Iceland's interior minister said Friday that he ordered the country's police not to cooperate with FBI agents sent to investigate WikiLeaks two years ago, offering a rare glimpse into the U.S. Department of Justice's investigation of the secret-busting site.
Ogmundur Jonasson told The Associated Press that he was upset when he found out that FBI agents had flown to the country to interview an unidentified WikiLeaks associate in August 2011.
"I, for one, was not aware that they were coming to Iceland," he said in a brief telephone interview. "When I learned about it, I demanded that Icelandic police cease all cooperation and made it clear that people interviewed or interrogated in Iceland should be interrogated by Icelandic police."
Jonasson said that Icelandic diplomats protested the FBI's trip to their U.S. counterparts.
"We made clear to the American authorities that this was not well-seen by us," he said.
The exact purpose of the FBI's trip to Iceland isn't clear — the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik referred questions to the FBI, and the bureau did not immediately return an email seeking comment — but the tiny north Atlantic nation has been a key hub for WikiLeaks and its supporters.
In 2010 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange helped craft Iceland's journalist-friendly media law, and WikiLeaks payment processor, DataCell, is based in Reykjavik. Several key allies, including lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir and WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, are also from the country. Hrafnsson said in a telephone interview that he believed the target of the FBI's trip might have been a former WikiLeaks volunteer, whom he declined to name.
Regardless of what the target was, the minister's account of the FBI's trip opens a window into a sensitive inquiry which has so far remained largely under wraps. The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating WikiLeaks since it began pouring classified U.S. documents into the public domain, but officials have refused to reveal almost any information about the size, scope, or nature of their inquiry, citing national security concerns.
Raphael Satter can be reached at: http://raphae.li/twitter