The Obama administration has admitted to spying on two Icelandic citizens with ties to WikiLeaks in the latest revelation pertaining to both the US government’s widespread surveillance practices and its war against the whistleblower website.
Documents surfaced on Friday showing that the United States Department of Justice demanded that Internet giant Google provide federal investigators with the personal emails sent and received by two Icelanders once involved in WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy website under investigation for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified US documents.
Herbert Snorrason and Smári McCarthy, both known publically as one-time associates of the website, released Justice Department-issued search warrants and court orders for their Gmail accounts on Friday that had up until recently been kept under seal. The documents compelled Google, the owner of the Gmail service, to provide metadata and content pertaining to emails that have passed through the accounts of both men.
The documents are redacted in part and are absent of information confirming that the intelligence is sought pursuant to the investigation of WikiLeaks, but Snorrason wrote on his website “it’s not a tricky guess” to figure out why they were targeted.
“All this is pretty much par for the course; I had assumed that I was caught in the dragnet cast around Julian Assange,” Snorrason wrote.
Assange, the publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, has been inside of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for one year as of this week. He is wanted for questioning in Sweden for alleged sex crimes, but fears the court-ordered extradition to the Scandinavian country is a step towards sending him to America. There, he assumes, he’d likely be tried for espionage and perhaps sentenced to death. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has granted Assange asylum, but British authorities have been ordered to arrest him if he exits the embassy.
Both Snorrason and McCarthy collaborated with Assange after the WikiLeaks founder visited Iceland while the website was still in its infancy. They have each distanced themselves from the website in the years since but are far from the only individuals being probed by the US Justice Department for their past participation. Perhaps most well-known among the Americans targeted by prosecutors is Bradley Manning, a 25-year-old US Army intelligence analyst currently on trial in Maryland for his alleged role in sending a trove of classified documents to WikiLeaks. If convicted of the most serious of charges, aiding the enemy, Manning could be sentenced to life in prison.
In a joint statement authored by Snorrason and McCarthy, the men salute the efforts of both Assange and Manning while condemning the US government’s unforgiving treatment aimed at the WikiLeakers and others who advocate for transparency much to the chagrin of the White House.
“The court orders were almost certainly related to the grand jury investigation of the unauthorized public disclosure of information showing considerable misconduct,” the men wrote, “including a number of probable cases of war crimes, by US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan during their wars in these countries, a list of people being held without trial or legal recourse in Guantanamo Bay and a trove of diplomatic cables detailing the ways the US government have conducted themselves – both good and bad – over many years.”
In a pretrial hearing earlier this year in Ft. Meade, Maryland, Manning took credit for sharing with WikiLeaks the material alluded by the Icelanders, including documents that exposed American diplomatic practices described in the press as “embarrassing” and other likely war crimes considered by many as atrocities. Despite this, though, a grand jury investigation into the website has run rampant for years, and several persons, both American and other, are being targeted for their alleged roles within the group.