Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of Iceland’s parliament since 2009, is being targeted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for her role in producing Collateral Murder with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The controversial video shows footage, reportedly leaked by former intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, of a US helicopter shooting and killing two Reuters journalists and other civilians in 2007.
In a recent interview on The State We’re In, Birgitta Jónsdóttir chronicles her interactions with Assange. According to Jónsdóttir, WikiLeaks came to Iceland to strengthen the country’s freedom of information laws, and the two were meeting in a Reykjavik cafe when Assange showed her the horrific video. Reuters had tried to obtain this video for over a year through the Freedom of Information Act but had been unsuccessful. Jónsdóttir notes that the soldiers seemed to truly believe that the civilians had weapons, but she emphasizes that the actions that followed were not the result of a tragic mistake.
How can you think that this was a tragic mistake? This is happening everyday. If you look at the entire video–not only this bit but what happened a little bit later–when they actually shot up this civilian that was just walking outside a building. If the soldiers would have waited like two minutes, that man would have been spared, but they didn’t care. That’s not an accident. That’s collateral murder.
When Jónsdóttir co-produced the video, she had no knowledge of the whistleblower’s identity nor any idea of the consequences for blowing the whistle. On the subject of Bradley Manning, she emphasizes that Manning did try to go through legal channels to report war crimes but was unable to make any progress. Jónsdóttir observes that Manning is “being made an example to scare others off from exposing criminal behavior within the military.”
After Manning’s arrest, the DOJ went after Jónsdóttir and apparently subpoenaed Twitter to hand over information regarding her account, including her personal messages and her IP number. With an IP number, the government would be able to figure out her locations and individuals in her company at any given time.
Aside from audaciously requesting such information about an elected representative of another country, the most outrageous aspect of this case is the fact that Jónsdóttir would not have even known if it were not for an email sent to her by Twitter. The social media behemoth resisted handing over this information and took the US government to court. Last week, however, a district court ordered Twitter to comply with the request. Jónsdóttir likened the government’s actions to a clearly unconstitutional search and seizure:
It is very worrisome that the US government can come knocking down on my online home and go in without my knowledge. If Twitter had not taken this subpoena to court, I would never have known that the US government was going through my personal data. Just imagine if they would knock on my door–well not even knock on it–just go in and go through my papers and take whatever was useful for their investigation and not let me know.
Jónsdóttir further describes the state of freedom of information laws in the US as poor, especially in the wake of SOPA and PIPA: “The fact that we are treated as consumers online but not persons with civilian rights is very worrisome.”
Tags: Department of Justice, electronic privacy, free speech, government secrecy, Internet, surveillance, transparency, warrantless surveillance, whistleblowers, WikiLeaks