Partner At Firm Counseling Assange’s Accusers Helped In CIA Torture Rendition

January 12, 2011
Thomas Bodstrom

Thomas Bodstrom (Photo via Wikipedia Creative Commons)

Best-selling spy thriller author Thomas Bodström ─ an attorney whose firm represents the two Swedish women making the notorious sex charges against WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange ─ knows better than most people that truth is stranger than fiction.

As Sweden’s Minister of Justice, Bodström helped his nation in 2001 secretly turn over to the Central Intelligence Agency two asylum-seekers suspected by the CIA of terror, according to materials recently researched via Google by my Justice Integrity Project and by the Legal Schnauzer blog of Roger Shuler. Shuler broke the story Jan. 11 on his blog, ”Lawyer for Assange Accusers Has Apparent Ties to CIA and Torture.”

The CIA flew the terror suspects to Egypt for torture as part of the decade’s rendition effort requiring secret, high-level Swedish cooperation. Assange is the subject of a recent global manhunt by the Swedes seeking him for sex questioning. The United States is investigating him intensely, but has not filed charges. But Assange can take only cold comfort that Sweden, under international pressure, eventually awarded the 2001 asylum seekers damages for torture.

On Jan. 11, Assange’s attorneys spoke of their fears that if Great Britain sends their client to Sweden for an inquiry on sex charges he could end up being sent by Sweden to the United States on spy charges. There, the defense lawyers said, Assange could face death or imprisonment at Guantanamo in Cuba, where the Bush and Obama administrations can hold so-called terrorists almost indefinitely with minimal due process.


As a parallel development, the Obama administration has used the disclosures as rationale for a wide-ranging crackdown not simply against WikiLeaks but against anyone in government or the media, particularly the web-based media, who might disclose secrets that the government regards as threatening national security. Our project summarized these developments this week in a column, “Whistleblower Says: Obama’s DoJ Declares War on Whistleblowers.”

WikiLeaks Questions
Bodström left his parliament seat last year to move to the United States for six months, citing a need for family time and to write another book.

Is Bodström again cooperating with U.S. authorities in their all-out effort to save the United States, Sweden – and perhaps Bodström himself – from further embarrassment caused by cables WikiLeaks might release from its still-secret trove?

Or are Swedish authorities proceeding normally, as they claim, in launching a global Interpol manhunt to capture Assange to question him about precisely how and why he engaged in sex-without-a-condom last summer with two women who invited him separately to stay with them in their beds while he was on a speaking tour?

Whatever the case, the role of Bodström’s firm in helping initiate the sex claims -– which are not criminal charges -– inevitably bring scrutiny upon his motives, background and law partner Claes Borgström, a prominent feminist and, like Bodström, a former official in the Social Democratic Party and the primary advocate in the complaint initiated by the firm Borgström and Bodström.

Update: Borgström wrote me today to stress that this column should reflect that he, not Bodström, represents the two women involved in the Assange matter. At least in the United States and with a small firm, a client is usually ascribed to a firm both in common parlance and for certain formal purposes, such as conflict-of-interest checks. But the original headline is being adjusted to avoid confusion. Other updates are below in the comment section.

Lawyers for Assange made news Jan. 11 by saying their client could be “detained at Guantanamo Bay” or subject to the death penalty if he is extradited from Britain to Sweden, which could lead to extradition or “illegal rendition” to the U.S. The lawyers issued the statement, according to a Huffington Post report, as the WikiLeaks founder appeared in a U.K. court to schedule his extradition hearing for questioning in Sweden over alleged sex crimes.

It’s not just Assange and his attorneys who fear trumped-up charges against Assange. Critics in Sweden are saying that their government has been jeopardizing their country’s hard-won reputation for political neutrality and human rights. In November, Sweden’s parliament announced that it would probe U.S. embassy surveillance of Swedish citizens revealed by WikiLeaks and its media partners.

Political Prosecutions At Home and Abroad
The legal reform project I founded last year got its start investigating the kinds of political prosecutions that became notorious in the United States during the Bush administration in 2007 after revelations that the Justice Department had purged nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons the previous year. Digging deep in such cases, one often finds that some prosecutors use every possible tool to destroy a target under the guise of enforcing the law.

The conventional wisdom is that such prosecutions under Bush were a temporary aberration, perhaps encouraged by then-White House adviser Karl Rove out of partisan zeal before he resigned in mid-2007. But our research has concluded that political interference in the justice system is a serious, longstanding problem blighting both parties and largely ignored by such watchdog institutions as the traditional news media.

The probe of Assange on both sex and spy charges shows how political prosecutions dishonor other nations as well, and carry the potential for undermining web-based news distribution systems that currently provide one of best hopes for citizen oversight of government abuse of power.

Last week, our project published a Connecticut Watchdog column headlined, “Rove Suspected of Role In Swedish WikiLeaks Probe.” Rove has long advised Sweden’s governing Moderate Party and is well-positioned as a White House veteran of earlier rendition efforts to counsel leaders about the political and media dimensions on the capture of the nomadic Assange.

The column attracted widespread readership and follow-ups elsewhere because of Rove’s reputation. The column also attracted several conservative critics, who said Rove’s statement on his website bio that he has advised Sweden’s governing Moderate Party does not prove that he has specifically advised Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt or his administration about WikiLeaks.

Failing to receive a response from Rove for comment, I hosted one of his longtime friends, Timbro Media Institute Executive Director Roland P. Martinsson, on my “Washington Update” public affairs radio show Jan. 6. Martinsson, a leader of Scandinavia’s leading conservative, free-market think tank, called for Assange’s arrest and said there’s no evidence Rove is involved with Reinfeldt or WikiLeaks.

Prof. Brian Palmer of Uppsala University, a Reinfeldt biographer and one of my sources for Reinfeldt’s links to Rove, was the guest Jan. 13 on the show, which can be heard live at noon (ET) worldwide or by archive later on the My Technology Lawyer radio network. Listener and dial-in question information is available on the show’s website. I am thrilled also to be a guest discussing this next Sunday on Connecticut Watchdog’s radio show hosted by George Gombossy.

What follows are further reports drawn from the public record about irregularities in the Assange prosecutions. They paint a picture suspiciously like those of some of the more infamous political prosecutions in the United States of recent years, but as ever this is only a step along the way in investigating what really happened.

The Accusers’ Lawyer

Let’s start with a Wikipedia bio.

Thomas Lennart Bodström is a Swedish politician and member of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. He was the Swedish Minister for Justice in the two last succeeding governments of the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, from 2000 to 2006. Since October 2006 until October 2010 he was the chairman of the Riksdags committee for juridical issues….

Thomas Bodström is the son of Lennart Bodström, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs 1982–1985 in the Olof Palme government. In his youth, however, Thomas Bodström was not involved in party politics. Instead, his first brush with media attention came as a football player… He took interest in international affairs and in 1999 he joined the board of the Swedish branch of the international organisation Lawyers Without Borders.

His role in the CIA rendition of two terror subjects in 2001 has become controversial in Sweden after United Nations and Swedish officials began issuing reports. For example, the Swedish news organization The Local reported in 2006, “Sweden broke torture ban during CIA deportation.”

Swedish officials just looked on while US agents mistreated Mohammad Alzery, along with fellow Eyptian Ahmed Agiza, at Stockholm’s Bromma Airport,” according to the news report. “This very serious indeed for Sweden,” said Anna Wigenmark, a lawyer at human rights group the Swedish Helsinki Committee, who represented Alzery at the UN.

Who’s To Blame?
Bodström has long minimized this role authorizing the 2001 rendition. He and former Prime Minister Göran Persson have said that decision-making was a group-effort, with the key choices made by then-Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was assassinated in 2003. Bodström said that he only became aware of CIA involvement Jan. 7, 2002 at a meeting with the then-head of the security police, Säpo.

But Lindh’s friend and former communications director, Eva Franchell, wrote “The Friend,” a 2009 book that implicated Bodström and Persson. According to press reports in 2009, Franchell wrote that Bodström learned about the rendition at the same time as her late boss, Dec. 17, the day before U.S. authorities flew the men to Egypt. Franchell’s book also said the United States had threatened Sweden with heavy trade sanctions unless the nation complied with the rendition.

Even accepting Bodström’s defense, his government’s overall cooperation with renditions undercuts claims by Sweden’s establishment that its justice system is immune from political pressure, including from the United States.

Instead, those who delve into those matters can see beneath the surface a pattern of human rights rhetoric that coexists with behind-the-scenes battles over whether the nation would live up to such aspirations. For example, a start-up group Stop NATO Sweden last year published a long white paper, ”From Neutrality to NATO.” It documented how leaders of major parties in Sweden have been supporting the U.S.-dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in ways incompatible with Sweden’s neutrality traditions.

In December, a Swedish medical school professor and noted human rights advocate wrote a hard-hitting column headlined, “Assange Buried the Swedish Neutrality Myth.” Dr. Marcello Vittorio Ferrada-Noli wrote that Sweden can no longer enjoy the image “of a modern, independent, democratic and non-aligned country” because of WikiLeaks, and therefore is embarked on what he called “revenge.”

His next column Jan. 11 was headlined, “The Swedish political crusade against Assange and WikiLeaks.” It argued that Bodström and his law partner initiated the questionable sex charges that obscured Bodstrom’s dealings with U.S. authorities, as well as scandalous sellouts by officials since then of Swedish business interests.

The validity of Sweden’s sex crime investigation has been debated in many quarters and is conveniently framed by an exchange of open letters last month between filmmaker Michael Moore and a Swedish defender of its procedures.

Next Steps
The ending of this thriller is not in sight. Without the power of subpoena, scriveners can only advance the plot incrementally by bringing forward such “new” material about the pasts of such an important characters in this saga as those representing Assange’s accusers. Our project attempted to contact them for comment without success before publication. We shall continue, and provide updates here.

In the meantime, one has to wonder why the lawyer background isn’t more widely known, at least in the United States. This is particularly true of Bodström, who for so long was so prominent in government and elsewhere in such interesting ways. The background is all public. Bonnier AB, Sweden’s most important media company and also highly influential in government and diplomacy, has vast resources to connect the dots for its readers, for example. So do the major U.S. news organizations.

Is there something boring about a handsome, best-selling author, former football star like Bodström, who served as one of Europe’s top legal officials and is now embroiled in major international sex scandal and political intrigue? What if the scandal ultimately threatens to restrict the world’s whistleblowers, reporters and their readers from learning what’s in government documents?

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20 Responses to Partner At Firm Counseling Assange’s Accusers Helped In CIA Torture Rendition

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  5. Lucy on January 13, 2011 at 2:46 am

    Wait, can I get a citation on Thomas Bodstrom being the Swedish women’s lawyer? I’ve followed the rape case closely, and I’ve never heard his name mentioned before – I’m not aware of anyone other than Claes Borgstrom being the women’s lawyer at the moment. . .

    Although, from a quick google search, apparently Bodstrom is a partner in the lawfirm that Borgstrom works for, and is also a Social Democrat ( Still, I can’t find any articles (other than Legal Schnauder’s) confirming that Bodstrom represents the two Swedish women.

    • Knightir on January 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      ex swedish justice minister is involved in accusations of an Assange, as it was cleared from Swedish standard Juridics, mr. Bodström was NOT ALLOWED to even try to come near Scandinavian cases of landlaws swe JB/JP.. I warn you, clearly.. Stay off.

  6. simonpeter on January 13, 2011 at 4:39 am

    There is also a question mark over the warrant Ny is using in the UK. Surely a warrant which stipulates that Julian is to be taken to Sweden and held incommunicado for up to 2 years is an admission of a kind of torture? A man held without trial for 2 years and his lawyer gagged and with no access to family or friends sounds like and looks like a form or torture to me. Julian’s lawyers have not made as yet much of this issue in his defence but I am sure it would have a significant effect on the extradition outcome if the Judge in the UK were made aware that Ny intends to torture Julian in this way.

    I feel sorry for the people of Sweden.

    • Humanist on January 13, 2011 at 9:30 am

      The 35-page “skeleton arguments” presented by the lawyers for Assange on January 11, 2011, at the first extradition procedural hearing (10 minutes long) in the U.K. may not have specifically mentioned the terms of the Swedish EAW regarding Assange being held in detention for up to two years without trial and a gag order on his lawyers. Those terms are quite telling and reveal a lack of legal process and the rule of law.
      Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, has suggested that the full arguments (fleshing out the skeleton) will be presented at the extradition hearing scheduled on February 7 and 8, 2010 (two full days Monday and Tuesday).
      It has been suggested by prominent Swedish reporters that Sweden is using the EAW merely to buy time for the U.S. to build a case against Assange, including pressuring U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning to implicate Assange.

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  8. Andrew Kreig on January 13, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for all comments. Lucy raises a good point, which deserves clarification as she suggests. Claes Borgström has indeed taken the lead in the case. But Bodström, as one of two named leaders in a six-person firm, is inevitably involved in such a major project. In fairness to him also, a Swedish source has pointed out that large numbers of Swedish officials have been involved in secret cooperation with U.S. authorities that might raise public concern there. “Therein lies the problem” with disclosures, as the saying goes — and the usefulness of comments here noting the extraordinary requirements Swedish authorities seek to impose on Assange for what is ostensibly simply questioning in the sex case. Also, I should have noted that the late Stieg Larsson, author of the Millennium trilogy that’s spawned recent movies, is the hottest author by far in the spy genre. Finally, let me share a link to a 2008 newspaper column co-authored by my radio guest today, Dr. Brian Palmer. In it, he provides his view of why Karl Rove was invited to advise Prime Minister Fredik Reinfeldt that year in preparation for the 2010 re-election campaign that Reinfeldt recently won: The gist is Palmer’s belief that the winners were becoming adroit in Orwellian concepts applied to politics. Google provides a button that provides an automatic and not always accurate translation to English.

    • Lucy on January 14, 2011 at 4:31 am


      Thanks for considering my comment. Your article *is* interesting and well researched, I just never heard of the name Thomas Bodstrom mentioned in any of the articles that I’ve read about the Assange rape case so I was genuinely curious.

      That’s interesting that you’re linking to an Aftonbladet article. From what I understand, Aftonbladet is a Swedish liberal tabloid paper – one that Assange himself was going to write columns in before the rape case, and that interviewed Ms. A. Another tabloid paper called Expressen was the one that first reported on the rape case back on Aug 20. I didn’t realize that tabloids printed facts – well, in Sweden, at least.

      • Andrew Kreig on January 14, 2011 at 4:33 pm

        Hi Lucy,
        Part of this story is the media dimension, including the traditional role of newspapers, TV, etc. in disseminating information — or serving as gatekeepers who may be restricting it. WikiLeaks and all web/Internet communictions (including this site) provide tough competition for that. But, at least for now, the traditional powers have the upper hand in their longstanding ties with the top levels of government and business. In Sweden, the Bonnier family has two centuries of media leadership, including owernship of the tabloid Expressen that you mentioned broke the “rape” story. There’s much to learn from tracing out these kinds of media relationships as you started to do, but it’s too much for a comment section here. Thanks again!

        • Lucy on January 14, 2011 at 4:55 pm

          Absolutely – the MSM needs further examination, for sure. The public and even institutions like governments depend on news outlets for facts to base judgements upon.

          Ha ha, you’re welcome! And thank *you* for countering/supplementing MSM with your articles!

  9. Håkan on January 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Bodström is not a very successful person, I’m afraid.

    Mr Bodström has had a very strange career in Sweden. The Swedish political party Socialdemokraterna, has been i reign most of the late 1900 and turned out to be the place for an outgoing person like Bodström to make a career. For an outsider Bodström seems more interested in attention and money than anything else. He has proven left with a lot to achieve in common sense and ethics. His party failed to remain in majority and thus givernment over four years ago and Bodström gas since jumped from one thing to another without leaving any significant footprint in politics, as a laywer nor as an author. Please do not over estimate him. He’s hardly worth the minutes I just spent to write this.

    As far as Assange. We have a very functional and fair legal system in Sweden. Please stop mixing whatever Assange is accused of with Wikileaks. There is no freeway outside what the law regulates for anybody, including Assange. I’m positive he will have a fair trial even though sexual charges often seem very hard to judge. I’d be much more scared in a number of countries in the western world.

    • Göran on January 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm

      I mostly agree about Bodström, though his insignificance doesn’t preclude his being of some importance in Swedish internal affairs. For instance, he was perceived as a possible candidate for leading the Social Democratic Party, however absurd that sounds.

      As for Swedish legal system, I would have agreed six months ago, but now I’m not so certain. There seems to be unusual prcedures applied in this case. I dare to say that if some ordinary perosn had been under the same suspicion that Assange is under, he would either have been arrested at a much earlier stage, or the case would have been dropped. The very slow and protracted treatment of the case, with the sudden use of thestrongest legal instrument EAW instead of the ordinary international legal arrangements for interrogations in foreign countries to my mind indicate that something highly unusual, not to say irregular, is going on.

  10. Andrew Kreig on January 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    More author updates: What appears to be Thomas Bodström’s personal blog reflects his observations on Swedish elections, moving to the United States last August, etc. The former Justice Minister has not yet responded to my request for comment. But his ruminations provide a more rounded portrait than possible in a column. Among the materials is his 2009 newspaper column attacking broadcast television journalists for favoritism in bowing to government pressure to allow favored political leaders to speak solo in on-air interviews while others are consigned to panels. In sum, even the powerful have complaints about the media, but still must use some part of it.

    Finally, Prof. Brian Palmer of Uppsala University in Sweden provided an illuminating interview on my radio show today regarding the influence of Karl Rove on Swedish politics as an advisor to the governing Moderate Party. Palmer is co-author of a Swedish-language book “George W. Reinfeldt” about Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt. Palmer is co-author also of a 2008 newspaper column describing a visit by Rove to Sweden that year. The column claims the trip’s purpose was to help conservatives reconfigure their public image in ways predicted by George Orwell and recently implemented successfully, in Palmer’s view, in the United States by President George W. Bush. My interview with Palmer today may be heard worldwide by archive via the My Technology Lawyer Radio Network website . Also at the site is my companion interview last week with a leader of Sweden’s conservative Timbro Media Institute in Sweden, Roland Martinsson, who minimized the importance of any political role by Rove in Sweden because of his unpopularity there.

  11. AlwaysAskWHY on January 14, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    ROVE: I wish the journalists and the media would refer to Karl Rove correctly: CRIMINAL MASTERMIND. It would all do well to refer to people and things as they are.

    A War-for-Profit is MASS MURDER for PROFIT.
    Smaller Government: a CORPORATE FREE-FOR-ALL
    Legislation that kills: MURDER BY PEN
    Corporate and Political Crooks: THIEVES, EMBEZZLERS, etc.
    CIA “Rendition”: KIDNAPPING
    The death that results: MURDER

    And Julian Assange: THE WORLD’S HERO

    …get it?

  12. jeff on January 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Isn’t a Grand Jury empaneled in the Eastern District of Va. to hear the Assange case?:

    Neil H. MacBride was nominated by President Obama as the 59th United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and was confirmed unanimously on Sept. 15, 2009.

    MacBride also served as a law clerk for the Honorable Henry C. Morgan, Jr., United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk.

    He then filed a claim with the government under the Hyde Amendment. After a two-day hearing, U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan awarded the Hollands $570,000 toward their $1.6 million in legal fees, terming the government’s actions “vexatious.”


    Published: October 19, 2000 in BUSINESS section, page D1

    Story excerpt: In what may be the biggest award of its kind, the(KARL ROVE) Justice Department has agreed to pay slightly more than $900,000 to Richard J. Holland Jr. and the estate of his deceased father, Richard J. Holland, for their expenses in a bank-fraud case that was dismissed.

    The senior Holland had been chairman of Farmers Bank in Windsor before he died in April, and his son is the bank’s president and chief executive officer. The two were tried in federal court in Norfolk 2 1/2 years ago …

  13. Reg on January 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

    It’s also interesting that Thomas Bodstrom, in his former role as Justice Minister (until 2006) introduced the new laws on rape under which Julian Assange is being investigated. If anyone knows how to get a prosecution under this law, he does. (And so, presumable does his parnter in the law firm Claes Borgstrom). Bodstrom used his knowledge and influence to good effect in a high profile trial in 2008 where a well-known entertainer was convicted of a rape based solely on the ‘memory’ of an event alleged to have happened 9 years before, and the hearsay testimony of two other people. No DNA or physical evidence was required to put the defendant in prison for 2 years.

  14. […] Bodström, then minister of justice in the Swedish government (See column by Attorney Andrew Kreig Partner At Firm Counseling Assange’s Accusers Helped In CIA Torture Rendition. The article analyzes Bodström´s alleged participation in the rendition to USA of two political […]

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