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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

US Embassy in Iceland admits surveillance practice...

US Embassy in Iceland Admits Surveillance Practice

The US Embassy in Reykjavík has confirmed that its Surveillance Detection Unit, the same which caused controversy in other Nordic countries last weekend, has been in operation in Iceland with the purpose of monitoring the embassy’s surrounding neighborhood.

The governments of Norway, Sweden and Finland have demanded explanations from the US government for the Surveillance Detection Unit’s practices, ruv.is reports.

According to the Norwegian media, local police officers were hired to monitor and even spy on Norwegian citizens and some were allegedly paid under the table.

Americans say the operations are part of their defense agreements with these countries. The plan is ten-years old and was, according to ruv.is, extensively reinforced after 9/11.

Minister of Justice Ögmundur Jónasson revealed at the Icelandic parliament yesterday that he had given the Commissioner of the Icelandic Police the task to investigate whether the US Embassy in Iceland monitored the movements of Icelandic citizens near the embassy and registered related information in a database.

Laura Gritz, spokesperson for the US Embassy in Iceland, confirmed that a Surveillance Detection Unit has been in operation in Iceland.

The purpose is to monitor the embassy’s surrounding environment and investigate whether there is any threat impending. This is practiced at all US embassies, she stated.

A declaration from the embassy reads: “We regret that inaccurate reporting on the surveillance detection of the US Department of State has caused discomfort and concern. The Surveillance Detection Unit is neither secret nor involved in spying.”

“Its operations are neither directed towards the host country nor its citizens,” the statement continued. “The purpose is simply to monitor suspicious practices near the embassy and its employees in cooperation with the authorities responsible for security at the embassies.”

Whether those involved in surveillance detection are Icelanders is unclear. Gritz said American authorities are happy to discuss these issues with their Icelandic counterparts but not in the media.

Ruv.is claims that employees of Securitas dressed in plain clothes were working on surveillance for the US Embassy in Reykjavík. Among their tasks was to go through the garbage of the embassy’s neighbors.

According to information from the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, there is no data at hand that indicates that any cooperation as mentioned above has been discussed with Icelandic authorities.
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