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February 11, 2013

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Outspoken Icelandic MP Gears Up For Privacy Fight During Visit To U.S.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir is no stranger to headlines or media scrutiny. A former volunteer activist with the hacktivist group “Wikileaks,” and a current member of the Icelandic Parliament, Jónsdóttir has made a name for herself with her outspoken support of imprisoned US Army Private Bradley Manning.

She is also a subject in the US’ investigation into the cases of Wikileaks and Pvt. Manning. Her international profile has become a lightening rod in the growing debate over online privacy in the twenty first century. She is a staunch opponent of US counter-terrorism legislation such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA.) And

Named in a 2009 probe by the US Department of Justice into the leaking of a confidential video depicting a 2007 Army helicopter mission which resulted in the deaths of over a dozen civilians, Jónsdóttir’s connection to Wikileaks became a focus in the FBI’s ongoing investigation of the group.

As reported by the Icelandic news outlet “Iceland Review,” in August of 2011, a team of FBI agents landed in Reykjavík, seeking the help of Icelandic police and authorities in their probe of Wikileaks, parts of which included the monitoring of the private electronic communications of activists, including Jónsdóttir.

Speaking to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV) news magazine Kastljós (Spotlight,) Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson stated that upon their arrival in Iceland, Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson reacted angrily, regarding the agents presence and intent as “presumptuous.”Birgitta_Jónsdóttir_3_jpg_475x712_sharpen_q95

“According to my information, he demanded that these agents pack their bags, embark the plane and leave the country…I know that this was later discussed within the government, which formally objected to U.S. authorities,” said Hrafnsson. This information was later confirmed by Minister Ögmundur, who told RÚV that he found it “unnatural for foreign police forces to carry out investigations in Iceland.”

The federal probe, and broader questions regarding what many in Iceland consider to be the US government’s questionable practice of monitoring private electronic communications under the auspices of national security have been heightened, as MP Jondottir plans a trip to the US in the Spring, to demonstrate support for Private Manning, who is presently still awaiting trial. Coming on the heels of the recent controversial suicide of programmer and activist Aaron Swartz, Jónsdóttir’s claims of privacy violations at the hands of U.S. authorities comes at a time when many Americans are again debating matters of online privacy and the power of prosecutors.

After being advised by the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs and private legal council to forego her trip to the United States,  Jónsdóttir was defiant in a statement made to The Iceland Review.

“I have not committed any crime. I will go to the United States in the beginning of April to show my support for Bradley Manning, who has been in prison for more than 1,000 days without charge. I will meet lawyers there and many good people in the academic community in North America to discuss issues of freedom of expression and the right to privacy,” she said.

Despite assurances from the Justice Dept. that she is free to visit the U.S. without fear of having her communications monitored, Jónsdóttir remains uncertain and is reported to have secured legal council in the U.S. to “protect her privacy.” Following Kastljós’ Wednesday publication of an article regarding the FBI’s 2011 visit and investigation, Jónsdóttir’s statements raise further questions in the growing debate over privacy in the modern age.

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