March 26, 2010
Over the last few years, WikiLeaks has been the subject of hostile acts by security organizations. In the developing world, these range from the appalling assassination of two related human rights lawyers in Nairobi last March (an armed attack on my compound there in 2007 is still unattributed) to an unsuccessful mass attack by Chinese computers on our servers in Stockholm, after we published photos of murders in Tibet. In the West this has ranged from the overt, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, threatening to prosecute us unless we removed a report on CIA activity in Kosovo, to the covert, to an ambush by a “James Bond” character in a Luxembourg car park, an event that ended with a mere “we think it would be in your interest to…”.
|Australian journalist, programmer, and Internet activist Julian Assange sits on the nine-member advisory board of Wikileaks.|
Developing world violence aside, we’ve become used to the level of security service interest in us and have established procedures to ignore that interest.
But the increase in surveillance activities this last month, in a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, are excessive. Some of the new interest is related to a film exposing a U.S. massacre we will release at the U.S. National Press Club on April 5.
The spying includes attempted covert following, photographng, filming and the overt detention & questioning of a WikiLeaks’ volunteer in Iceland on Monday night.
I, and others were in Iceland to advise Icelandic parliamentarians on the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a new package of laws designed to protect investigative journalists and internet services from spying and censorship. As such, the spying has an extra poignancy.
The possible triggers:
• our ongoing work on a classified film revealing civilian casualties occurring under the command of the U.S, general, David Petraeus.
• our release of a classified 32 page US intelligence report on how to fatally marginalize WikiLeaks (expose our sources, destroy our reputation for integrity, hack us).
• our release of a classified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik reporting on contact between the U.S. and the U.K. over billions of euros in claimed loan guarantees.
• pending releases related to the collapse of the Icelandic banks and Icelandic “oligarchs”.
We have discovered half a dozen attempts at covert surveillance in Reykjavik both by native English speakers and Icelanders. On the occasions where these individuals were approached, they ran away. One had marked police equipment and the license plates for another suspicious vehicle track back to the Icelandic private VIP bodyguard firm Terr. What does that mean? We don’t know. But as you will see, other events are clear.
U.S. sources told Icelandic state media’s deputy head of news, that the State Department was aggressively investigating a leak from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. I was seen at a private U.S Embassy party at the Ambassador’s residence, late last year and it is known I had contact with Embassay staff, after.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
On Thursday March 18, 2010, I took the 2.15 PM flight out of Reykjavik to Copenhagen–on the way to speak at the SKUP investigative journalism conference in Norway. After receiving a tip, we obtained airline records for the flght concerned. Two individuals, recorded as brandishing diplomatic credentials checked in for my flight at 12:03 and 12:06 under the name of “US State Department”. The two are not recorded as having any luggage.
Iceland doesn’t have a separate security service. It folds its intelligence function into its police forces, leading to an uneasy overlap of policing and intelligence functions and values.
On Monday 22, March, at approximately 8.30pm, a WikiLeaks volunteer, a minor, was detained by Icelandic police on a wholly insignificant matter. Police then took the opportunity to hold the youth over night, without charge–a highly unusual act in Iceland. The next day, during the course of interrogation, the volunteer was shown covert photos of me outside the Reykjavik restaurant “Icelandic Fish & Chips”, where a WikiLeaks production meeting took place on Wednesday March 17–the day before individuals operating under the name of the U.S. State Department boarded my flight to Copenhagen.
Our production meeting used a discreet, closed, backroom, because we were working on the analysis of a classified U.S. military video showing civilian kills by U.S. pilots. During the interrogation, a specific reference was made by police to the video—which could not have been understood from that day’s exterior surveillance alone. Another specific reference was made to “important”, but unnamed Icelandic figures. References were also made to the names of two senior journalists at the production meeting.
Who are the Icelandic security services loyal to in their values? The new government of April 2009, the old pro-Iraq war government of the Independence party, or perhaps to their personal relationships with peers from another country who have them on a permanment intelligence information drip?
Only a few years ago, Icelandic airspace was used for CIA rendition flights. Why did the CIA think that this was acceptable? In a classified U.S. profile on the former Icelandic Ambassador to the United States, obtained by WikiLeaks, the Ambassador is praised for helping to quell publicity of the CIA’s activities.
Often when a bold new government arises, bureaucratic institutions remain loyal to the old regime and it can take time to change the guard. Former regime loyalists must be discovered, dissuaded and removed. But for the security services, that first vital step, discovery, is awry. Congenitally scared of the light, such services hide their activities; if it is not known what security services are doing, then it is surely impossible to know who they are doing it for.
Our plans to release the video on April 5 proceed.
We have asked relevant authorities in the Unites States and Iceland to explain. If these countries are to be treated as legitimate states, they need to start obeying the rule of law. Now.
Support WikiLeaks in its effort to fight intimidation.