Tag Archives: Birgitta Jonsdottir

The Criminalization of Journalism: Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir Pens Open Letter in Defense of Jailed Journalist, Barrett Brown

The Criminalization of Journalism: Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir Pens Open Letter in Defense of Jailed Journalist, Barrett Brown

[DALLAS, TX]  The curious case of Barrett Brown —a freelance journalist and satirist, turned political prisoner— has captivated thousands in the lead-up to what many are calling a “show trial” slated to take place in Dallas, TX, later this year.  In an open letter published this morning (and attached below),  Icelandic MP, Birgitta Jonsdottir claims the charges against Brown are part of a larger “unjust war on whistleblowers, journalists, and information activists.”  Brown, who has been incarcerated since September 12, 2012, is facing three separate indictments carrying a sum of 17 federal charges, each related to his work with Project PM (a crowdsourced journalism initiative aimed at shedding light on private contractors in the intelligence industry.)  Brown’s charges, should he be sentenced to them consecutively, have him facing 105 years in Federal prison.

At the core of these charges is an argument that Brown’s alleged conduct of linking to, and editorialized upon, documents leaked by others to an unrelated 3rd party is tantamount to the leaking itself and henceforth constitutes a criminal violation of fraud and abuse. This controversial contention has triggered a groundswell of support from press freedom foundations and activists that see Brown’s case as a canary in the coal mine of permissible internet speech.  From occupying recent monologs in the popular Netfilx political series, House of Cards, to charming readers of his popular column in D Magazine, it feels like everyone is talking about Barrett Brown (and rightfully so).  Whether or not this attention will translate into a successful challenge to the charges against him remains to be seen, but what is undisputed is that in the weeks, months, and possibly years ahead, Barrett Brown needs our solidarity.  You can learn more about how to support Brown HERE as well as donate to his defense fund HERE.

Birgitta Jonsdottir is a member of the Icelandic Parliament and an outspoken advocate for at-risk whistleblowers and journalists.  The following is MP Jonsdottir’s open letter regarding the prosecution and protracted abuse of Barrett Brown since his incarceration.  We encourage others to copy, excerpt and share this content freely and widely…

The Criminalization of Journalism

by Birgitta Jonsdottir

If Barrett Brown is found guilty we will all be forced to rethink how we use the Internet and share information, knowledge, blog, report, tweet, use facebook and google.

His case has been like a long drawn out fiction since he was arrested in Dallas at gunpoint by a heavily armed raid on his apartment on the 12 of September 2012. He has been kept in prison ever since, charged with 17 counts that include threatening a federal agent, concealing evidence and disseminating stolen information. He faces a maximum sentence of 100 years in custody and has been placed under gag order by specific request of the government.

When I first heard of the bizarre case of Barrett Brown, a journalist for among others Vanity Fair, The Guardian, and Huffington Post, I was shocked to notice that his ordeal was not headline news. His central work at the time was around investigations and research that was focused on the cyber-industrial complex. Barrett was investigating the private intelligence industry with Project PM using leaked e-mails from HBGary and Stratfor. That earned him the attention of the Justice Department. Project PM is a crowd-sourced research project, and a very valuable resource for data on the privatized segment of the invisible Empire.

Barrett was a prominent activist for transparency, he worked as an embedded reporter with Anonymous. At the time of his arrest Barrett Brown was onto something that the governmental Watchmen wanted to be keep below the surface no matter what.

Barrett is obviously being punished for looking into the surveillance state and being vocal about it. The judicial overreach is to the extent that, as stated, he was even imposed a gag order by a federal court in Dallas, and not only him but also his legal team. This gag order prevents them from talking to the media about his unprecedented prosecution for alleged offenses relating to his work exposing online surveillance. Imposed at the request of the US government, the court order, prohibits the defendant and his defense team, as well as prosecutors, from making any statement to all media outlet members.

Indictments for linking set a very dangerous precedent not just for journalists who want to link to hacks/leaks in their reporting, but the Internet as we know it and modern media development where citizen research plays an important role in sifting through raw data. The right to link is at stake, a function that is the backbone of Internet culture of sharing knowledge and information. But there is more, much more.

Reporter’s privilege to protect their sources is at stake, and if it has ever been important to be vigilant in that regard, then that time is now. With new revelations about mass surveillance capacities of the NSA and its sister clandestine institute in the UK by the courageous whistleblower Edward Snowden the world has been forced to face that ongoing violation of our privacy as the norm. It also means that journalists can´t protect their sources, doctors can´t ensure patients confidentiality nor can lawyers guarantee confidentiality towards their clients.

Barrett was digging deep into uncomfortable information about how the US Government has outsourced most of it’s spying to private companies. Big Corporate Brother is watching our every thought, our every emotion and our every action. Every breath we take is being analyzed and scrutinized by algorithms of increased sophistication and there is an intent of an all encompassing surveillance in the name of false security. Knowing this, that probing into my private life is happening does not make me feel any security at all, it is quite the contrary.

Reporter’s privilege and free speech is something most of us hold sacred. The very laptops that Barrett is charged with obstruction for concealing contained journalistic sources and work product, including a book-in-progress. The First Amendment is understood as protecting reporters from revealing confidential information or sources, but there are clear signs that the constitutional values in the USA are being eroded by DoJ investigations into national security leaks. The FBI raid which led to these charges was based on false information, and actually there was no crime to investigate. It was nothing more than an attempt to stifle Barrett’s reporting on the private/public partnership concerning surveillance and inhibit his research.

Despite Aaron Swartz’s suicide, the government is still waging an unjust war on whistleblowers, journalists, and information activists. People are being prosecuted (and also highly over-prosecuted) for political acts or merely because the government doesn’t agree with them. Just why is Barrett being charged when numerous other people, including established reporters, shared the same link?

Evidence is mounting towards the bleak reality that Barrett is being persecuted because of his work exposing the activities of private security and intelligence companies that do the government’s dirty work and spy on the public. If citizens are not allowed to research the growing surveillance state, what will happen in the future to privacy, transparency and not to mention our civil liberties? We cannot allow his case to be ignored, it demands a reflection of brutal honesty on where our democratic rights are heading, the very foundation of democracy is at stake when the most important and valued constitutional rights are being violated in a systematic wave of governmental abuse, not only in the US but around the world. The secret service is out of control and it is revealed more and more each week that this surveillance state is working toward questionable ends.  Nobody wants to live in the United World of Stasi, and this undeniable fact is exactly why we have to show the political prisoners of the information evolution profoundly more support. ‡

birgitta jonsdottir
Birgitta Jonsdottir is the chairman of the International Modern Media Institution, a former WikiLeaks volunteer (2009-2010) an activist and currently a member of the Icelandic parliament for the Pirate Party whom she helped co-create. Her Icelandic Modern Media Initiative parliamentary proposal was unanimously accepted in the parliament in 2010, its aim and vision to make Iceland to be a save haven for freedom of information and expression. She is currently working on a similar proposal in relation to online privacy, inspired by the information provided by Snowden. Birgitta was a victim of the US governmental invasion into her privacy in early 2011 when DoJ demanded to have access to her twitter metadata. She lost the court battle despite having access to the best lawyers in this field in the USA from the EFF and ACLU. On February 3, 2014 Birgitta used her role as MP to nominate Chelsea Elizabeth Manning and Edward Snowden as candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. Birgitta has limited a media availability, interview requests can be made via Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net

New Yorkers Declare “I Stand With Edward Snowden”: Dozens Rally & Draw Positive Media Attention for NSA Whistleblower

New Yorkers Declare “I Stand With Edward Snowden”: Dozens Rally & Draw Positive Media Attention for NSA Whistleblower

[NEW YORK, NY]  At 12:00pm EST activists, journalists and concerned New Yorkers assembled at New York’s Union Square for a rally in solidarity with National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, Edward Snowden. Snowden, a contractor at Booz Allen Hamilton and the source behind The Guardian‘s near-weeklong stretch of blockbuster scoops highlighting PRISM and similar pervasive surveillance programs under the authority of the NSA, has become a household name overnight. Similarly, this revelation has created a groundswell of concern for Snowden’s welfare, who is currently seeking refuge in Hong Kong and may in the near future require political asylum from a criminal investigation opened yesterday, 6/9/2013, by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The call to “Stand With Edward Snowden”, which was issued online shortly after journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald published Snowden’s video testimonial, is the first of what is expected to be many events spanning multiple cities, in support of the NSA whistleblower.

“You have to make a determination about what is important to you…” said Snowden in his prerecorded interview published yesterday, “if living un-freely, but comfortably is something that you are willing to accept —and I think that many of us are, its the human nature …you can get up every day, you can go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest and go to sleep at night after watching your shows— but if you realize that’s the world that you helped create, and it’s gonna get worse with the next generation, and the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk, and it does not matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that is applied.”

Organizers of today’s rally hope the assembly (which drew a few dozen despite torrential rain) will do more than lionize Snowden, they hope to use the event to continue the conversation Snowden started regarding the preservation of 4th Ammendment protections of personal privacy in an age of new media. “As young people in the digital era, it is imperitive that we have an understanding of what happens to the data we create and post, with or without our consent,” said rally organizer Yoni Miller. Moreover, the activists want to make sure that these grievances are not co-opted by partisan narratives, “It’s good these revelations are happening under President Obama,” said NYC activist Astra Taylor, “so we can see that this is structural, instead of blaming a Republican villain & praying for Democratic rescue.”

Taylor’s concerns are mirrored in-part by Snowden, who indicated to The Guardian that he was hopeful these surveillance systems would have been “reined in” when President Obama was elected, but was later heartbroken when he saw them expand further under the Obama administration. “The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change.” said Snowden, “People will see, in the media, all of these disclosures, they know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society, and global society, but they wont be willing to take the risks nessicarily to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.”

“Edward Snowden chose to willfully free dark side national security information as a brave and courageous act of selfless civil disobedience,” said former NSA executive director, Thomas Drake. Snowden’s actions and the resulting threat of prosecution he faces are familiar to Drake, who in 2010 was arrested under the U.S. Espionage Act for publicly challenging a similar data-vacuuming project called Trailblaizer. While the Trailblazer project was eventually cancelled due to budget bloat and missed goals, it was later linked to a warrantless wiretapping program under the Bush Administration code named “Stellar Wind”. This program continues today under the code names RAGTIME and RAGTIME-P, the later acronym applies specifically to domestic data collection, the “P” suffix stands for “Patriot” a reference to the USA Patriot Act. Under RAGTIME-P the NSA appears to be using an interpretation of §215 of the Patriot Act to grant themselves the legal authority to conduct domestic intelligence gathering. On June 6, 2013 Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), author of the USA Patriot Act, expressed deep concern over this interpretation of §215 in a press release and letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Chris Hedges, who served for decades as a foreign corespondent for The New York Times, has witnessed several foreign democratic governments ebb towards a creeping surveillance state.  In recent years, Hedges has warned that similar transitions could happen here in the United States if left unchecked.  When asked about Snowden he remarked,  “Edward Snowden, like Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, has joined the ranks of the hunted and the persecuted because he named and documented the crimes of the state. His defiance of the control and monitoring of our lives by the security and surveillance makes him an American hero.”

The organizers of today’s rally underscore that Snowden’s leak was selective and not reckless in nature. The activists also have expressed concern over the possibility of future attempts to demonize the whistleblower, and encouraged others to act preemptively to assure that does not happen. Lee Camp, a celebrated comedian and organizer with Occupy Wall Street echoed these sentiments, “Let’s get ahead of this story and let the world know Edward Snowden is a hero before the media and government get to work maligning him.”

Today’s rally is just one example of individuals taking proactive action in support of Snowden. Others, like Icelandic Parlementarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, are going one step further by beginning the legal process of obtaining political asylum for Snowden should he chose to seek it. “I stand with Edward Snowden because what he did is of tremendous importance to everybody on this planet, especially those in the USA.” said Jonsdottir, “I will do everything in my power to find ways to shelter him from the wrath of governments who want to carry on with their culture of secrecy even when it becomes obvious it is impossible and unjustifiable to invade the privacy of their civilian populace. I challenge other lawmakers of conscious to do the same.”

It is unforeseen what will become of Edward Snowden. His $200k/year job at Booz Allen Hamilton became available just days after first contacting journalists, and in leaving his home in Hawaii he has left both financial security and his loved ones behind. Today’s rally provided New Yorkers an opportunity to continue the conversation surrounding domestic spying on US citizens to which Snowden provided a catalyst for, and gave those attending an opportunity to thank him for this courageous and selfless act.

“There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.” — Edward Snowden

» Full disclosure: While The Sparrow Project did not accept any compensation for this release, and does not represent Edward Snowden in any capacity, The Sparrow Project has provided media relations services to MP Birgitta Jonsdottir in the past, and upon request will continue to field future requests for MP Jonsdottir, including those pertaining to political asylum for Edward Snowden as they relate to MP Jonsdottir.

Icelandic Parliamentarian, Birgitta Jonsdottir, will Visit NYC in Support of Bradley Manning Despite DOJ Grand Jury Investigation Into Her, Wikileaks

Icelandic Parliamentarian, Birgitta Jonsdottir, will Visit NYC in Support of Bradley Manning Despite DOJ Grand Jury Investigation Into Her, Wikileaks

[NEW YORK, NY]  On Friday, April 5, 2013 Icelandic Parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir will host an evening of art and dialogue in support of jailed Iraq war whistleblower, Pfc. Bradley Manning, at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Sq. South MAP). A 6pm benefit informal art auction & film screening will be followed by a panel discussion at 8pm.

The panel discussion will feature Jonsdottir in conversation with Alexa O’Brien and Kevin Gosztola, journalists who each have provided extensive coverage of the Manning pretrial proceedings at Ft. Meade, MD, along with Peter Hart, a critic with the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. The panel will be moderated by Sam Seder, host of the political talk show, The Majority Report.

Jonsdottir’s visit comes on the heels of a February 2013 revelation by Iceland’s Justice Minister that, in August 2011, Icelandic lawmakers expelled several FBI agents from the country. An Alexandria, VA Grand Jury Probe is seeking information about Jonsdottir, among others, in relation to Wikileaks, its developers and managers, and Pfc. Bradley Manning. Despite advice from the Icelandic Government not to visit the US until the closure of the Grand Jury, Jonsdottir has chosen to schedule her visit amidst this still-active Grand Jury, citing the urgency of Pfc. Manning’s plight. As Manning’s court-martial trial is scheduled to begin on June 3, 2013, he faces a potential life sentence, if convicted on all counts.

Jonsdottir was instrumental in facilitating Pfc. Manning’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, both in 2012 and again in 2013, with wider support. “I nominated Bradley Manning for the Nobel Peace prize for the first time in 2012 ,with a couple of fellow MPs from Iceland,” said Jonsdottir, “In 2013, I did it again with the same MPs, members from the European Parliament and a former Minster from Tunisia. It is very encouraging to see the growing support for Manning around the world, but most importantly, within the USA.”

Jonsdottir is also suing president Barack Obama over the indefinite detention powers within § 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In September 2012, Judge Katherine Forrest of New York’s Southern District Court enjoined the President from using § 1021(b)(2) in a landmark ruling in favor of Jonsdottir and six other plaintiffs, citing that their work in activism, academia, and journalism could potentially put them at risk of detention under § 1021(b)(2). The Obama administration is currently appealing Judge Forrest’s ruling.

 Large-format prints of single frames from the now infamous “Collateral Murder’” video (disclosed by Manning, published by Wikileaks and co-produced by Jonsdottir) depicting the killing of unarmed Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists by US Apache gunfire, will be displayed and sold in benefit of Pfc. Manning.

Bradley Manning Print by Molly Crabapple Limited-edition 17″ x 22″ giclée prints by celebrated social justice artist and illustrator, Molly Crabapple, will also be sold as part of the benefit. For those who want to support the benefit but cannot attend the New York City event on April 5th.  Crabapple’s prints are currently available online to bid upon HERE.  The first 200 highest bids will receive these prints.

The event aims to raise awareness about Manning, now 25 years old, who recently explained in a court statement that he leaked the documents as an act of conscience; to uncover U.S. abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan and to help people in America better understand wars abroad. The event also hopes to raise money for Bradley’s defense fund, a fund for the families affected by the massacre captured in the “Collateral Murder” video , and money for Ethan McCord, the soldier who helped save the children wounded in the attack.

For a list of additional events in NYC with Birgitta Jonsdottir click HERE. To RSVP to Friday’s event via Facebook click HERE.


To arrange an interview with Brigitta Jonsdottir while she is in the USA, please contact Andy Stepanian via email at andy@sparrowmedia.net or by phone at 631.291.3010