As direct consequence of the allegations leveled against Julian Assange by Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilén, the editor and founder of WikiLeaks has found himself facing the possibility of being extradited from Sweden to the U.S. In response to this (after a final appeal in the UK Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden failed), Assange sought (19 June 2012) and was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorean government.
Back in August 2010, Ardin's allegations ended Assange's ability to operate freely at the very moment such options were needed most - during the highly charged publishing of the Iraq War Logs and the U.S. diplomatic cables. When Swedish prosecutors refused to question Assange in England and instead put out a European Arrest Warrant, and as the first evidence of a U.S. Grand Jury emerged, the questions, suspicion and intrigue surrounding Assange's accusers increased. With little information available about Wilén and with Ardin's political ties and instrumental role in events, almost all of this speculation and attention has been directed at her. Ardin's willingness to give interviews to the press has also fueled interest.
Phillip Knightley spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald in December 2010, summing up the speculation surrounding Ardin's motives: "There's no direct evidence [that Ardin is a CIA agent]. She's someone they would consider an asset. I do not think she has been recruited for this mission but once she realized she was in this position, she might have known the right people to contact. They are always on the lookout for people with what you might call 'interesting friends'." Knightley believes that Ardin's political activities and contacts within Sweden's historically dominant SDP party, as well as her activities in Cuba and Miami, fit the model of someone deemed useful to foreign intelligence agencies and also as a valuable resource for Sweden's small spy agency.
To gain a better understanding of the events that led up to Assange entering the Ecuadorean Embassy and to understand the factual basis of the speculation mentioned above, it is important to review Ardin and Sweden's activities in Cuba.
Ardin (who also goes by the name Anna Bernardin) visited Cuba four times between 2003 and 2006, becoming involved in the 54 year de facto war between Cuba and the U.S. During this time she worked as an intern in the Swedish embassy in Washington DC and later worked at the Buenos Aires embassy as a PR manager.
Ardin was ostensibly visiting Cuba to research her Masters thesis 'The Cuban Multi-Party System'. Her 'field tutor' was Miriam Leiva, a prominent member of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White). In 2003, the Cuban government arrested Miriam Leiva's husband, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, for receiving money from U.S. 'diplomats'. Espinosa Chepe was writing anti-Castro propaganda for Cubanet and CubaEncuentro, both of which were funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which in turn is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an organisation funded by the U.S. State Department. Espinosa Chepe's arrest was a part of 'Black Spring', a crackdown on 75 U.S. funded dissidents thought to be involved in America's typical 'destabilization' / 'pro-democracy' activities. The 'Ladies in White' consists of the wives and other female relatives of the jailed dissidents.
After Ardin was asked to leave Cuba due to her political activities (in 2006), she travelled to Miami to continue her research, interviewing prominent expatriate Cuban anti-Castro and anti-Communist activists. In Ardin's 39-page thesis she does not mention U.S. interventionism in the internal affairs of Cuba, or how this might affect a future multi-party democracy. She does not mention that all of the political parties she explores receive U.S. funding, or the influence and control exerted by the United States upon these groups. The journal sources she cites (she later writes on Cuban affairs for websites funded by USAID such as Miscelánea de Cuba) are the same U.S. State Department-funded publications that Espinosa Chepe worked with. These journals are accused by the Cuban government of being part of an ongoing attempt to manufacture, support and finance a U.S.-friendly internal opposition movement in Cuba via a wide range of organisations. The current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called the 'Varela Project' and other interventions "counterproductive" and stated that dissidents receiving money from U.S. sources, especially from the CIA, were immediately discredited. In 2008, the State Department and USAID trebled previous levels of funding, 'awarding' $45.7 million in ‘Cuba democracy’ grants.
The links between Miami-based anti-Castro Cuban-American organisations and the CIA forms one of the darkest episodes in U.S. history. It spans the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by a counter-revolutionary militia trained and funded by the CIA, the Cuban missle crisis blow-back and the horror of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In Miami, Ardin interviewed CIA counter-revolutionary militant Lino Fernández aka Ojeda. Fernández and five hundred of his men were captured while awaiting a CIA air-drop one month before the invasion at the Bay of Pigs.
In Cuba, Ardin interviewed Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a leader of Arco Progresista, (Progressive Arc Party) who in several interviews has described as working with Ardin and the Swedish Social Democrats. It also seems that Ardin may have caused Cuesta Morúa various difficulties not dissimilar to those experienced by Assange several years later:
Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Leonardo Calvo Cárdenas, Rigoberto Hernández, Partido Arco Progresista.
"We tried to [strengthen links with the Latin American democratic left]. And that was when the the Cuban authorities got angry. For them, a project of this nature was unacceptable. So they set their instruments and internal mechanisms to work in order to overthrow the Cuban social democratic alternative. And so an accusation of internal corruption arose.
And, strangely for us, Anna supports that accusation. I say strangely because she was the person receiving the expense reports of the small cash assistance they were giving us. Two or three groups of young people linked to the group that she headed came to Cuba between 2003 and 2005, up to twice a year. They brought the economic aid and took the reports. Then they informed us by e-mail, or in their next visit, of their assessment: always positive. The last economic aid was brought over by Anna herself in mid-2005. Later on, other people came over, took the reports and everything went well. Suddenly, after having acknowledged that all the reports were fine, Anna seemed to forget this and jumped on a Cuban Government report about us, which could not stand up to serious analysis.
At this point I was surprised by two things: first, the lack of positive response to the institutional analysis we had convened - and which we carried out in the end – and second, her attempt to recruit other members of the European democratic left for her destroying venture – in which she succeeded to some extent. Her attitude was certainly an ironic setback for me, as I used to defend our relationship with the Swedish Social Democrats on the grounds that their political culture was exemplary; that is, based on strict adherence to the rules and on full respect for the word given. And behold, it was precisely a Swede who came to demolish these long-cherished theoretical certainties. So my connection with her broke, in October 2006, following this rather odd behaviour.
Anna Ardin is yet another proof of why one should never underestimate the psychological motivations behind people's actions. Every time we see a disproportionally reactive behaviour, we should stop to analyse the rationality (or lack thereof) they show in their behaviour. And that's the case with Ardin, not taking into account her constantly changing ideology.
Strictly rational motives are not always behind people's behaviour. I think her behaviour was the combined product of psychological projection, personal ambition and unrestrained desire for fame – also linked to the frustration generated by disappointments. When frustration cannot be controlled, a desire to destroy the cherished object is activated. Assange's lawyer said something along those lines when asked his opinion on Ardin's motives in a recent interview with El País.
In political terms, this means that she could not find a way to explain in Sweden that her work in Havana was in trouble, and at the same time she felt powerless to control what we were doing. I see her as a less ideologically-minded version of Alan Woods (the latest of Hugo Chávez's British neo-Marxist pseudo-advisors, who believes he knows better than Venezuelans themselves what suits them best – without leaving Europe). And as I come from a tradition that sees any attempt to dictate (coming from without or within) our aims and direction, like an unwanted old-fashioned oddity; Ardin could not comprehend the message and she burst whilst trying to bust us."
Manuel Cuesta Morúa (Cuban socialist opposition leader) interviewed by Catalan journalist Oriol Malló. Sent to Cuba Nuestra by Federico Campbell Peña. 29 December 2010
Sweden has continued to support U.S. interests in Cuba. Oswaldo Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and the Varela Project was killed in a car crash on 22 July 2012 at the age of 61. Swedish politician and chairman of the Young Christian Democrats Jens Aron Modig and Spanish politician Ángel Carromero, deputy secretary general of Nuevas Generaciones (the youth wing of Spain’s Partido Popular) were present and survived with minor injuries. As with Anna Ardin, they entered Cuba on tourist visas and later acknowledged that their visit was solely to conduct political work with dissidents. Jens Aron Modig said he first came to Cuba in 2009 to meet and support dissidents, and that on this trip he gave Oswaldo Payá $4,900 for his opposition work and help organising dissident political youth groups. Henrik Ehrenberg, a spokesman for Sweden's Christian Democratic Party, said that any cash carried by its members to dissidents was "private money", and that "quite a number of Christian Democrats" had visited Cuba to show "moral support and solidarity" for Oswaldo Payá's civil rights movement. Jens Aron Modig said he made the two trips under instructions of the Christian Democrats international department and admitted that “we don’t perform these types of activities in any other country.”
What began as 'lines of communication' in 2000 between Cuban dissidents and the Swedish government, had become by 2003 an overt attempt to manipulation of Cuba's internal political landscape. We can imagine if the roles were reversed; the reaction of Western governments to such interventions by allies of a hostile blockading power. In 2006, the U.S. had become increasingly disenchanted with the Miami-based anti-Castro organisations. Congressional auditors accused USAID of failing to administer its program properly and of having channelled tens of millions of dollars through exile groups, which were wasteful and kept questionable accounts. The auditors concluded that 30% of the exile groups who received USAID grants showed 'problematic' expenditures. The repeated failure of the Miami-based organisations to make an impact on Cuba's internal dynamics has led to a change in U.S. strategy. After a period of more restrained activity following the 'Black Spring', young Mexican and European politicians acting under the banner of activism were once again recruited with their governments' assent to work as U.S. proxies. And once again, foreign intervention in a climate of siege has proven to be "counterproductive" and set back the process of change.
Sweden's declared stance of neutrality belies a consistent history of acting either as a proxy for, or in concert with, the U.S. From the 'cold war', to the 'war on terror' and military deployments in NATO-led operations, the pattern of an unofficial alliance persists.
The instant that Assange found himself involved with a Swedish government agency, the relationship between Sweden and the U.S. came into play. The prosecution process was and remains deeply distorted by the gravity exerted by U.S. interests. The Pirate Bay trial has also witnessed similar issues.
The motives behind Ardin's actions are a puzzle to many, including Assange. In terms of the allegations and the reality of events in Stockholm, we already know through the established (and agreed) facts of the case, which exist irrespective of whose account one chooses to believe, that Ardin sought to manipulate evidence (pages 20 and 21) (the politician-lawyer Claes Borgström, Ardin's publicly-financed representative, believes he can explain these actions within a narrative that excludes the political ramifications of WikiLeaks, while focusing solely on the fame of Assange).
Perhaps this manipulation is not only a question of, as Phillip Knightley puts it, "I do not think she has been recruited for this mission but once she realized she was in this position, she might have known the right people to contact", but also a case of being driven to act by an impulsive tendency to use high risk tactics (as observed by Cuesta Morúa) in service of personal political ambitions.
Chairman of the Young Christian Democrats, Jens Aron Modig.
Anna Ardin on Swedish television re. Cuba. Photo: Diaz Gernan War.
The funeral of Oswaldo Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).
Following the failure of the Bay of Pigs, the proposed invasion of Cuba by U.S. October 1962.
USAID, 'From the American People', now using EU proxies, however, Oswaldo Payá's reputation destroyed when evidence of financing from Sweden revealed.
December 7, 2012