Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, but has appealed the decision. Photo: Bertil Ericson/Scanpix
Swedish Pirate Bay Founder (and WikiLeaks-volunteer) Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, also known as Anakata, and a young Danish computer specialist were convicted on Thursday in what has been called the biggest hacking attack in Danish history. The two young men are charged with hacking the US-based company CSC, which contracts for the Danish state. CSC, among other things, is supposed to handle highly sensitive data about citizens in Denmark: social security numbers, driving licences and the database containing information about European Arrest Warrants.
Both suspects have been held in remand under miserable and highly problematic conditions since 2013. Prior to his arrest, Anakata was dragged through a very similar case in Sweden, in which he was found not guilty of hacking into Nordea.
What happened in court on Thursday was a full frontal assault on Denmark as a country with a rule of law. Two individuals were convicted of serious crimes without a shred of evidence of their guilt being presented in court. At this point I should clarify: I’m NOT saying they’re innocent – or that they’re guilty. I have no way of knowing and in principle it doesn’t matter at all. What’s important is, that NOBODY can know, because no evidence has been presented proving that they are guilty as charged. We’re in banana republic territory here.
For instance, the leading judge said in court that when it came to the most crucial technical detail in the case – Anakata’s claim that his computer was remotely accessed – the defendant couldn’t prove his innocence. That’s absolutely insane. People aren’t supposed to have to prove their innocence. In a civilised country, people can be convicted if – and only if – the prosecution is able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they are guilty. That simply didn’t happen here in Denmark on Thursday.
Somehow they nevertheless got away with it, perhaps because the case is of a technical nature (hacking, remote access and other geeky stuff) and because the case has been framed so as to show that the defendants are a couple of nasty bastards. Both matters naturally should be of no consequence. It doesn’t matter if a case is highly technical – or if the defendants are paedophiles, Nazis or communists. One should still have the right to a fair trial. In this case, the two defendants simply didn’t get that. Instead we’ve seen police and prosecution lie to parliament about hugely important matters in the case.
We’ve seen the police lie to the judge in court (minutes after being told that they had the duty to tell the truth). They even got caught lying, but suffered no consequences at all.
We’ve also seen that CSC, which is getting rich taking care of all of our sensitive data, has been so extremely poor at securing their systems (or so indifferent) that a bunch of monkeys with typewriters would’ve been able to do a better job. In short: it didn’t take a ‘super hacker’ to get access to the systems.
Whatever else is true in this shameful show trial, one thing is crystal clear: CSC should be facing prosecutions as well. And they will. Finally we’ve seen that the Danish police were awfully negligent in investigating what everybody in Denmark says is the most important case of its kind ever: They sat on their hands for eight months after Swedish police told them that CSC was being hacked and begged them to take action. Afterwards the Danish police lied to parliament and the court about it. They also let CSC investigate the crime instead of doing it themselves. The same CSC that is a key part to the case. The same CSC that has everything to hide because the company would love to extend its lucrative contracts with the Danish state. When was the last time a private company was allowed to investigate themselves? It’s absurd!
If I call the police and claim that my neighbour killed my wife, I don’t think the police will rely exclusively on my version of events. I certainly don’t hope so. I’d want them to first of all check IF my wife is indeed dead. If she is, hopefully they’ll investigate all leads, both those pointing to our neighbour as the perpetrator and those pointing towards other suspects (including myself).
But that hasn’t happened in this ‘trial of century’. Instead the company has investigated their own systems while the police lied through their teeth and refused to look at anything relevant to the case except for the bits and pieces that could incriminate the two suspects.
This is a full blown scandal – and it’s really, really important that the media, international as well as Danish, begin treating it as such. This IS a full frontal attack on the rule of law. Next time, the case might not be highly technical – and the suspects might not be people that can be considered weird, nasty bastards. Then we’re all fucked.
Peter Kofod is a Danish writer, activist & musician. He was the first – and so far only – Scandinavian to interview NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Peter is currently writing his first book. You can follow him on Twitter at @peterkofod