Icelandic Legislator: I’m Ready To Help NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Seek Asylum

By on June 10, 2013

by Andy Greenberg

When WikiLeaks burst onto the international stage in 2010, the small Nordic nation of Iceland offered it a safe haven. Now American whistleblower Edward Snowden may be seeking that country’s protection, and at least one member of its parliament says she’s ready to help.

On Sunday evening Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir and Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, issued a statement of support for Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton staffer who identified himself to theGuardian newspaper as the source of a series of top secret documents outlining the NSA’s massive surveillance of foreigners and Americans.

“Whereas IMMI is based in Iceland, and has worked on protections of privacy, furtherance of government transparency, and the protection of whistleblowers, we feel it is our duty to offer to assist and advise Mr. Snowden to the greatest of our ability,” their statement reads. “We are already working on detailing the legal protocols required to apply for asylum, and will over the course of the week be seeking a meeting with the newly appointed interior minister of Iceland, Mrs. Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, to discuss whether an asylum request can be processed in a swift manner, should such an application be made.”

It’s not yet clear whether Snowden has officially applied for asylum in Iceland. A press contact for the Icelandic Ministry of Interior, which handles asylum requests, said that he hadn’t yet seen an application from Snowden and that the ministry couldn’t comment until one was received.

Snowden, who left his home in Hawaii in May and is taking refuge in a Hong Kong hotel, noted his interest in seeking asylum in Iceland in the Guardian’s interview, telling the newspaper that his ”predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values, The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland,” he said. “They stood up for people over internet freedom.”

The 29-year-old intelligence analyst may have been referring to the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a group founded by Jonsdottir and McCarthy that has sought to strengthen Iceland’s protections for media outlets and whistleblowers. That project, which successfully passed a new source protection law in 2011, was propelled in part by Jonsdottir and McCarthy’s participation in WikiLeaks; Both Icelanders helped to publish the leaked Apache APA +0.48% helicopter video that revealed the killing of civilians and journalists in Baghdad in April 2010.

“Over the last few days we at the InternationalModern Media Institute have watched alongside the rest of the world as the US government’s enormous encroachments on privacy and information security have been exposed in the media,” Jonsdottir’s and McCarthy’s statement reads. “These exposures have verified our greatest fears about the state of global intelligence gathering, and yet again highlighted the need for strong privacy protections and government transparency.”

Snowden’s leaked revelations included a top secret order from the FBI sent to Verizon on behalf of the NSA, demanding the call records of every American customer of Verizon Business Network Services, a PowerPoint presentation on an NSA program known as PRISM that boasted of access to the data of Google GOOG +1.09%Microsoft MSFT -0.49%, Facebook and others, an executive order from President Obama calling for the NSA to draw up a list of cyberattack targets.

Just how much the Icelandic group’s support can protect Snowden remains to be seen. Snowden’s first hurdle may be safely leaving Hong Kong, where he may yet be extradited to the United States. And even in Iceland, a recent election gave new power to the country’s conservative party. Jonsdottir, by contrast, is a member of the left-leaning Pirate Party.

Even WikiLeaks expressed doubts about the politics of its former home. “Snowden out of date on Iceland,” reads a message the group posted to Twitter Sunday afternoon. “New conservative government elected a month ago. Countries must step forward to offer Snowden asylum now.”

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One Comment

  1. michelle

    June 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    It is extremely messed. That a man who was only doing the right thing is now having to look for help from another country because the officials in his own country did wrong and he did the right thing by speaking up. President Obama should be ashamed of himself for signing that executive order. Every high ranking official that had any part in this should be held accountable, and that means the president needs to be right beside them. I will not sacrifice an ounce of mine or my children’s freedom for a false peace of mind.

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