Iceland Explains FBI Wikileaks Probe
Icelandic officials have given extensive details about an FBI probe of Wikileaks in the country, contradicting claims made by Home Secretary Ögmundur Jónasson that authorities were not properly consulted about agents visiting the country as part of their investigation.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks second-in-command, made headlines last week when he told reporters that the government had kicked out FBI agents who came to Iceland to investigate his hacktivist group. Jónasson later confirmed the incident took place in 2011, adding that he was angry at the U.S. government for not telling him about the visit before they showed up.
The Icelandic Commissioner of the National Police and the Icelandic State Prosecutor said in a statement issued Monday that they were notified by letter on June 20, 2011, that FBI agents were coming to investigate an impending attack on government computer systems.
A suspicious laptop had been found in an office building belonging to the Icelandic parliament in February 2010. The room where the so-called “spy-computer” was found was connected to the in-house computer system and had been used by MPs belonging to the grassroots political party, The Movement, reports visir.is.
Because of security concerns, news of the incident was not made public until January 2011. The Movement MP Birgitta Jónsdottir’s ties to Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, caused many to implicate Wikileaks. Hrafnsson maintains his group had nothing to do with the matter.
The Commissioner and Prosecutor General met with the FBI agents when they arrived in Iceland on June 23, 2011 to discuss the impending cyber attack. They were asked to submit a formal request for assistance called a letter rogatory, which was done in July; the matter was then discussed between the Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor General.
The National Commissioner then met with three FBI agents on July 11, state broadcaster RÚV reports.
The FBI agents then came back to Iceland on August 23, nearly two months after their first contact with the Icelandic government, to interview an 18-year-old Icelandic boy who had worked on several Wikileaks projects and went to the American Embassy in Reykjavik with information about the impedning attack.
It was decided the next day that the Icelandic police and FBI would together speak with the boy who gave himself up.
Prior to the August 25 meeting, the state prosecutor called a meeting of the Interior Ministry to announce the position of the Ministry that these interrogations were outside the original letters rogatory that had been issued in July, and the FBI would have to submit a new formal request. Prior to that, the police provide no help in this matter. The Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry stopped talks on August 30, suggesting that the agent’s presence of the country would be considered undesirable.
The agents had interrogated the boy for those five days in Iceland. After being told to leave, they continue to question him in Washington D.C. The boy has stated that he accompanied the FBI to the U.S. for that purpose. It is unclear what information the boy had access to and why U.S. authorities considered them to be of such importance.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson continues to maintain that the FBI arrived in Iceland without permission and without the knowledge of the Icelandic government, visir.is reports. Skarphéðinsson rejects the explanation given by the National Police Commissioner and Icelandic State Prosecutor.
The investigation is still ongoing and involves Icelanders and other nationals tied to Wikileaks.