I arrived in Sweden on the 11 August last year. Just at the point of arrival, I received some news from one of our contacts in a Western intelligence agency, confirming what had already been hinted at by the Pentagon press office.
The word was that the US government acknowledged privately that I would be difficult to prosecute but were already talking about "dealing with you illegally", as my source put it. The source specified what that would mean: gaining evidence about what we had in the way of information; unearthing, by whatever means, some sort of link between Private Manning and WikiLeaks; and, if all else failed, deploying other illegal means, such as planting drugs on me, "finding" child pornography on my hardware, or seeking to embroil me in allegations of immoral conduct.
One evening soon after, I went to dinner with a few friends and their associates. The Swedish journalist Donald Böstrom, a friend and very experienced news man of about 50 was there, along with another Swedish journalist and an American investigative journalist and his girlfriend. The American had possibly murky connections, but the girl was nice, and I was chatting her up with Donald frowning across from me. Donald later said I should watch what I was doing: he said the threat of a "honeytrap" was high at that moment, and I remember he went into detail about how Mossad had captured Vanunu. I guess I must have been up for affection, to put it coyly, because I didn't think very seriously about what Donald was saying.
I was supposed to be staying at the flat of a political worker called A——, who was away from her apartment. I went there, and after a few days she returned early. Ms A—— was a political spokesperson for the party and was involved in the arrangements to bring me over. I had no reason not to trust her, and no reason, when she pointed out that there was only one bed and would I be cool sleeping with her, to believe that this was naught but a friendly suggestion. I said yes, anyhow, and we went to bed together that night.
These political engagements are stressful and I was glad of the attention, when it came, of these smiling and affectionate women. It's embarrassing to say so, given that even a single man, as I was, is liable to be thought ungallant even for mentioning what went on with a woman in private. Or more than one woman. But the situation seemed not at all unusual and felt like part of something nice in an otherwise dark time. Speaking honestly, I would have to say I thought A—— was a little neurotic. But our night together was unremarkable. We had sex several times and the next day everything seemed fine between us.
A couple of nights later, A—— had arranged a crayfish party, a traditional occasion at that time of year in Sweden, and I went along to meet up with her. This was the day after the day she later claimed I had raped her. A—— was there at the party and seemed totally happy, laughing and drinking with me and my friends and her friends until late. We were sitting outside the party and she sent a tweet saying she was "with the coolest people in the world". It became obvious she had told people about us sleeping together and it emerged, later, that she had taken a picture of me when I was asleep in her bed and pasted it on her Facebook page... She said it was cool to stay at hers and I went back with her. And that was how the situation remained for the next five nights.
On another occasion, I met a woman called W—— at a press conference. I remember she was wearing a nice pink sweater. After an awards party, I met up with W—— and went back with her to her house in Enkopping, which is about 50 miles outside Stockholm.
My behaviour sounds cold, and no doubt was, which is a failing of mine, but not a crime. I'd spent long enough at A——'s and could see that it would be a bad idea to stay longer. Remember, I was feeling especially paranoid: I didn't like being in one place for too long and the affair with A—— was becoming public, which appeared to be something she wanted.
The thing with W—— was going nowhere, either. She was a little vague, but the night in Enkopping was fun and I thought we'd had a perfectly nice time, albeit one that probably wouldn't be repeated. She didn't seem too fussed herself, as we had breakfast together the next morning and then rode together on her bicycle to the railway station. She kindly paid for my ticket – my bank card was still on the blink, though I'm always skint – and she kissed me goodbye and asked me to call her from the train. I didn't do that, and it has already turned out to be the most expensive call I didn't make.
At one point, I did have a short conversation with W——, when she called me, but the phone was low on charge and it ran out while we were still talking. The international situation had me in its grip, and although I had spent time with these women, I wasn't paying enough attention to them, or ringing them back, or able to step out of the zone that came down with all these threats and statements against me in America. One of my mistakes was to expect them to understand this... I wasn't a reliable boyfriend, or even a very courteous sleeping partner, and this began to figure. Unless, of course, the agenda had been rigged from the start.
After a strange few days of contact with the women, one of whom said she wanted me to do an STD test, I needed some time and space to myself, so I booked into a hotel for the night and began writing a newspaper column. I had just written a line about the first casualty of war being truth when, about 6.30pm, I checked on Twitter and saw there was an arrest warrant out for me for double rape, and my entire belief system temporarily collapsed.
I did not rape those women and cannot imagine anything that happened between us that would make them think so, except malice after the fact, a joint plan to entrap me, or a terrible misunderstanding that was stoked up between them. I may be a chauvinist pig of some sort but I am no rapist, and only a distorted version of sexual politics could attempt to turn me into one. They each had sex with me willingly and were happy to hang out with me afterwards.
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