Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir talks asylum options for NSA whistleblower

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Birgitta Jónsdóttir at a 2011 meeting on open government.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir is waiting for Edward Snowden to drop her a line.

The Icelandic Member of Parliament and Wikileaks supporter happens to be in San Francisco at the moment, working to raise awareness about the trial of Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, and preparing for a speaking engagement this evening where she’ll appear alongside Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

Snowden, meanwhile, is presumed to be somewhere in Hong Kong – but as of the most recent media reports, his exact whereabouts were unknown (at least to reporters). Snowden is the 29-year-old former employee of intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, who came forward Sunday as the source responsible for leaking top-secret U.S. government documents to The Guardian (UK) and The Washington Post revealing a widespread digital surveillance program.

Jónsdóttir’s International Modern Media Institute issued a statement on June 9 vowing to “discuss the details of his asylum request” and to investigate the legal and security implications of the Iceland option.

“I have not gotten into contact with him,” Jónsdóttir said in a phone interview with the Bay Guardian this morning. “But … we have sent out the message that he can be in contact with us if he chooses, to let us know exactly what he wants.”

She added, “I’m quite concerned, because there are no direct flights to Iceland. … I’m just worried about the extradition process in other countries – if he needs to do a layover, or if we’re not quick enough to grant him asylum. And, frankly speaking, one of the parties in the government in Iceland is never going to agree to support it. So, it’s tricky.”

There may be better places for Snowden to seek asylum, Jónsdóttir added, but she and others are still investigating the possibilities. “I don’t know if Ecuador can take any more refugees from the political prisoners of the information age,” she said, referencing the country that granted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange political asylum, and has granted him residency in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for a year.

“But I really think emphasis in this case should be on all this heavy sentencing on … whistleblowers and people that are doing research and trying to bring information into the public domain," Jónsdóttir said. "I feel this is more like a witch hunt than the ordinary justice system,” she added, “if you look at the crimes they’re accused to have done, which in many people’s opinion, are not crimes at all.”

For now, it’s still too early to say where Snowden will ultimately wind up. “The ball is in his hands," Jónsdóttir said. "In the meantime, we will check out all the legalities and possibilities. We would obviously have to do it through secure ways. We have reached out to [journalist] Glenn [Greenwald] and James Ball, who has also been writing about this for The Guardian. And we’ll see if we get a message from him or if we can communicate directly. As soon as we have any information, we will make a statement.”