News / USA

Iceland May Not Be the Haven US Leaker Hopes

Edward Snowden, who has worked at the National Security Agency for the past four years, speaking during an interview with The Guardian newspaper at an undisclosed location in Hong Kong, June 6, 2013.
Edward Snowden, who has worked at the National Security Agency for the past four years, speaking during an interview with The Guardian newspaper at an undisclosed location in Hong Kong, June 6, 2013.
Reuters
The leaker who revealed top secret U.S. surveillance programs says he hopes to find shelter in Iceland, but he may be disappointed by the reception from a new government seen as less keen than predecessors to attract exiles and Internet renegades.
 
The country of 320,000 people has served as the home base for the fundraising efforts of anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and earlier earned a reputation as a safe haven by taking in American fugitive former chess champion Bobby Fischer in 2005.
 
Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency now holed up in a hotel room in Hong Kong after divulging NSA secrets, said he hoped to go to a country which encompassed his values of Internet freedom, naming Iceland.
 
But the government of newly-elected conservative Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, while still untested, is widely seen as closer to Washington than past administrations and less keen to foster the island country's cyber-haven image.
 
Snowden has yet to make a formal application for asylum and would have to go to Iceland to make the request, said Kristin Volundarsdottir, head of Iceland's Directorate of Immigration. Gunnlaugsson's government did not otherwise comment on the case.
 
“I would be very surprised if they (the government) would be eager to engage in any international disputes with the U.S. And it is pretty difficult to be granted asylum here,” said Stefania Oskarsdottir, lecturer in political science at the University of Iceland.
 
“I think what this guy is saying is based on something he is imagining or hoping for rather than actual facts.”
 
As a U.S. citizen, Snowden would not need a visa to enter Iceland and could immediately apply for asylum. He would be free to live in Iceland while immigration authorities decide his case, which could take more than a year, according to Helga Vala Helgadottir, a lawyer specializing in asylum cases.
 
“The government is perceived as being less welcoming to asylum seekers,” said Helgadottir. While the decision rests with immigration authorities, Snowden could appeal to the interior ministry if his application were rejected.
 
Iceland has an extradition treaty with the United States, but it is unclear whether it would cover any crimes that Snowden might be charged with.
 
An Icelandic foundation championing free speech has offered to help him.
 
“We have a lawyer, we have everything set up,” said Smari McCarthy, head of the International Modern Media Institute and a member of the Pirate Party, a movement that promotes Internet freedom and holds three seats in Iceland's 63-seat parliament.
 
Refuge for chess champion
 
Were Snowden to reach Iceland, his arrival could put public pressure on the government by voters proud of their image of supporting media freedoms and also angry about the secrecy that surrounded the collapse of their banks in 2008.
 
“This is coming at a very interesting point for us, because obviously in the wake of our financial collapse there is a very big emphasis on a pro-truth society here,” said Katrin Oddsdottir, lawyer at law firm Rettur in Iceland, which specializes in human rights issues.
 
In 2010, with a center-left government in power in Iceland, WikiLeaks registered a company called Sunshine Press Productions there for its fundraising.
 
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, now holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sex crimes, visited Iceland several times in the run-up to some of the website's major releases.
 
Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir helped Assange put together the “Collateral Murder” video package, which included footage of a U.S. helicopter attack on Iraqi civilians in which two Reuters journalists were killed.
 
Jonsdottir has campaigned to make a free speech and Internet safe-haven status for Iceland enshrined in law.
 
Wikileaks won a ruling this year in Iceland's Supreme Court against MasterCard's local partner. The court upheld a lower court's ruling that the payment card firm had illegally ended its contract with the website.
 
In the Fischer case, the former child chess prodigy was wanted by the United States for evading taxes and breaking sanctions by playing a match in Yugoslavia in 1992. After years living abroad he was detained in Japan for nine months, until Iceland offered him asylum and citizenship in 2005. He spent his last years in Iceland before dying in 2008.
 
It was a conservative coalition of the same parties now in power in Iceland that pushed through the highly unusual step of granting Fischer citizenship.
 
“So the most interesting precedent that we have is actually a precedent which dates from a time when the same parties were in power as are now,” said Oddsdottir.

You May Like

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid