May 20 2011

Cover-ups and Evasions Condoned by the Minister of the Interior

Statement from Saving Iceland regarding the recently published report by the National Commissioner’s ‘National Security Unit’. The report was requested by the Minister of the Interior and was supposed to answer the questions if the Icelandic police were aware of and collaborated in British police spy Mark Kennedy’s infiltration of the Saving Iceland network. (Translated from Icelandic.)

The Saving Iceland network has spent some time examining the report authored  by the National Commissioner’s ‘National Security Unit’ published on May 17. Already at this stage we would like to make a considerable number of remarks.

First of all we have to express our astonishment if Ögmundur Jónasson, the Minister of the Interior is going to accept as valid the poorly reasoned cover-ups that are resorted to by the report’s authors. It is also remarkable how superficial and simply untrue the Minister’s own interpretation of the report has been so far. Unfortunately the same is true of the coverage of the report made by some of the Icelandic corporate media.

The report’s most serious flaw is of course the fact that it completely evades the responsibility that it was officially intended to assume. The only de facto information about the report’s actual subject is on page 12,  where it is stated that the police received “confidential information” concerning the intended protests against the Kárahnjúkar dam from both domestic and foreign “informers”, and that this information was used to organize the police’s reaction.

On page 18 it says that “during an overhaul of data at the National Commissioner office, no information came to light that makes it possible to ascertain if this British police spy [Mark Kennedy] was here in Iceland with the knowledge of the police or with their collaboration in 2005”. This is obviously an attempt to avoid giving a clear answer to the question of whether the police were aware of Kennedy’s presence here in Iceland, by referring to the supposed non-existence of “data”. According to this, all authorities could always avoid all official obligation to inform simply by deleting or not entering data about certain events. This is a completely unacceptable conclusion.

It is important to note that neither the Interior Minister nor the National Commissioner have answered a list of questions from our lawyer, formally requesting further information about the Icelandic police’s surveillance of individuals within the Saving Iceland network, and, no less importantly, the actual wording of the query made by the Minister of the Interior to the National Commissioner’s National Security Unit. Since the Minister and the National Commissioner do not provide precise answers about the specific stipulations to the enquiry, it is hard to make a clear estimate of the precise extent to which the report avoids giving answers, although it becomes clear, from reading the report, that its authors entirely avoid answering the questions about Saving Iceland and Mark Kennedy that it was reportedly supposed to answer.

It is also unbelievable, in accordance with general research methods, that the report’s authors did not contact individuals who have been active with the Saving Iceland movement, but instead based the chapter about Mark Kennedy on reports from the British newspaper Guardian, which are full of inaccuracies repeatedly corrected by Saving Iceland.

Criminalizing Resistance Constitutes an Assault on Democracy

The report is a textbook example of the violently hostile attitude of the Icelandic authorities’ against political dissidents and groups using civil disobedience, treating them as if they were dealing with criminal organizations. Immediately on the first page of the report the National Commissioner makes himself guilty of criminalizing our movement. As a whole the report partners us, environmentalists, up with the “criminal organization Hells Angels”, which has recently become in Iceland a sort of a cloak for any kind of State intervention that entails curtailing constitutional human rights.

In this context it is very important to be able to know the details of the Interior Minister’s original query (as a matter of fact, it is strange that this is not clearly explained in the report), as it is especially odd to ask for an investigation into two such fundamentally unrelated associations in the same report. Of course it gives a completely wrong picture of the topics that need to be cleared up concerning Saving Iceland, a nature conservation organization, whose actions hardly justify that it be referred to at the same instance as the Hells Angels. This has to be explained by the authorities.

The National Commissioner is even so unfortunate as to blurt out that his office has performed its duties “… concerning the fight against organized crime and direct action-groups like the Saving Iceland organization.” This is an explicit acknowledgement that the National Commissioner considers one of his duties to “fight against” environmentalist groups such as Saving Iceland.

It is very difficult to see where these duties are called upon, in the quoted police law, whose 5th article addresses the Commissioner’s duty to coordinate his operations but says nothing about an obligation to fight against voluntary organizations any more than what can be expected. There is only a description of the Commissioner’s variety of administrative duties, i.e. “… to operate a police investigative department and a national security unit that investigates high treason and the violation of the cabinet government and its supreme authorities, and estimates the threat of terrorism and organized crime.”

It is not in the hands of a police force, in a state that wants to pride itself on upholding democracy, to “fight against” political dissidence. Hence we find ourselves moved to ask if the National Commissioner has completely lost himself in the high jinks and really considers himself to officiate duties in a fascist state like the ones for example under which the people of South-America have often had to live?

In the above-mentioned reference on page 1 it says that the department in question “investigates treason and the violation of the cabinet government and its supreme authorities, and estimates the threat of terrorism and organized crime.” According to this definition it is difficult to see that the National Security Unit had any legal authority to interfere with Saving Iceland, but if deemed so, it would be intriguing to know under which of these topics Saving Iceland has been categorized.

Obvious Evasions

The section of the report relating to Saving Iceland is completely consistent with the previous report about the police’s interference into the affairs of Saving Iceland, written by the director of Iceland’s police academy at the request of the Minister of Justice in 2009. Paragraphs of laws and the police’s modus operandi are patronisingly detailed, but the hoped for analysis is nowhere to be found. (The said report is, incidentally, printed with double-spacing and contains long references to articles of law, possibly in an attempt to conceal how little meaningful analysis it contains. It would be interesting to see what would remain if the long quotes on articles of law are removed and the text printed with single-spacing.)

On page 2 there is a long list of the particular tasks that are in the hands of the National Commissioner’s National Security Unit. Despite of a list in 12 separate parts, there is no mention of which of these tasks concern the topics that were to be investigated in the report.

On page 15 it is stated that the police acted in accordance with information that they received from abroad, as well as from within Iceland. What foreign agency is responsible for informing the Icelandic police? How can it be argued that the police’s response was based on the information they received when the actual information has not been specified? The fact that the protests “might proliferate” is not a valid reason for preventative police actions. The likelihood of sabotage taking place is an unreasoned assertion. The police might have received information saying that very “determined activists” would be likely to join Saving Iceland, but it does not follow that protest is necessarily illegal, and the existence of “activists” does not legitimize the use of police force.

The reports’ authors attempt to convince the Minister, and other readers, with peculiar meticulousness, that according to international police agreements neither the Minister, nor those whose rights the police have violated, should be given access to the evidence. The efforts of the National Commissioner to hide behind confidentiality towards foreign police-spies does little to convince, but rather reveals a determination to avoid exposing the Commissioner’s own involvement in violations of human rights against individuals who have been active with Saving Iceland.

On page 3 there is a chapter about the so-called “third-party-rule”, which the report’s authors attempt to stretch by applying its confidentiality stipulation to include the very same Interior Minister who actually commissioned the report. The Minister is the supreme authority of the Icelandic police, hence it is incomprehensible how he can be considered a “third party” by the report’s authors.

It is worth noting that on page 15, the above-mentioned report by the Police Academy director is quoted as stating that the police did not use eavesdropping in connection with the protests. It may be worth considering if the reason for quoting the 2009 report on this issue is an attempt to avoid exposing the electronic spying that took place. If the National Commissioner considered Saving Iceland to be a great terrorist threat, it is extremely strange if our communications were not tapped. If it really was the case that the National Commissioner had reason to believe that we posed a terrorist threat, and yet he did not order that we were electronically spied on, it is fair to say that he seriously failed his duties.

The 15th article of administration laws nr. 37/1993 deals with information rights and says that “a person or party connected to a particular case has the right to see the relevant documents and other data. The data has to be made available to this person or party, with the only exception if the case is of that essence, or the amount of documents is so high, that it makes revealing data very problematic.” Articles of law about secrecy stipulations do not have limiting effects on the duty to provide documents concerning this article of law.

It is clear that the National Commissioner admits to have worked closely with the British authorities concerning the surveillance of Saving Iceland. He also admits to have received information not only from abroad but also from within Iceland. This information has been gathered by spying, in other words: By violating the privacy of our personal lives. To state that no recorded documents can be found in the offices of the National Commissioner about this co-operation with the British authorities is nothing but obvious evasions.

Independent Investigation

The Minister of the Interior is now issuing the police with expanded proactive investigation permits. In the discussion in parliament following the publication of this report the Minister has been at particular pains that the focus on the issue should be on preventing the police from using these new powers of proactive investigation to violate the rights of political dissident groups. Although the minister has announced in connection with this report, that he thinks that “the authorities’ interference of this sort against politically motivated protest is a direct assault on democracy,” there does not seem to be any real intent behind his words to deal with the Icelandic and British police respective forces documented violations against Saving Iceland.

Thus we ask: Is the Minister of the Interior really condoning the police’s violations, clearly confirmed in the report, of our constitutional right to privacy, and by planting an agent provocateur in our movement for several years, who did his best to entrap us (nota bene, without success!) into major acts of terrorism? Has the Minister, in his fascination with proactive investigation permits, reached the conclusion that the significance and seriousness of law-violations that have already been committed are less serious than those being planned or which have never been committed?

If the Interior Minister considers this report satisfactory we cannot help seriously doubting that while he is in charge of this Ministry the task of tailoring laws and regulations, which he claims to want to promote in order to defend political resistance groups in Iceland from Big Brother’s human rights violations, is in the right hands.

Saving Iceland request that Ögmundur Jónasson send this report back to the National Commissioner on the basis that it simply is unsatisfactory. Otherwise we believe there is a pressing need for an independent investigation to be carried out under the auspices of parties with no obvious interests to protect such as the National Commissioner.

See also:

New Photographic Evidence Shows that the Icelandic Police Lied About their Dealings with Mark Kennedy