got hold of more than 5 million emails from Stratfor, an american political analyst firm, and would publish them during the coming weeks. Working in collaboration with a number of international media organizations, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange held a press conferens in London and described the emails on the Wikileaks web site:
"They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations...".
Many media outlets, including Expressen and U.K. correspondents, were present at the press conference at the Frontline Club.
"However, some of information in the emails appeared weaker than the site's release would suggest", British newspaper The Guardian wrote about Wikileaks.
The Guardian, The New York Times and a number of other news organizations that used to cooperate with the Wikileaks no longer do so. Expressen, the Swedish daily with some 1.7 million readers per day, today continues to cover Wikileaks relationship to Sweden.
Wikileaks' leadership, according to the organization's own material, is convinced that Julian Assange was the victim of a conspiracy when two Swedish women reported him to the police for rape and sexual assault in 2010. And that the U.S. is now using the legal process to force extradition.
The organization is convinced that Swedish journalists, politicians and government officials are involved in the alleged conspiracy. Therefore, according to Expressen's sources, for sometime the leadership has been discussing various scenarios to "reveal the conspiracy"and stop a possible extradition of Assange to the US.
For this reason, a number of Swedish journalists have also been investigated.
According to several sources familiar with Wikileaks' material and planning, several individuals have been involved in the investigation:
"They include activists from Europe, as well as in Sweden. They have ascertained that at least three reporters who work for two different media houses are involved in the conspiracy", according to Expressen's sources inside Wikileaks.
The material to which Expressen, awarded "Editorial Team of the Year" in 2011 by the Swedish Newspapers Association, and 1st Prize Winner in the international INMA Awards for its coverage of the latest Swedish general elections, has become privy shows that the finances and private lives of the Swedish journalists have been reviewed.
"They have surreptitiously photographed people suspected of being involved in the conspiracy against Assange, they have also accessed information from public records and gained access to secret material from government databases."
The information about Wikileaks' investigation comes from sources that back in December gave Expressen access to internal material at Wikileaks, that claimed that the Swedish Foreign Secretary, Mr Carl Bildt, has worked as an informer for the Unites States. Julian Assange and Kristinn Hrafnsson, spokesperson for Wikileaks, have since confirmed these allegations about Mr Bildt for both Expressen and the US magazine Rolling Stone.
Expressen has gained access to internal Wikileaks material in which Ulrika Knutson, President of the Swedish Publicists Association, is named as one of the Swedish writers whose private life has been investigated.
It may seem odd that Knutson was investigated since under her leadership, the Swedish Publicists Association expressed strong support for Wikileaks and especially criticized the efforts of U.S. politicians and authorities to silence the organization.
One explanation for why Wikileaks still investigated Knutson may be that she also expressed strong public criticism of Wikileaks' Swedish representative, freelance journalist Johannes Wahlström.
In a column in the Swedish magazine Fokus she concluded that Wahlström's judgement had been previously questioned, and summarized:
"We can only hope that the spell is lifted and that at some point, Johannes Wahlström is examined by X-ray."
In a radio commentary on P1's "Godmorgon, världen", she harshly criticized Wikileaks'collaboration with Johannes Wahlström's father Israel Shamir, who is often described as anti-Semitic:
"For months we have been amazed that Wikileaks collaborated with a rabid Holocaust denier like Israel Shamir."
Ulrika Knutson described accusations from Wikileaks and Julian Assange about a U.S.-controlled conspiracy as "ridiculous":
"Not even (John) Pilger's old friend John leCarré could have made up such intrigues as the Wikileaks circles have twisted, of 'neocon Jews' (that's how they refer to the Bonnier Sphere), and 'known conservatives' as they have labeled attorney Claes Borgström. A tangle of paranoid lies and misconceptions."
When Ulrika Knutson is contacted by Expressen and informed about the fact that she has been secretly investigated by Wikileaks, she responds:
- I don't know whether to laugh or cry. If this is correct, it makes you wonder of the priorities of these activists.
Ulrika Knutson notes that she has, both as a columnist and as President of the National Press Club, defended Wikileaks from the point of view of freedom of expression.
- I have written and I have said that they have exposed important facts, not least the war crimes of the United States.
She admits that she at times has criticized Julian Assange and his friends for having a somewhat conspiratorial view of the world, but adds:
- But I find it far fetched that my name should appear under these circumstances.
Wikileaks' intelligence material which Expressen gained access to also included photos of the home of Expressen's Editor-in-Chief, Thomas Mattsson, in Stockholm, along with information about him that appears to come from public databases.
Expressen has been the focus of criticism from Wikileaks since the newspaper revealed in August 2010 that Julian Assange was demanded into custody on suspicion of sex crimes during a visit to Sweden.
Expressen also published the classified prisoner dossier of a Swedish citizen, Mehdi Gezali, who was held at the Guantanamo base. This information was promised to another Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, but when Expressen broke the story Wikileaks official Twitter account stated that this was the work of its "enemies". Wikileaks has also, falsely, described Expressen as a "right-wing tabloid".
Now the organization has been trying to find proof of a conspiracy which includes Expressen.
But, the fact-checking appears to have failed, at least for the material about Thomas Mattsson.
Wikileaks claims in the investigation that Thomas Mattsson owns a home worth SEK 14,000,000, which is substantially more than the actual market value today.
Wikileaks also claims that Thomas Mattsson does not earn enough as Editor-in-Chief to qualify for such a large mortgage. Wikileaks therefore concludes that Mattsson accepted money from somewhere else.
Expressen's Editor-in-Chief Thomas Mattsson comments:
"Wikileaks has produced some truly interesting insights, notably about U.S. military activities and the so called 'cables', but I find its inability to deal with criticism worrying. Ever since we revealed the sex crimes allegations against Julian Assange in, Wikileaks has attacked Expressen."
"I consider the investigation of me and other Swedish journalists as an attempt to find something that can be used to question relevant news coverage about Wikileaks".
During yesterdays press conference in London, Expressens reporter Robert Börjesson met with Wikileaks official spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson, and asked:
• Has Wikileaks, or people connected to Wikileaks, ever investigated critical journalists in Sweden?
–ı In what way. In what manner are you talking about?
• Taking economical information, investigating them, in any way investigating Swedish journalists?
–ıNo, I'm not aware of any investigation taken place, Hrafnsson said.
One week ago, Expressen revealed that Wikileaks plans a "smear campaign" against Sweden if its founder is extradited from United Kingdom. One of the things that Wikileaks have in mind is to make public an alleged U.S. diplomatic cable, claiming that it contains proof of Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Secretary, being an U.S. "informant" since 1973.
Bildt has laughed of at this allegation, and did so again yesterday when Expressens´reporter Micke Ölander met him in Brussels, Belgium.
Wikileaks stand today is somewhat difficult to understand, though. Julian Assange himself mentioned this specific alleged cable about Carl Bildt in his recent interview with the Rolling Stone Magazine.
And Kristinn Hrafnsson has, in a recorded interview with Expressen, confirmed the same thing. But despite Hrafnsson being taped by Expressen, Wikileaks later denied any of its people even talked to Expressen
And Julian Assange stated clearly, during Mondays televised presentation of the latest leak, that he doesn´t wish to speak to Expressen anymore.
* There are some information in this release regarding Sweden's Foreign Secretary Carl Bildt. Do you have any more information about Mr Bildt and when will you release the alleged information that he was an "informer" for the US?
"Well, you are from the Expressen newspaper, which fabricated an entire story and made it front page in four additional pages last week. And as a result, the Foreign Minister of Sweden has been on some defensive rampage against this organisation. Completely absurd."
"Sweden, in relation to Carl Bildt, is acting lika a political kindergarten. It is totally absurd. And, as a result, we simply do not answer questions from your organization. As you know, your organization works hand in hand with the moderate party. It is owned by the Bonniers. Come on!"
Additional reporting by Robert Börjesson in London and Micke Ölander i Brussels.