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Summary:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic parliament and an early supporter of WikiLeaks, said that despite having had a falling out with leader Julian Assange, she is willing to “stand up and stick my neck out for him,” and believes everyone should support the organization.

Birgitta-Jonsdottir

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic parliament and an early supporter of WikiLeaks, said that despite having had a falling out with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over his role in the organization, she is willing to “stand up and stick my neck out for him” and defend the document-leaking entity against attacks by the U.S. government and others, because doing so is her duty. “We must all stand behind WikiLeaks and defend freedom of information and freedom of speech,” Jónsdóttir said in a presentation at the University of Toronto on Tuesday night, in which she also called on media outlets to support the organization. Jónsdóttir also said “even if they chop the head off WikiLeaks, a thousand more heads will come out.”

The Icelandic MP didn’t talk a lot about the WikiLeaks leader, except to say that “WikiLeaks is bigger than Julian Assange.” But she did talk about how she met him at a conference in 2009, while she and her party were developing proposed legislation in Iceland called the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, and Assange was looking for a “transparency haven” that could help the organization. The IMMI legislation is aimed at helping to protect freedom of information and whistleblowers like WikiLeaks who leak documents — something Iceland as a whole is also interested in, because many believe that more whistleblowing could have helped the country avoid its financial meltdown in 2008.

Jónsdóttir and Assange started working together, and in the spring of last year he showed her a copy of the infamous U.S. military video of American bombers firing on a civilian vehicle during an attack in Iraq. The Icelandic MP described how she watched the video in a crowded cafe and began to cry — and at that point decided to help WikiLeaks get publicity for the video, which she said she was afraid would get lost amid all the other leaked documents on the organization’s website. Jónsdóttir spent her Easter holiday editing the video, including pulling out still photographs to send to various media outlets. WikiLeaks even sent people to Iraq to the village where the attack took place, to confirm whether there were children in the van.

WikiLeaks' leader Julian Assange

That video was the beginning of an explosion of interest in WikiLeaks, which culminated with the leaking of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables late last year, and the current attempt by the U.S. government to mount a case against Assange under the Espionage Act. As part of that effort, the Department of Justice has gotten a court order that compels Twitter to release certain information — including messages, IP addresses and other details — about the personal accounts of Jónsdóttir, Assange, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp and American programmer Jacob Appelbaum. Jónsdóttir has said that she will resist this order, and has hired the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help with her defense.

In her talk, Jónsdóttir also freely admitted that she was completely unprepared for entering government. A member of a loosely-affiliated group of human rights protesters known simply as The Movement, she only volunteered to run for office because there weren’t enough female candidates, she said — and “to my great shock, I actually won, and I was in parliament two weeks later.” But the MP, who is an author and a poet, said that she believed her ignorance of the ways of government was a benefit rather than a disadvantage, because it meant that she could look at everything with fresh eyes and try things that others might not, including pushing forward the idea of the IMMI legislation.

Jónsdóttir said the idea behind the initiative — which was unanimously supported by the Icelandic parliament in a vote last summer — is to create the most advanced freedom-of-information and whistleblower-protection legislation in the world. The group looked at laws protecting freedom of speech and freedom of information in dozens of major countries and cherry-picked what they thought were the best ones. “The Internet is becoming industrialized and corporatized,” she said. “We need to make sure we don’t lose our freedom of speech and freedom of information.” Here’s a video interview that Jónsdóttir did with the public television station TVO while she was in Toronto:

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  1. Freedom of the press does NOT mean that people have the right to publish individual private conversations. Freedom of information does not mean that everyone has a right to know every intimate personal detail ever uttered by individuals. Details which are considered to be in the realm of national security certainly have no business being published; and the person(s) who obtained them and passed them to Assange should be tried for treason, for what other purpose would he(they) have than to attack the security of the countries involved. This is a lot more than whistle-blowing.

  2. Don, When people who are in charge of running governments, militaries, and publicly held companies, are hiding the truth about crimes and fraud, I believe that everyone in the world has the right to know. Remember, these politicians are supposed to be ‘serving the people’, not hiding crimes against humanity, wouldn’t you agree? Thank You. P.S. It might interest you to know that WikiLeaks wouldn’t exist if people working inside places like the Pentagon weren’t ‘leaking’ all of this information, correct? Someone wants the world to know. I’m glad!

  3. Your right don. It is more than just about freedom of the press. It’s about political corruption at high levels. It’s about judicial injustice. It’s about secret deals made by public employee’s for personal monetary gain. It’s about media manipulation. It’s about trumped up wars and the lies that got us into them. So how does one define national security? How does say Hillary Clinton sticking her nose into a civil matter between The Spanish Government and a Private Salvage Company’s claims to a 500 million dollar pile of salvaged gold coins help our national security? Especially since her meddling has caused the courts to side with the Spanish, thereby costing the US the tax moneys that would have been generated. I wonder how much money the couple that say they are the owners of the painting they want back from Spain donated into Hillary’s campaign fund. So yes there is a need for the public to know what are civil servants are doing while on our clock.

  4. Don on Wed12 commented “Freedom of the press does NOT mean that people have the right to publish individual private conversations.” Turn the argument around. Do National Governments have ‘rights’ to snoop on their citizens private under-takings and use the information to nail them.

    Even CCTV seems tomke to be a gross intrusion on privacy. It is the ultimate development of the moving curtain syndrome from village life.

    As regards “Freedom of information does not mean that everyone has a right to know every intimate personal detail ever uttered by individuals.” Why-ever not? We ALL evolved from ‘village society’ where everyone knew everyone’s business anyway. I believe this instinct is hard-wired into Homo Sapiens as a survival device.

    National Governments through their “spy networks” and “security monitors” spend H24D365 finding out and storing as much information as possible on the citizens of the world not to HELP those people when they need help but to screw them if they get out of line. It seems to me that Wikileaks is a natural and to be expected backlash by the ordinary people to those who would enslave them?

  5. Shannon Whitley Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Steve Martin says it well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JLbAePwoHQ

    If the leaks support a story and uncover corruption, then yes, Linguiniman and Ron Willison are correct. In the absence of a story and clear purpose, the leaks are nothing more than fodder for gossip. Journalists need to exercise judgment when it comes to the public’s right to know. Publishing leaked documents without context can be criminal.

    I also wonder what type of diplomatic relations Jónsdóttir expects to have if every conversation is broadcast to the public. There are times when sensitive proposals require discretion. When it comes to some opportunities, I’ll wager that Iceland will be left out in the cold.

    1. Actually, Birgitta talked about the reality that some things need to be kept secret — but she said she would like to have an open dialogue about what and when, instead of letting governments (even hers) decide.

    2. Shannon, I know I’m about to sound idealistic, Please hang with me for a second on this one. Regarding Journalists making judgement calls. I’m thinking that it would be too easy for bias and agenda’s or even just lack of knowledge on a particular matter for that responsibility to be laid on the journalist’s shoulders. They and we would be better served if they focused on verifying the validity of the content/doc’s. Something that needs to be thought about. Those people out there in the streets and indeed the rest of us that are protesting for wikileaks are making a statement. We are saying that our main stream media has lost sight of it’s mission. We the people who pay for the products that their sponsors sell have been not only abandoned. But worse yet. Many can see just how lockstep our media walks with our politico’s and their corporate masters. All one has to do to see what’s really going on is just look at how the main stream media writes their headlines on wikileaks/assange matters. Here is how they do it. “Pro WIKILEAKS Hackers attack Paypal website” When the headline should have looked like this. “Anon group called OPERATION PAYBACK attack Paypal.” It’s called guilt by association. Smear if you will. Subterfuge.

      On the idea that you raise regarding broadcasting to the public every conversation etc. etc. I would say the following. We can agree that some things should remain behind closed doors. ie ongoing military operations and military intel matters. On pretty much all else I would say just this. To you the person who’s job it is to represent me “your employer” in domestic and foreign matters. You do it out in the open. I want details on the matters that by proxy you are signing in my name.
      Shannon, How many of the world’s problems would go away and actually get resolved in a manner that all could be comfortable with. Once the party’s involved have their ability’s to SPIN things stripped from their war chest? Give the good people of the world raw facts. And via the internet and the brain power of the collective world. Problems will get solved.

  6. We live in times that crimes can’t be hidden anymore. You can’t bomb the poor cowardly from 30 000 ft., drag the leaders of banana’s states into a court, steal the money from the tax payers and think you can get away with it. NATO can’t terrorize world with it’s deadliest weapons, while their members think they can stay immune for justice forever and hide themselfs behind eachother, just because they do it together.

    War criminals names should be published – and above of all, war criminals should be brought to justice. Especially those from British, Americans, German, Dutch.. and all NATO states governments.

    World obviously needs WikiLeaks!

    It’s because we live in modern fascism that Hitler would be jealous of.

  7. In a democracy, politicians are ‘servants of the people’. But the corporates buy them out (fund their election costs) and then people become servants of the politicians!! In the US-of-A, democracy protects corporates and rich people, same in India :(

    I support Wikileaks.

  8. don I would ask you to mull this over regarding before calling for Private Manning’s Treason trial.
    If you are Private Manning, and your job requires you to analyze all the data that was in all those documents that are being released by wikileaks. Would it not be safe to conclude that at some point you would possess enough information to make a judgement as to what that data shows? And if that data indicates wrong doing on the part of your superiors and other officials. How and what are your options? On the one hand you have a contract with your employer. In this case. The American people. On the other hand you have balance your own perception of what is right,ethical and moral. Given the nature of the animal. Could it not be assumed that Mr. Manning may have concluded that wikileaks was his only option? How many of those Viet Nam veterans inhabiting our nations freeway on and off ramps with, “WILL WORK FOR FOOD” signs are there because their guilt ridden minds have broken because of ordered involvement in events like the Melai Massacre? As I recall. Because of that abomination our military enacted rule changes that were supposed to provide safe haven for soldiers that disobeyed orders that he or they considered illegal or morally wrong. All one needs to do is look at how much effort our government is putting into destroying Assange and wikileaks to realize how much of a non-starter that is. What were his options? That contract he signed when enlisting in the military was a contract with the American PEOPLE, and like it or not. We are the ones that will have to carry the guilt around when we see the new batch of carnage that comes home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Our American POLITICIANS and their corporate MASTERS won’t feel the pain because as far as they are concerned they believe doing all they do in our best interest. The American people and indeed the world needs Wikileaks type options

  9. For the record. I’m active on many news sites regarding the wikileaks issue. The people taking part in the conversation here is by far the most civil and just goes to show that there are still thoughtful people around that care about our country enough to spend precious time trying to preserve that which made the US great in the first place. Thank you.

  10. New York Times, Al-Jazeera Do An End-Run Around WikiLeaks: Tech News and Analysis « Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    [...] other traditional media entities is a broader reach — in effect, publicity for the leaks, as Icelandic MP and early WikiLeaks supporter Birgitta Jonsdottir explained in a recent speech in [...]

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