On April 3, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir arrived in the United States. It was her first visit since she helped WikiLeaks release the “Collateral Murder” video showing a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by US forces in Iraq, and it coincided with the three-year anniversary of the release.
Even though she had her personal data subpoenaed and investigated as part of the US government’s wide investigation into WikiLeaks, she was able to enter the US without any problem. She participated in multiple events in support of Pfc. Bradley Manning, an action for alleged Stratfor hacker Jeremy Hammond and, in general, whistleblowers and dissidents in the country being targeted by their government.
I spoke to Birgitta. The following is Part 1 of an interview with her. In this first part, we discuss the response to Manning’s disclosures to WikiLeaks in Iceland, the US government’s investigation into her and what led to the FBI coming to Iceland.
KEVIN GOSZTOLA, The Dissenter: What do you have to share about what the response to Manning’s disclosures have been in Iceland? I know the Reykjavik cable in Iceland was released.
BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR, Icelandic MP: The Reykjavik cable when it came out—I personally was and lots of other MPs—were in a huge battle to get a lot of information out that was in a secret folder that MPs were given or given access after demands from us. And we had to sit in a secret little room with staff from the parliament and read a big folder that was mostly filled with rubbish but the real juicy stuff was at the end of it.
Somebody leaked some of these documents to WikiLeaks. I don’t know how they did that because you had a guard sitting over you. And these documents were really important. None of the MPs were reading them. Then Bradley Manning had apparently been following the Icesave thing probably because he had been following what was going on in Iceland. He might have known that Assange was there—
GOSZTOLA: He says that he was interested in WikiLeaks and was seeing it pop up in forums.
JONSDOTTIR: Oh, right, then WikiLeaks was publishing stuff from Iceland—the big long book. That is how WikiLeaks became known in Iceland. So, that’s probably how that got his attention because that was a really pivotal leak for us in the wake of the collapse. And then we got this leak, the Reykjavik cables.
I’ll tell you a funny story because when that leak came I was at an Icesave meeting with all the heads of state and the foreign affairs minister and we were waiting for someone to come to the meeting and one of the leaders of the Progressive Party or something he had his phone on with the radio, the 12 o’clock news. There was news about the leak and everyone was like, wow, that embassy. It’s so leaky. It’s unbelievable. There was all this stuff coming out of the embassy. And there was actually a portrait of two ministers that were leaked, profiles that the embassy had made, that were sitting at this meeting. So, it was quite bizarre.
That particular was very important for the Icelandic people. Then, when he did his testimony, I was disappointed that there wasn’t any Icelandic media covering his trial because, obviously, the way things turned out the “Collateral Murder” the “Collateral Murder” video was done in collaboration with the Icelandic state broadcaster. One would have thought they would have cared enough when they found out that the person that was actually source for this important material and that the state broadcaster was actually a participator in making history, that they would pay more attention.
But, that’s the problem with media everywhere. There really seems to be apathy toward the importance of the leaks among certain types of media. And it’s not only confined to the United States. That’s why I have this strong feeling that really the media is in this state of transformation or metamorphous and the old style media is dying. And I was actually participating in creating a new law for the state broadcaster and I said in my speech—and this was like a month ago or less—I said, okay, this law is a bit better than the other one but it’s going to become out of date after a year because it’s not taking into account this transformation. And the news website nobody reads it because they don’t invest any money in it. So, that will be the fate of many media. There are whole generations that don’t use traditional media. They don’t listen to radio. They don’t watch television. They find the news themselves. And that’s why people like you are really the future of media.
GOSZTOLA: Many in the United States have heard your name because the US government is going after you. What you can share about the investigation into you and how Iceland has responded?
JONSDOTTIR: The Department of Justice demanded that Twitter hand over my personal stuff—my messages and ID numbers and stuff like that. Many people don’t understand what that means and I remember when I got this message from them, this email, my first reaction was to tweet about it. I was very furious, a very impulsive person. You know, do they not realize that I am a member of Parliament and that is really the essence of it.
I am a member of Parliament and I am entrusted with information from the Icelandic people, not only my voters, but many others that want to pass information to me as a member of Parliament. And they don’t understand that the only way—Because I am very easily accessible as an MP. I run a Twitter account that I am very active on. I run Facebook pages and I have a Gmail account. They don’t understand that if they want complete protection they can only access me via parliamentary email. So, all the Facebook messages and Twitter private messages are now at scrutiny by the US government and I think that is very settling.
If similar things were to happen to senators or congressman here by let’s say China or Iran, I think people would be very upset. And it’s setting a very bad precedent and that’s why the Icelandic Parliamentary Union asked me to come to the human rights committee because this is taken very seriously among other nations. And The IP has been around since 1885 and it’s sort of a platform where parliamentarians from all different parts of the world except maybe the United States and one or two other rogue countries come to work together. They made a very harsh international parliamentary resolution that people can read by Googling my last name.
The disturbing part is in the first court ruling, when I lost for the first time—And it wasn’t just me. It was other people like Jacob Appelbaum and Roy Gonggrijp—The ruling was that we do not have to [????] . And I think that is very serious ruling that people do not understand. So, I have to rely on social media companies to look after me and it might not always be in their interest, like what Amazon did to WikiLeaks for example. Particularly, it’s disturbing if you write me a letter and then all of a sudden you are under scrutiny by your government because you talked to me and I haven’t done—According to the government, I am not under investigation. So, I have just come to the conclusion that the United States has lost understanding of what law is all about. The way it is used to persecute people and make a lot of them political prisoners in this country is very disturbing.
In my case, the FBI came to Iceland under false pretenses and apparently were investigating me, according to the person who asked to be a source for them, and then told me and the general committee that he had knocked on the door of the US embassy and asked to be a source for the FBI. Unfortunately for them and for all of us who are part of this investigation, that person is a pathological liar. And so, it would be interesting if they believe anything he says. He should be disqualified but this seems to be a trend to recruit people that are not mentally well.
GOSZTOLA: Did I read correctly in media from Iceland they were going to now investigate this “pathological liar”?
JONSDOTTIR: What they actually did is they offered him to be a snitch and to go off to Julian Assange because this guy used to be a WikiLeaks volunteer. I’d actually advised Assange, don’t come close to this person because he’s the guy who lied about CIA being on the airplane when Julian Assange was going to Norway.
It really all started with LulzSec, around the time that Sabu was turned. So, Sabu and this Ziggy—like this WikiLeaks volunteer—were discussing how LulzSec could attack Iceland and then the FBI notified the Icelandic authorities that Iceland was under immediate threat because LulzSec was going to attack our immediate infrastructure. That’s how they got into Iceland. But the irony is that this attack was cooked up by their informant. So, it’s all pretty dodgy and it feels a little desperate to me cause they’re not finding anything. There is just absolutely nothing.
If they hope that prosecuting Bradley Manning under the Espionage Act and then getting to the rest of us, I mean, they’re going to have to fabricate evidence because nothing like that happened, what they’re indicating. And then obviously every newspaper that’s ever published any of the leaks has been “aiding the enemy.” Now, is that a path the mainstream media is willing to take? They might think they have been forced to shut up about the Bradley Manning and not talk about stuff that is inconvenient for the government, but when they start to get taken down one by one on exactly the stuff that WikiLeaks is being taken down on—They should just wake up.