Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012

HaPpY 2012 - we are living at interesting times. May 2012 contain joy and happiness in your realities. ♥ My new years resolution this year as all the others is to do my best and to take on all experiences with a touch of serenity. Lets make 2012 a year where the tables will turn the pyramid of power upside down. 

I was made into a cartoon some years ago by the Italian cartoonist Maurizio di Bona aka theHand. This blog started out as a joint experiment between two artists, me the writer/sputnik JoyB and theHand. We went busy doing other things for some years but have decided to put JoyB back on the priority list and resurrect her in 2012. Here is the first new JoyB toon: May 2012 be the road to ...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Photos & Videos from Birthday Party for Bradley Manning

Around 50 people participated in celebrations and vigil for Private Bradley Manning outside the USA Embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland on the 17th of December 2011, that date marks Brad's 2nd birthday in prison. Photos by Arni Stefan Arnason and Asgeir Asgeirsson.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Statement to USA Authorities on Bradley Manning's Birthday

Statement from the 50 people who have gathered outside the USA Embassy, Reykjavik, Iceland 17th of December 2011 to show Bradley Manning solidarity on his 24th Birthday delivered to the USA Ambassador to Iceland.

Today marks the second birthday Private Bradley Manning spends in jail. He is accused of having leaked secret documents to WikiLeaks of unprecedented proportions exposing serious war crimes and how the general population in the USA and around the world have been lied to in relation to the war waged in their name.

It is obvious that Manning will not get a fair trial. The USA president Mr Obama has prior to Manning even being brought to court claimed he was guilty. Obama also said that Manning could not go unpunished the way Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, once did, because the two cases are too different. Ellsberg, who sees Manning as following in his footsteps, cannot accept this assessment. He only agrees with the president on one point: Manning disclosed secret information, he says, but "all of the pages that I released were top secret."

The US government celebrated the release of the 'Pentagon Papers' on the Vietnam War as a sign of its openness. The truth, however, is that President Barack Obama has taken a much tougher line on whistleblowers than his predecessors. It is though timely to remind him that blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime.

The USA Army has come under fire for keeping Manning under detention for 18 months without trial, as well as the conditions of his detention. Since his confinement, Manning has become a symbol of free speech. We second the demands of the Bradley Manning Support Network  whom have pushed for his release and the dropping of all charges against him.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Inter-Parliamentary Union Resolution on my Twitter case


Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 189th session
(Bern, 19 October 2011)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,
Having before it  the case of Ms. Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament, which has been the subject of a study and report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians following the Procedure for the treatment by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of communications concerning violations of the human rights of members of parliament, 

Taking note  of the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which contains a detailed outline of the case (CL/189/11(b)-R.1),

Considering  the following information on file:

- Birgitta Jónsdóttir has been a member of the Icelandic Parliament since July 2009. She was the co-producer of a video, released by Wikileaks, showing United States soldiers shooting civilians in Baghdad from a helicopter;

- On 7 January 2011, she was informed by Twitter that it had received an Order from the United States District Court for the Eastern Division of Virginia to turn over to the United States the records and other information concerning her account. Twitter was given until 26 January to provide the information to the United States Government;

- The information sought by the United States Government with respect to Birgitta Jónsdóttir concerned the period from 1 November 2009 to date and involves subscriber account information including names, user names, screen names or other identities, mailing and other addresses, connection records, or records of session times and duration, length and types of service, telephone or instrument number or other subscriber number or identity, means and sources of payment for such services, including any credit card or bank account number, and billing records, records of user activity for any connections made to or from the account, including the date, time, length, and method of connections, data transfer volume, user name, and source and destination Internet protocol address(es), non-content information associated with the contents of any communication or file stored by or for the account, and correspondence and notes of records related to the accounts;

- The first court order, dated 14 December 2010, was originally kept secret and was only revealed to Birgitta Jónsdóttir and two other persons concerned by the same order, after Twitter took steps to ensure that it could notify the individual concerned;

- The Order of 14 December 2010 has been challenged by the three individuals, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation representing Ms. Jónsdóttir in the proceedings; on 26 January 2011, the defence counsel of the three individuals submitted a joint sealed motion to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, requesting it to unseal the still secret court record of the United States Government's efforts to collect private records from Twitter as well as other companies which may have received such demands; a second joint motion, filed that same day, requested the Court to reconsider and overturn the 14 October 2010 Order;

At the request of Ms. Jónsdóttir’s legal counsel in the United States, the IPU submitted on 14 February 2011 a Memorandum to the Court concerning Ms. Jónsdóttir; the Memorandum was accepted by the judge and has become part of the court records;it sets out concerns regarding the potential impact of the Twitter order on:

(a) Ms. Jónsdóttir’s freedom of expression and her ability fully to exercise her parliamentary mandate; 
(b) parliamentary immunity as the Twitter order renders the immunity guaranteed to her under Article 49 of the Constitution of Iceland null and void; 
(c) her right to privacy; and
(d) her right to defend herself insofar as the United States authorities may be seeking disclosure of information from other service providers; the Memorandum, therefore, supported the defence motion to vacate the Twitter order and to unseal all other similar disclosure orders regarding Ms. Jónsdóttir;

On 11 March 2011, the Court denied the motion to vacate, granted the motion to unseal only in part and took the request for public docketing of certain material under consideration; the defence counsel has filed objections against the ruling, which are still pending before the District Court Judge,

Considering  moreover that:
- Members of parliament enjoy fundamental freedoms, including the right to privacy as well as specific measures of protection to allow them to carry out their work unimpeded;

- Parliamentary immunity ensures that members of parliament cannot be held to account for the opinions they express and the votes they cast, and countries have generally put special mechanisms in place to ensure that they can carry out their mandate without undue restrictions and with full respect for their freedom of expression; as regards Iceland, members of the Althingi are protected under Article 49 of the Icelandic Constitution, which states that: “No member of Althingi may be subjected to custody on remand during a session of Althingi without the consent of Althingi, nor may a criminal action be brought against him unless he is caught in the act of committing a crime. No member of Althingi may be held accountable outside Althingi for statements made by him in Althingi, except with the consent of Althingi”;

- In all countries, freedom of expression is essential to democracy; citizens cannot exercise their right to vote or take part in public decision-making if they lack free access to information and ideas and are unable to express their views freely;

- Freedom of expression is even more essential to members of parliament and is recognized as such by courts the world over; without the ability to express their opinions freely, members of parliament cannot represent the people who have elected them;

- Members of parliament are elected by people to represent them in parliament. In their daily work they legislate and they hold the governments to account. They are unable to perform these duties if they cannot receive and exchange information freely without fear of intimidation;

- Citizens will not communicate sometimes sensitive information to their representative without the assurance that their identity will be protected. Members of parliament therefore find themselves in the same situation as journalists, with an absolute need to be able to protect their sources,

Also considering  the following:
- Twitter is a website owned and operated by Twitter Inc. It offers a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages called Tweets, which are text-based posts of up 140 characters displayed on the user's profile page. Tweets are publicly visible by default; however, senders can restrict message delivery to followers;

- Members of parliament are increasingly availing themselves of modern means of communication with citizens. A vast majority of parliamentarians today communicate by email. Social media - Facebook, Twitter, etc. - are on the rise, particularly among young members of parliament and when MPs communicate with youth. These forms of communication are rapidly complementing and replacing yesterday's telex, telephone calls and faxes;

- The new social media offer vast opportunities for members of parliament to communicate with the public and to exchange information that is essential to them in their daily work. The use of these media, however, also presents significant risks to parliamentarians that their privacy will be invaded and their parliamentary work impaired;

- For members of parliament, it is essential that any private communication they receive is accorded the same level of protection regardless of the technology, platform and business model used to create, communicate and store it. This does not appear to be the case today,

Considering finally, that Ms. Jónsdóttir is concerned that the United States authorities are seeking disclosure of information from other US-based service providers without her knowledge;

there are fears that those providers may meanwhile already have turned over to the Court information on her accounts; moreover, according to information provided in October 2011, Ms. Jónsdóttir may have become the subject in the United States of America of a preliminary criminal investigation before a grand jury in relation to three files which seem to concern information retrieved from her accounts with other social media and Internet search engines,

1. Affirms  that freedom of expression goes to the heart of democracy and is essential to members of parliament; without the ability to express their opinions freely, members of parliament cannot represent the people who have elected them; if they cannot receive and exchange information freely without fear of interference they cannot legislate and hold the government to account;

2. Recalls  that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds the right of everyone to freedom of opinion and expression; it stipulates that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers;

3. Notes  that, under standard human rights conventions and their jurisprudence, restrictions on the freedom of expression are subject to a threefold test: they should be prescribed by law, they must be necessary in a democratic society, and they must be proportionate to these necessary purposes;

4. Fails to see  how the restrictions on freedom of expression that would result from compliance with the Twitter court order can be justified on such grounds, and holds that, on the contrary, such compliance would jeopardize a member of parliament's right to freedom of expression and hence his/her ability to seek, receive and impart information freely, which is absolutely necessary in a democratic society;

5. Is concerned  that the national and international legal framework concerning the use of electronic media, including social media, does not appear to provide sufficient guarantees to ensure respect for freedom of expression, access to information and the right to privacy; the guarantees protecting freedom of expression and privacy in the “offline world” seem not to operate in the “online world”;

6. Notes also with concern  that the parliamentary immunity Ms. Jónsdóttir would hav enjoyed under Icelandic law in exercising the political activity which is apparently at stake, is not operational in this case; given that the use of social networks by parliamentarians with their constituents and others is today commonplace in many countries, disclosure orders such as the one in question would undermine and even render void the ability of States to protect their members of parliament from unwarranted interference with their mandates;

7. Expresses deep concern, therefore, at the efforts made by a State to obtain information about the communications of a member of parliament of another State and the likely consequences of this for members of parliament the world over on their ability to discharge their popular mandate freely;

8. Is further concerned  that Ms. Jónsdóttir may not only be subject to profiling but be subjected to a criminal investigation on the basis of information retrieved from social media and Internet search engines obtained without her having had the possibility of challenging its disclosure; notes  in this regard that, unlike Twitter, other companies do not necessarily inform their users of judicial requests for information concerning them directly; considers  that such a situation would be a grave breach of Ms. Jónsdóttir’s fundamental right to defend herself;

9. Requests  the Secretary General to communicate its concerns in this case to the parliamentary authorities in Iceland and in the United States of America, and to seek their views along with official information regarding a criminal investigation possibly under way against Ms. Jónsdóttir;

10. Also requests  the Secretary General to conduct a study on the impact of the use of social networks on the exercise of the parliamentary mandate;

11. Requests  the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held during the 126th  IPU Assembly (March/April 2012).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Report on the economic situation in Iceland three years after the collapse of the financial sector

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Margrét Tryggvadóttir and Thor Saari
Members of Parliament for The Movement.

A letter to the panel guests to the conference called Iceland’s Recovery – Lessons and Challenges to be held in Reykjavik on October 27th. as it is our wish to convey information and facts about the economic situation in Iceland that we are not sure you will be provided with prior to, or at the conference.

To begin with the conference itself is at the core of a massive public relations effort by the government of Iceland and is part of a setup in order to convey to the world the achievements of the Icelandic government. As such the conference is unique in Iceland’s history, though the goal is not. Be reminded that in early 2008 the Icelandic government through a cooperative effort that included government ministers, the Confederation of Icelandic Employers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Financial Supervisory Authority, the Central Bank and the Icelandic Financial Services Association (representing the financial sector), embarked on what can only be called a vast program of misleading information, half-truths and deception about the health of Iceland’s financial sector.
This program was presented both domestically and to the international community, including high ranking government officials of neighbouring countries. This was done in 2008 even though as early as in February of that year it was revealed to the Cabinet and the political parties behind the government that the finances of the banking sector were not sustainable and that it would crash sometime soon and not later than in the second half of 2008. Some of the these same people, from these same organizations and political parties will sit beside you at this conference and provide you with their side of the story.

The Crash
The collapse of the banking sector dragged large parts of the economy down with it leading to a complete collapse in the construction industry, finance and investment. The currency depreciated by over 50% during 2008 leading to a surge in inflation as imports are a major part of the economy. An example is the Japanese Yen going from less than 0.5Yen/ISK to more than 1.3 Yen/ISK in a few months. The currency collapse and the following surge in inflation led to a mutation upwards in household mortgages as virtually all of them were either FX-linked or index-linked (to CPI) and most borrowers went from being in good financial health to being technically insolvent at the least. While some of this is surely to blame on the households themselves as overleveraging was common, these lending practices were encouraged by the banks and the government all the way through to October 2008, even though they knew this was unsustainable. The government knew exactly what would happen but continued to praise the banking system and the banks were taking large positions against the ISK via an array of derivative contracts while at the same time encouraging FX-loans to Icelandic homeowners.
The banks collapsed in October, the government took over the banking sector and established new banks on the remnants of the older ones. In the restructuring process it was decided to transfer assets (loan portfolios) from the now defunct banks to the new banks as part of the equity side of their balance sheet, while at the same time leaving most of the debt behind in the old banks.

Household debt
As the asset transfer took place the assets were re-valued and written down to something estimated to resemble a „fair value“ of about 40% of the book value, on average. Household mortgages were written down by approximately 40%, ending with a fair value of about 60% of the previous book value. However, following the transfer these write-downs were not passed on to households (as recommended by the IMF) but instead the new banks got a free hand in trying to collect the previous full book value of the loans.
Facing massive public protests and a large scale bankruptcy by the household sector the government has since tried to establish policies to resolve this household debt problem. The solutions have not worked. One of them (most common) is a write-down of mortgages to 110% of the estimated value of the home. Because of underlying inflation and the CPI-indexing of mortgages, these mortgages very quickly increased again to 120% and then to 130% of the estimated home value, requiring repeated attempts to reach the 110% level. The results are that some 26.000 individuals are registered in serious default. If each of these individuals represents a household, this means that approximately 35% of all households in Iceland are still in a serious default position with their debts, even after being able to tap in to their pension funds in order to stay solvent.
The solution to the FX-indexed loan problem has also been a disaster as via government legislation the FX-linked loans were converted to ISK loans starting at the initial borrowing date and then re-valued using the Central Bank policy rate for the period of the loan. However, the CB policy rate was at times over a three year period was close to 20% reaching 21% at the most. Needless to say people would never have borrowed money at these rates in the first place, but they are now forced to pay up and shut up.
This has lead to stagnation in private consumption, possibly the only area where economic growth can occur considering the current situation of no investment and decreasing global prices for Iceland’s exports. A “Japanese” decade (or more) is perhaps what lies ahead, at the best.

Monetary policy, the financial sector and the currency
It is also interesting to observe the dynamics around the making of this facade of economic recovery as the economy is basically being re-built on the same hollow ground and with the same rotten wood that led to the crash. The architect of the previous monetary policy that worked so disastrously is now the Governor of the Central Bank and is advocating a return to the old policy with a slight twist of some bells and whistles that look dubious at the best. His assistant, the Deputy Governor was the Central Bank’s chief economist in the years prior to and during the Crash, never uttering a word publicly about the disastrous policy or upcoming problems. Most of the same staff as before is still at the CB, which by the way became insolvent during the crash.
The financial sector is being reconstructed with more or less the same bank-secrecy laws in place, unknown ownership of two of the banks and without splitting up the banks in to separate commercial and investment banks. Most of the same staff as before the crash is still employed in the banks, including managers, division chiefs, regulatory supervisors, accountants and analysts.
The Icelandic currency is not freely tradable any more as strict currency controls are in place. While the plan is to lift the controls as soon as possible, the problem is that the plan includes lifting the controls while floating the currency in to the same environment that led to it’s collapse in the first place. While there has been some talk about the necessity of either abandoning the ISK altogether and adopting another monetary unit (Euro, US Dollar, Canada Dollar, Norwegian Krona) or a New Icelandic Krona based on a new footing (NIK), no proper research in that area has taken place.
The only possible conclusion to be drawn from this is that the economy will likely face another crash in the near future.

The General Government Debt Issue
As is fairly common the Icelandic government has an inclination to shroud it’s debt statistics in a veil that is not easily lifted all at once (see table on page 6). While the official numbers look perhaps not too bad by some international standards, with central government debt amounting to 1.345 billion ISK at year-end 2010 or approximately 87% of GDP, one must bear in mind that this debt bears high interest and is in part (at least 25%) indexed to the CPI. Currently the interest payments only on this debt are estimated to be about 17%-20% of government income in the 2012 budget. Central government debt continues to increase with new borrowing exceeding repayments by 11 billion ISK in 2012. Municipal debt amounts to 215 billion ISK, bringing the general government debt level up to 101% of GDP. Currently one municipality is insolvent and 10 to 15 other municipalities are in serious debt trouble, some technically insolvent already.
The state has however gone to great lengths to finance it’s activities by means that do not account directly as central government debt, that is by the use of state guarantees (contingent liabilities). These guarantees while differing somewhat in their nature (direct vs. indirect guarantees) have for example been used to finance all the loans provided by the Housing Financing Fund (all CPI indexed), by far the largest lender of mortgages in Iceland and to finance large hydro-electric power plants by the National Power Company. All together these guarantees amount to 1.508 billion ISK or approximately 98% of GDP.
In addition there are so-called extraordinary state guarantees on all domestic bank deposits and on assets taken over by two of the newly established private banks. These guarantees are granted by the Minister of Finance according to provisions in the Emergency Laws passed in 2008 and amount to 1.542 billion ISK or approximately 92% of GDP. Guarantees to municipality-owned companies by municipalities amount to 324 billion ISK and un-funded pension obligations by the state and by local governments to state and municipal employees pension funds amount to 383 billion ISK. Add to this the Central Bank debt of 280 billion ISK and the debt overhang of Iceland’s general government and its institutions is obviously enormous.
While of course it is not appropriate to add up all these different obligations one must keep in mind the risk involved as the Housing Finance Fund needed a large infusion of cash from the government last year, the Central Bank became insolvent in 2008 and other state guaranteed entities have also gone under.

Though we have perhaps presented you with a rather bleak picture of the current economic situation in Iceland please bear in mind that very little of the necessary restructuring has taken place and that neither political nor personal responsibility for the crash has been accepted by anyone. So far after almost three years of investigation, only three people have been charged by the Special Prosecutor, two of them found not guilty and one found guilty. It is our worry that Iceland is heading straight on into another economic crash and political turmoil that will be far worse than the last one. Raising a critical voice might make a difference and is the purpose of this letter.

Sincerely yours,

Birgitta Jónsdóttir,
Margrét Tryggvadóttir,
Þór Saari

Members of Parliament for
The Movement.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The island Iceland in Brave New World

"The words galvanized Bernard into violent and unseemly activity. "Send me to an island?" He jumped up, ran across the room, and stood gesticulating in front of the Controller. "You can't send me. I haven't done anything. lt was the others. I swear it was the others." He pointed accusingly to Helmholtz and the Savage. "Oh, please don't send me to Iceland. I promise I'll do what I ought to do. Give me another chance. Please give me another chance." The tears began to flow. "I tell you, it's their fault," he sobbed. "And not to Iceland. Oh please, your fordship, please …" And in a paroxysm of abjection he threw himself on his knees before the Controller. Mustapha Mond tried to make him get up; but Bernard persisted in his groveling; the stream of words poured out inexhaustibly.

In the end the Controller had to ring for his fourth secretary."Bring three men," he ordered, "and take Mr. Marx into a bedroom. Give him a good soma vaporization and then put him to bed and leave him."The fourth secretary went out and returned with three green-uniformed twin footmen. Still shouting and sobbing. Bernard was carried out.

"One would think he was going to have his throat cut," said the Controller, as the door closed. "Whereas, if he had the smallest sense, he'd understand that his punishment is really a reward. He's being sent to an island. That's to say, he's being sent to a place where he'll meet the most interesting set of men and women to be found anywhere in the world. All the people who, for one reason or another, have got too self-consciously individual to fit into community-life. All the people who aren't satisfied with orthodoxy, who've got independent ideas of their own. Every one, in a word, who's any one. I almost envy you, Mr. Watson."Helmholtz laughed."

Aldous Huxley - Brave New World - chapter xvi page 224 

Worlds are magic, writers are shamans - it is interesting how our world is becoming Brave New World. Time for a gathering soon in Iceland of  all the people who, for one reason or another, have got too self-consciously individual to fit into community-life. All the people who aren't satisfied with orthodoxy, who've got independent ideas of their own.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Nato Parliamentary Assembly in Romania

I am currently in the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest participating in the NATO parliamentary assembly. I am in the Civic Dimension of Security Committee. A few months ago Lord JOPLING presented a report on Cyber Security. His report dealt with a wide range of topics: WikiLeaks and Anonymous were of great concern in his report, where he wove together real and serious attacks on nations such as Estonia with the threat of leaks: a very dangerous trend. Leaking information to the public domain is not an act of war, I would rather classify it a civic duty to expose war crimes.

I have not been able to find a legal way to provide changes in this biased report. I did criticize it harshly yesterday and basically said i could not support it with all its factual errors and biased perspective and attempts to make cyber attacks into something that would justify the usage of article 5. Apparently such criticism is not common here at the assembly on reports. The Lord thus offered me to send in info on factual errors. I did. I have with some great help from activists from all over the world gone through this report step by step and provided both amendments and deeper perspectives. You can download it HERE as pdf.

In the draft resolution on cyber security is no mention of the factual errors in Lord Jopling report and no proper way for me to amend those. Looking through the draft resolution on Cyber Security the following struck me with discomfort:

9. URGES member governments and parliaments of the North Atlantic Alliance:

  1. to ensure swift implementation of the revised NATO Policy on Cyber Defence and the related cyber defence Action Plan, adopted in June 2011, introducing the cyber dimension in all three of NATO’s core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and co operative security;

We are URGED to ensure swift implementation of: revised NATO Policy on Cyber Defence and the related cyber defence Action Plan, adopted in June 2011

As this is a secret document and we will not be given access to review the policy. It is not wise for us the parliamentarians present here to ensure swift implementation of something we have not seen and will not be granted access to. It makes a mockery of the Nato parliamentary assembly to request its members to accept this process. If this is a common practice I urge all parliamentarians to abstain from participating in such an act because we cant possibly ask for legalizing something we have not been able to scrutinize and this process of accepting policies blindly is not very democratic and it does not provide the needed core information for us to have debate and offer political guidance and authority.

Thus I have requested that we will delete sub-paragraph 9.a in the draft resolution on Cyber Security unless we be given prior access to NATO Policy on Cyber Defence and the related cyber defence Action Plan, adopted in June 2011.

No one has chosen to do a report on the findings in the Afghan War logs. I will ask if my committee would be willing to do that at this assembly, there are not many like minded parliamentarians at the assembly and thus harder to get a Rapporteur status. I will keep on trying.

Here is the entire draft resolution:
Civil dimension of security
209 CDS 11 E
Original: English
NATO Parliamentary Assembly




presented by

Lord JOPLING (United Kingdom)
General Rapporteur

The Assembly,

1. Recognizing the benefits offered by the cyber domain to our societies as well as to the defence and security sector, including opportunities for greater situational awareness and co ordination among the armed forces of the Allies as well as for the Alliance‘s public diplomacy;

2. But also concerned with the emergence of a new category of threats that target national information infrastructures, and that could seriously undermine the security interests of the Alliance and its member states;

3. Anxious that cyber defence capabilities and awareness of cyber threats vary significantly across NATO member states thereby weakening the Alliance’s overall cyber security;

4. Welcoming the decisions made by the leaders of the Alliance at the NATO Lisbon Summit and the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in June 2011, identifying cyber security as one of the key priorities of the Alliance;

5. Saluting NATO’s approach aimed at expanding its cyber defence policy to include centralized cyber protection of all NATO bodies and the use of NATO’s defence planning processes in the development of the Allies’ cyber defence capabilities. ;

6. Believing that, in view of the growing scope and severity of cyber attacks, in addition to exploiting fully the opportunities offered by Article 4, the potential application of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty in case of a serious cyber attack against the Alliance or its individual members, should not be ruled out;

7. Noting that legislative “black holes” still exist both at a national level and in terms of international law when it comes to setting security standards for the cyber domain;

8. Emphasizing that stricter security regulations for the cyber domain should not come at the cost of reduced civil liberties and rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to communicate over the Internet, and noting the key role of the Internet in mobilizing democratic movements in authoritarian countries;

  1. URGES member governments and parliaments of the North Atlantic Alliance:
    a. to ensure swift implementation of the revised NATO Policy on Cyber Defence and the related cyber defence Action Plan, adopted in June 2011, introducing the cyber dimension in all three of NATO’s core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and co operative security;

  1. to promote domestic awareness of cyber threats, taking into account lessons learned from milestone events including the cyber attacks against Estonia in 2007 and against Georgia in 2008 as well as the emergence of Stuxnet malicious software;

  1. to scrutinize domestic legal frameworks, ensuring that coherent and effective laws are in place to address the evolving cyber threats;

  1. to provide necessary support for the efficient functioning of national Computer Incident Response Teams, and to invest sufficiently in the training of national cyber security experts;

  1. to promote closer partnerships between governments and the private sector in order to ensure the security of government networks and improve the exchange of expertise in case of a breach of security;

  1. to ensure that the introduction of additional security measures in the cyber domain are accompanied by adequate mechanisms of parliamentary and public oversight over their respective government institutions;

  1. to support international efforts to develop universal norms of acceptable behaviour in the cyber domain that would ban the use of cyber attacks against civilian targets, promote exchange of best practices and establish mechanisms of international assistance to stricken nations, while ensuring full universal access to the Internet as a venue for the exchange of ideas and information;

  1. to ensure that adequate attention is paid to the physical protection of networks, including undersea fiber-optic infrastructures;

      1. URGES relevant NATO bodies:

        1. to ensure that NATO Computer Incident Response Capability is fully operational by the end of 2012, and that NATO’s cyber defence services are centralized;
        1. to facilitate, if requested, national efforts of NATO member states to acquire adequate cyber defence expertise and state-of-the-art technologies;

        1. to test the efficacy of NATO and member states’ cyber defence efforts through NATO’s periodic international exercises, and to ensure that these exercises are fully funded, staffed and well-attended;

        1. to use capabilities such as NATO Cyber Defence Management Board and NATO Co operative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, to analyze rapid developments further in the cyber domain and to develop strategies for strengthening cyber defences across the Alliance, while exploiting the advantages of the information age through initiatives such as NATO Network Enabled Capability;
        2. to develop efficient co-operation mechanisms with the relevant EU institutions, with the particular aim of supporting the EU’s legislative efforts to establish robust cyber security standards across the private sector;

        1. to increase assistance, if requested, to NATO partner countries in the field of cyber security, particularly by sharing best practices and raising awareness of cyber threats.


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Five young Tibetans have lit themselves on fire in the last ten days

Letter from Tendor, Executive Director for Students for Tibet: please share it...

"This morning, I opened my laptop to the devastating news that two more Tibetans -- aged 18 and 19 -- self-immolated today.
In the last 10 days, five young Tibetans have lit themselves on fire in Ngaba in eastern Tibet. Since March, seven Tibetans have committed acts of self-immolation. We believe at least two have died but cannot confirm this as Chinese authorities refuse to disclose any information on their conditions. 
While these young men have decided to sacrifice their lives, it's not an escape from life's suffering they are seeking. It's freedom. Not only for themselves, but for their nation.
China's tyranny is driving Tibetans to take extreme actions previously unheard of in our culture. In their desperation, Tibetans are crying out to the world for help.

China's systematic repression and tyrannical rule in Tibet -- stationing officials in the monasteries, disappearing monks by the hundreds, shutting down phone lines, cutting off the internet, installing surveillance cameras and military checkpoints everywhere -- have created a spiraling nation-wide crisis.
Enough is enough. The world must intervene now to save Tibetan lives.
In the coming days, as part of a broad coalition of Tibetan NGOs and Tibet Support Groups, Students for a Free Tibet will launch a new campaign that says ENOUGH! and calls for global diplomatic intervention to save Tibetan lives.
We need your help. We are calling for world leaders to issue a coordinated international response to condemn China's repressive measures in Ngaba and across Tibet and to institute multi-lateral mechanisms to advocate for the Tibetan people.

Most immediately, we must pressure China to withdraw its security forces from Ngaba and stop the ongoing harassment and torture of Tibetan monks at Kirti monastery.

On November 3-4, Chinese President Hu Jintao will sit with world leaders in Cannes, France at the G20 summit. We're encouraging as many Tibetans and supporters as possible to be there to protest the Chinese government. 

On Wednesday, November 2nd, we're also calling for a mass mobilization in Cannes, France and cities around the world to intensify the pressure on China.

Tibetans have endured unimaginable suffering under Chinese occupation for the last 50 years. But until now there has not been a single known case of self-immolation. Today conditions in Ngaba and at Kirti Monastery have driven Tibetans to a breaking point.

Please, help us show Tibetans in Ngaba and across Tibet that their deep pain and suffering has not gone unnoticed by the world. Together, we can build a global force that Chinese leaders cannot ignore.

With urgency,

Executive Director"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Legalizing Freedom of Information

My speech from Kapittel Stavanger International Festival for Literature and Freedom of Speech

Norway 22nd of September 2011

First of all I want to express my gratitude to the USA Department of Justice for their attempts to have my personal backend information handed over to them from my Twitter account because of my volunteer work for WikiLeaks. It has raised my awareness about the lack of civic rights social media users have and thus given me reasons to fight for these rights.

Before my Twitter case I didn't think much about what rights I would be signing off when accepting user agreement with online companies. The text is usually lengthy in a legal language most people don't understand. I think it is save to say that very few people read the user agreements, and very few understand its legal implications if someone in the real world would try to use it against them. It is simply virtual until case is made in the real world.

Many of us who use the Internet, be it to write emails, work, browse its growing landscape, mining for information, connecting with others or use it to organize ourselves in various groups of likeminded, are not aware of that our behavior online is being monitored. Profiling has become a default with companies such as Google and Facebook. These companies have huge databases recording our every move within their landscape in order to groom advertisement to our interests. For them we are only consumers to push goods at, in order for them to sell ads in a clever business model. For them we are not regarded as citizens with civic rights in their world. This notion needs to change. To be fair, I guess no one really knew where we were heading when these companies were start ups. Neither us the users, nor the companies hogging and gathering our personal information for profit. Very few of us had the imagination that governments that claim to be democratic would invade our online privacy with no regard to rights we are supposed to have in the real world. We might look to China and other stereo type totalitarian states and expect them to violate the free flow of information and our digital privacy, but not our very own democratically elected governments.

What I have learned about my lack of rights in the last few months is of concern for everyone that uses the Internet and calls for actions to raise peoples awareness about their legal rights and ways to improve legal guidelines and framework online be it locally or globally.

I guess the problem and the dilemma we are facing is that there are no proper standards, no basic laws in place that deal with the fundamental question: are we to be treated as consumers or citizens online? There is no international charter that says we should have the same civic rights as in the offline world.

Our legal systems are slow compared to the speed of online development. With the social media explosion many people have put into databases very sensitive information about themselves and others without knowing that they have no rights to defend themselves against attempts by governments to obtain their personal data – be in locally or like in my case globally. According to the ruling of the judge in my Twitter case, we have fortified those rights when we agree to the terms and conditions by the company hosting our data even if it is not kept on servers in the USA, the company would only need to have a branch in the USA for authorities to be able to demand the information to be given to them. We have to rely on, for example, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter to look out for our interests. It might not always be in their interest to look out for us.

I want to stress that Twitter did fight for the interests of their users in my case by going to court to unseal a document demanding them to hand over personal backend information about me and four other users connected to WikiLeaks. The document Twitter managed to unseal stated that they were to hand over our personal information without our knowledge within three days. If Twitter had not managed to unseal the document we would not know how far the DoJ is reaching to get their hands on our data and how difficult it is to guard our privacy in the borderless legal jungle. I am for example not a USA citizen and because of that I am not protected by the 1st and 4th amendment in the USA constitution. Users from the USA are protected in the same case by these fundamental rights.

The reason we humans make international treaties and declarations about human rights is because somewhere along the line we agreed that certain rights are sacred and universal. We need to make the same principles applicable to our human rights online as they are offline. These two worlds have fused together and there no way to define them separated anymore.

If is too easy to obtain the information stored online and thus it is too easy to abuse. If someone wants to go through all my regular mail they would have to obtain a search warrant in advance. No such thing happened in my case. I am according to the DoJ not under a criminal investigation yet they demanded Twitter to hand over my personal messages and IP numbers without my knowledge. If authorities want to tap your phone they need warrants, but not in order to get your IP number. If authorities want to search anything of personal nature or spy on someone in the real world they would have to get warrants. It has never been as easy for big brother to pry into all our most sacred information without us ever knowing.

I find it important to shed light on the fact that USA authorities have reached so far in their attempts to criminalize WikiLeaks that they are demanding backend information from a Member of Parliament from sovereign nation. This is a whole can of worms that I am not sure that the USA wants to open. What about the USA senators that want to apply themselves in the international field of human rights issues. Abuse of human rights in for example China, Tibet or North Korea. Can USA authorities protect their own Senators from demands of probing into the personal data from China? I don't think so.

Members of parliaments all over the world are encouraged to use social media to be in touch with their voters. Many people don't understand that sending a message on Facebook or via Twitter or gmail is not an official pathway. The voters might send sensitive information about themselves to their MP's online. With court ruling in favor of exposing this information to a foreign government – the line of privacy and sovereignty of individuals in cyberspace has taken a new dangerous direction.

Merging the Online with the Offline world

The reason why I felt so at home online when I discovered it 16 years ago was the fact that I am born on a small island at the edge of the world with only 315,000 people sharing it with me.  My island has natural borders, with roaring Atlantic Ocean making a shield against the rest of the world.  That shield can cause an intense sense of cultural and personal claustrophobia. Being a poet with such a small language zone writing political poetry when that was not so cool in Iceland, I felt prior to the times of internet isolated and alone at times. The internet allowed me to break out of that limitation. I was the first poet in Iceland to create a website and to publish my work and the poetry and art of others through various adventures online. Later I learned I was among the first in the world.

One of the prime influences in shaping a profound understanding that I don’t belong to one nation, that I belong to all of this planet was my participation in co-creating the landscape of the new online world.  In 1995, I started working with the shapers and pioneers in the internet landscape in Iceland and beyond.  One of my passions was to merge creative spaces. Music, poetry, and art all bleed well together in the multi-creative space of the internet.  But that was not enough.  After all, this was a new world, without borders and without limitations, other than the limitations of our imagination.  Likeminded people found each other, no matter where they happened to be located in the real world. We could work together — trans-border, trans-culture, transgender, trans-party, trans-race.  It was a world of transparency, almost beyond duality. Borders, just an optical illusion. It was as close to paradise as I could get in this human vessel.  It was almost spiritual; it was as if the collective consciousness had taken on tangible shape in a virtual world that was influencing the real world at an increased speed every day.  My dream was that this world we created with the free flow of ideas, information, and understanding could manifest itself outside the virtual.

The internet has given us the tools to empower ourselves in the real world, with knowledge beyond the cultural conditioning we acquire within our own culture.  The internet has given us the tools to work together beyond traditional borders, and it has allowed us to create real windows into the real world that reach far beyond our cultural beliefs about other countries.  However, this world beyond borders is now under serious threat, a threat that is growing at an alarming rate.  I have seen the development of the internet since its early visual stage.  I have seen how it can improve and enrich the quality of life.  I have also seen how those who hold the reigns of power in our world have discovered that the internet needs to be tamed, like the rest of the world, and brought under their control — to be industrialized in the same manner that other media have been brought under control by industry and the state.  My last hope of gathering momentum in stopping this development is through the free spirit within the wilderness of the internet — where the conditioning and the reigns of control have not been able to tame the free spirits who roam with the hackers’ manifesto singing in their hearts.

I have seen new stories and new myths emerge out of the language of the internet, where people speak together through Google and translate new languages; and I have seen the library of Alexandria materialize with free knowledge and torrents of information wash upon shores otherwise impossible to reach.  I have seen the alchemy of stories take on real shape in a collective online effort; and the truth seeped into the real world.  As the untouchables try to hide their secrets for the chosen few, those secrets keep spilling out in a whirlwind of letters in every digital corner of the world.  They sweep through the streets of Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, China, Iceland, Spain, Iran, and the United States — confirming that the rumors are true: “corpocracy” is the new global empire, and it thrives in local corruption.

The internet has given people access to information that should remain in the public domain; yet it is a trending policy within the belly of the all embracing system to make everything secret by default. It is time to reverse this tendency a create a consensus about the process of keeping secrets.  Transparency and open access to information are the only real pressures on governments to remain true democracies.  If you don’t have freedom of information and expression, you are not living in a democracy; rather it is ruled by dictatorship with many heads. 

Many people don’t realize that if we won’t have freedom of information online, we won’t have it offline.

Media Morphing into Cyberspace

The media is in transition – morphing from the traditional format into the online media format. Most people want to be able to access news online and usage of traditional media is shrinking day by day. The mainstream media has not figured out how to make profit or how to survive online without cutting off many of the services we have learned to depend on and regarded as their main responsibility, such as investigative journalism and in depth analyzing of complex matters in simple easy to grasp terms for the general public.

In this fragile morphing stage the media is faced with increased challenges from international legal firms that specialize in gagging the media. More out of court settlements are occurring every day. Super injunctions, prior restraints, and attempts to alter our historical records online is on the rise. Criminalization of whistle blowing and filtering of online content is also of great concern.

People feel that mainstream media has failed them and thus they turn to alternative media online and the culture of cracking secrets is on the rise. I want to stress that i am shocked by the lack of courage by the USA media in relation to WikiLeaks. Shocked because WikiLeaks simply acted as the middle man. The save box in cyberspace that received the brown envelope from the source and handed it over to the media. Shocked by the ignorance from the media, for it's obvious to me that if WikiLeaks will be taken down or the people behind it, it will be harder for other media to stay on a firm ground when under attack for publishing leaked material from whistle-blowers and secret sources.

I feel there has been too much focus on the people behind WikiLeaks, not the content they have provided. This has taken the focus off the historical significance of the leaks and created something of a frenzy around sensationalism around cults of personalities. If we allow ourselves to step away from the persons and look into the achievements of WikiLeaks it is obvious that because of them we have the state of freedom of information on the agenda, all over the world, and of course the issue of whistle-blowing as a option when witnessing criminal behavior in the public, military and private sectors.
I left WikiLeaks about a year ago for various reasons. I might not agree with how it has developed but its significance remains the same. We need many more leak sites until we have real laws in place that protect content, whistle-blowers, sources and journalists.
The culture of free flow of information is still strong online, and every attempt to block, hinder, or erase information is met with increased creativity.  Yet those of us who care for freedom of information have to step-up our quest to remove the gags, tear down the firewalls, and dissolve the invisible filters. 

The telecom companies have gained incredible power and tend to cave-in under government pressure, as we saw happen in Egypt in early 2011. We also saw Amazon cave-in under political pressure and kick WikiLeaks off its cloud. Corporation and specialized law-firms have figured out the best countries to use as a medium to attack and gag journalists, writers, publishers, and the rest of the media because of weak laws to protect the media. They have become so good at it that important stories have vanished from the public domain.  Modern book-burnings occur every day in every library in the world by a click of a button. Libel tourism, prior restraints, gag orders, out-of-court settlements, and tampering with our online historical records are altering our current history in real time and robbing us of the possibility to be informed about the activities of the most influential corporations and politicians in our world.  We have to do everything in our power to stop this development — through lawmaking and creative resistance.  

The “Icelandic Modern Media Initiative” (IMMI) is an attempt to raise the standard and upgrade the current legal framework in order to strengthen freedom of information, speech, and expression in our modern world. The creation of a save haven for freedom of information has to start somewhere – Iceland is a good place because we learned the hard way, the destructive nature of lack of transparency and where culture of secrecy can lead us. People yearn for change and thus this crises can be used for something that will be beneficial for us and hopefully for the rest of the world. You can learn more about the project that is currently being written into law in Iceland at

I gave a speech at Nordic Tech Politics in Oslo earlier this month, I met many inspirational people from Norway and from speaking to them the idea of creating a Scandinavian shield inspired by IMMI was not only born, but a determination to making that vision into reality. We have been blessed in this part of the world for having strong foundation for freedom of information. Sweden has set the standard for the rest of us in many ways.

It is interesting to note that societies of transparency have more equality.
I have learned to embrace times of crises and make good use of it because times of crises are the only times we can push for real change in our societies.

The crisis in Iceland has helped us transform from secrecy to transparency and encouraged people to take on more responsibility when it comes to co-creating our society. Never before has it been easier for people in power to hand over the power of information to the rest of us and for us to reclaim our power.

This process of transformation takes work and dedication. By giving over our powers to religious or political leaders we can never expect to live in our dream world – only by applying our time and vision can we hope to co-create our dream into reality.

Constitutional dreaming together

One of the most positive results from our Iceland crisis is the re-writing of our constitution. The main reason i helped create a political movement in the wake of the meltdown was to create the tools for the general public to be able to influence law making, and also to inspire people to be part of decision making. Chief aim was to have our old copy paste Danish constitution re-written by the people of Iceland. That process has taken place and the parliament of Iceland has been handed over a bill by the people we elected to write it with us.

The constitutional committee encouraged the general public in various ways to be part of the process, such as encouraging people to comment on each new segment via the facebook comment system. More on that here: Icelands crowdsourced constitution

The new constitution includes some pretty awesome freedom of information laws plus net neutrality. The big task is to get the bill into national referendum before my co-workers at the parliament attempt to thin it out.

The parliament needs a strong mandate from the nation on what it wants to keep of the new bill and what not. I hope by 2013 we will have a constitution that is what the nation dreamed together into reality. An agreement on what sort of society we want to live in together. I think perhaps all nations should allow each generation to have a go at the constitution – for it is a brilliant platform for a healthy debate on what we envision as societies together. It is important to note that it has been foreseen that the 21st century will be the century of the common people.

Finally I want to leave you with the wisdom of Alan Moore who claims that writes are the modern day shamans, I agree with him. One word, one sentence can mean live or death, joy or grief. Lets treat the world of words with that knowledge of power.

Many thanks to the EFF and ACLU for offering me strong legal support in my Kafka nightmare through the USA legal system.