Former Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson has again gone on the record to accuse the FBI of trying to frame both Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and attempting to recruit Iceland into joining the operation.
Speaking with Sara Chessa of the progressive political journal Independent Australia, Jónasson recalls how in June of 2011 Iceland was informed of a potential cyber-plot against the country by the United States.
“I was told that U.S. intelligence had discovered that hackers were preparing an attack on Icelandic governmental institutions. I was asked if we wanted to cooperate with the Americans.”Ögmundur Jónasson, Independent Australia
Wanting to hear more on the allegation, Iceland sent police officials to Washington to ascertain as to what the threat might be and the U.S. sent police representatives in return to Reykjavík. Despite the moves, the U.S. offered no new information on the alleged plot and before any further decisions could be taken the American’s decided to make their move without Iceland’s authority.
In August, six FBI agents and two Department of Justice prosecutors landed in Iceland intending to carry out an investigation in the country without authorisation. The decision on such a matter should have rested with Jónasson and upon investigation, he discovered that nobody in the Icelandic government had permitted the FBI action.
Jónasson believed the matter was linked to Julian Assange and that the U.S. was carrying out interrogations related to Wikileaks. The interrogations were against a man by the name of Sigurdur Thordarson AKA Siggi ‘the hacker’ and took place in hotels around Reykjavík rather than at the U.S. embassy.
“I knew that the FBI were on the way to Police Headquarters with the intention to map out co-operation linked to the WikiLeaks issue. I requested that no such meeting should take place and that there should be no further contact whatsoever.”Ögmundur Jónasson, Independent Australia
“Icelandic authorities initially believed the FBI agents had come to the country to continue their investigation into the impending LulzSec hacking attack on Icelandic government computers. But once it became clear that the FBI agents were engaged in a broader swoop to gather intelligence on WikiLeaks… the agents were asked to immediately remove themselves from the country”Ögmundur Jónasson, Slate Magazine
The FBI agents were denied permission to act in the country and subsequently left, entering Denmark with Sigurdur Thordarson. Interrogations of Thordarson continued at the Hilton hotel near Copenhagen and there is little information available as to what transpired in Denmark, nor if cooperation between the Scandinavian nation and the U.S. was ever agreed. Denmark has refused to publicly comment on whether they authorised the FBI operation in the country.
Thordarson would later claim that the FBI was seeking information on the technical and physical security of WikiLeaks, the location of their servers and information on WikiLeaks contributors and contacts who might become useful as informants. After wearing a wire to secretly record Assange and stealing information from WikiLeaks laptops, Thordarson was instructed to build relationships with members of staff.
Ögmundur Jónasson is in no doubt as to their intention in his own country.
“When I say they came here to frame Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, I don’t say this lightly, I am selecting my words very carefully, I know what I am talking about. I am stating this in accordance with my word of honour that I knew this was the case. I have testified to this effect in front of a parliamentary committee and in the parliamentary assembly, and my words have not been contested.”Ögmundur Jónasson, Independent Australia
The former Interior Minister believes that Iceland was being forced to take sides in a power struggle between the United States government and Wikileaks, with American arrogance being punctured by the firm rejection of their gamesmanship. Jónasson says that faced with a choice, he would always stand in support of Assange and other whistleblowers.
“WikiLeaks was bringing out the truth, revealing crimes which should have been taken to court. This has been prevented. So the charges brought against the publisher are, in reality, charges against free speech and freedom of the press. The American police and secret services are trying to create an atmosphere of impunity, where they can do anything. Even when they landed here, they were showing contempt for democracy. What they are doing to Assange is in opposition to the American Constitution and the principles of human rights, they claim they are protecting.”– Ögmundur Jónasson, Independent Australia
Julian Assange is facing 18 charges in the United States under the Espionage Act and is currently imprisoned at London’s Belmarsh prison following his flight to the Ecuadorian Embassy seven years ago, skipping bail in the process.
United Nations special rapporteur Nils Melzer has said that Assange’s detention amounts to “psychological torture” and that the WikiLeaks founder is “detained under oppressive conditions of isolation and surveillance, not justified by his detention status.” Melzer has gone on to say that the British government has shown nothing but “outright contempt for Mr Assange’s rights and integrity” and that unless the U.K. “urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.”