As if this Hunter Biden smear campaign couldn’t be more clearly manufactured, Martin Aspen, the author behind a viral phony “intelligence” document about the Vice President’s son that made it to Trump’s inner circle, is not the Swiss security analyst he claims to be. Namely because Martin Aspen doesn’t exist. Even his profile picture is apparently computer-generated.
Per NBC News, the 64-page document appears to be from a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations and its author’s identity is completely fabricated, according to an analysis by disinformation researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. No one by that name has ever worked for the intelligence firm that Aspen cites as his previous employer, the company told the outlet, and a search through public records in Switzerland came up empty too. Most damning of all, researchers discovered that Aspen’s profile picture isn’t even of a real person; it was created using an AI face generator.
One of the institute researchers, Elise Thomas, said that the picture contains several telltale signs indicating that it’s a computer-generated fake — and a bad one at that. His ears are asymmetrical and his left eye appears to have two pupils upon closer inspection, the latter of which is a common error among computer-generated faces, she told the outlet.
“The most obvious tell was the irregular shape of the irises,” Thomas said. “The profile picture looks pretty convincing in the Twitter thumbnail, but when I popped it up into full view I was immediately suspicious.”
When she relayed this evidence to Ben Nimmo, the director of investigations at the analytics firm Graphika, he found another clear red flag.
“One of the things he and his team have figured out is that if you layer a lot of these images over the top of one another, the eyes align,” Thomas told NBC. “He did that with this image, and the eyes matched up.”
When reached for comment, Christopher Balding, a blogger and professor who was one of the first to post the document and took partial credit for writing it, confirmed to the outlet that Aspen doesn’t exist. According to Balding, Aspen is “an entirely fictional individual created solely for the purpose of releasing this report.”
The fake intelligence report was first posted in September to the anonymous blog Intelligence Quarterly, though the registered owner of that domain told NBC that he received the document from Balding. In an email to the outlet, Balding claimed that he wrote “small parts of the report” and that “the primary author of the report, due to personal and professional risks, requires anonymity.” He also said that Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based tabloid, originally commissioned the document.
The document, which went viral on the right-wing internet one month before the New York Post reported on an unverified leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, draws an elaborate conspiracy theory between the Vice President’s son and the Chinese government. Far-right influencers have since latched onto these baseless claims to accuse Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of being in cahoots with Beijing. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon have also promoted the conspiracy theory, and former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich shared a copy of the report on Twitter that Balding posted on his personal blog.
One of the loudest voices pushing these bogus claims, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, abruptly dropped the subject on Thursday, just one day after he devoted an entire segment of his show to supposedly damning documents against Biden that got lost in the mail on the way to their LA studio. He said he refused to be involved in “piling on [Hunter Biden] when he’s already down” and that he isn’t the one running for president, his father is. I’m honestly surprised Carlson didn’t pull something with how fast he backpedaled on that one.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.