January 10, 2011

US Ambassador Summoned Over Icelandic Wikileaks Probe

The North Atlantic nation of Iceland has formally asked the American Ambassador to Iceland, Luis E. Arreaga, to answer questions as to why US investigators are attempting to access the private details of the online activity of an Icelandic lawmaker.

Building a case against Wikileaks by the US Justice Department, a court order was obtained to examine records and data posted on Twitter Inc. by Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir who sits on the country's Foreign Affairs Committee.

"(It is) very serious that a foreign state, the United States, demands such personal information of an Icelandic person, an elected official," Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson told Icelandic broadcaster RUV.

"This is even more serious when put (in) perspective and concerns freedom of speech and people's freedom in general," he added.

US officials say the disclosures have damaged international diplomacy and put the safety of informants and foreign human rights activists at risk. Wikileaks has dismissed the claims, but Washington officials has been trying to find a way to prosecute the group and its leader, Julian Assange, who is currently in England.

A court order unsealed earlier this week revealed that American authorities had gone to court to seek data from Twitter about Assange, Jonsdottir, and others either known or suspected to have interacted with Wikileaks. It is suspected that other companies "” such as Facebook Inc., Google Inc., and the eBay Inc.-owned Internet communications company Skype "” have also been secretly asked to hand over their personal data.

Jonsdottir is a former Wikileaks collaborator also known for her work on Iceland's media initiative, which aims to turn the island nation into a free speech haven.

Jonsdottir told The Associated Press she was too overwhelmed to comment Sunday, but in a recent post to Twitter, she said she was talking with American lawyers about how to beat the order "” and was drumming up support in Iceland as well.

US Ambassador Luis E. Arreaga has been summoned for a meeting at Iceland's Foreign Ministry to discuss the issue, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir said Sunday. It was not clear when the meeting was taking place but the US Embassy in Reykjavik said no one there would be available for comment until Monday.

The growing diplomatic struggle shows some of the issues American prosecutors face as they weigh whether to bring charges against Wikileaks, an international, tech-savvy operation that has angered and embarrassed the US government with several series of leaks of classified information.

Recently thousands of secret State Department cables saw US diplomats being ordered to gather the DNA and fingerprints of their international counterparts, captured back room dealing over issues such as Guantanamo and rendition, and publicized unflattering assessments of friends and foes alike.

Assange and Jonsdottir have promised to fight the court order.


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