NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has fled to Hong Kong, but officials in Iceland say they are willing to receive him should he need asylum.
Birgitta Jonsdottir, member of Iceland’s parliament, and Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, have issued a statement supporting Snowden, according to Forbes.
Snowden was the source of the London Guardian’s report that the NSA has been collecting phone data and details from tens of millions of Americans and storing it, possibly for later use. The communications giant Verizon was ordered to give cell phone records to the NSA, the Guardian reported.
Also revealed were details about the government’s access to personal information through a number of top Internet companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google.
Jonsdottir and McCarthy said: “Whereas IMMI is based in Iceland, and has worked on protections of privacy, furtherance of government transparency, and the protection of whistleblowers, we feel it is our duty to offer to assist and advise Mr. Snowden to the greatest of our ability. We are already working on detailing the legal protocols required to apply for asylum, and will over the course of the week be seeking a meeting with the newly appointed interior minister of Iceland, Mrs. Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, to discuss whether an asylum request can be processed in a swift manner, should such an application be made.”
Iceland already has a record of working to protect privacy. In the WikiLeaks case, which was exposed in 2010, the Nordic nation offered to be a haven.
There was no evidence that a request for asylum had been made, and the government press office told the newspaper it couldn’t comment on individual cases such as Snowden’s.
The group based in Iceland previously offered to protect people who leaked government secrets in the WikiLeaks case.
Snowden, who fled his residence in Hawaii to take refuge in a Hong Kong hotel, is reportedly on the move again.
Snowden had said he was interested in refuge in a nation “with shared values.”
“The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland,” he said.
Snowden, 29, has admitted he leaked evidence of a top secret order to Verizon and an executive order from President Obama telling the NSA to draw up a list of cyberattack targets.
WND reported that Snowden said he expected to face the wrath of the Obama administration for revealing the information.
“I’m willing to sacrifice all,” Snowden told the Guardian, “because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
The Guardian reported Snowden, a former CIA information technology employee who has since been contracted to work at the NSA offices in Hawaii, copied documents on a massive, NSA surveillance program of U.S. citizens. He contacted the Guardian and Washington Post to blow the whistle on the U.S. government collecting data on phone calls and a separate program, code-named PRISM, that collects the Internet data of foreigners from major Internet companies.
“I could not do this without accepting the risk of prison,” Snowden confirmed. “You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk. If they want to get you, over time they will. … I do not expect to see home again.”
Ominous words aside, Snowden told the Guardian he wants the world to be more concerned about the government abuses he helped expose.
“I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in,” Snowden said. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.
“The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more,” he said. “That’s what keeps me up at night.”
See some of the Guardian’s interviews with Snowden:
A former CIA official said that it was extremely unusual for the agency to have hired someone with Snowden’s minimal academic credentials, particularly for a technical job. He dropped out of high school and later earned a GED
The source also said the terms Snowden used to describe his agency positions did not match internal job descriptions.
Snowden’s claim to have been placed under diplomatic cover for a position in Switzerland after working briefly at the CIA as a systems administrator also is suspicious.
“I just have never heard of anyone being hired with so little academic credentials,” the former CIA official said.
He said the agency does employ technical specialists in overseas stations, “but their breadth of experience is huge, and they tend not to start out as systems administrators.”
Also questioned was how Snowden got access to such documents from an NSA station in Hawaii.
Among the related developments:
- The New York Times reported the whistleblower’s employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, earned $1.3 billion over the last year by providing intelligence work for the federal government. Also, Obama’s chief intel officer, James Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive.
- The Daily Beast reported NSA insiders are aghast at the revelations about their work. “There is complete freakout mode at the agency right now,” a former intel officer said. “There has never been anything like this in terms of the speed of referral of a crime report to the Justice Department.”
Federal officials confirm they are investigating.
“Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law,” said spokesman Shawn Turner.