US Embassy’s Surveillance Ignites Criticism

Published November 9, 2010

It has recently come to light that the US embassy is engaging in surveillance of the neighbourhood around the building. Icelandic politicians have likened the operation to spying, but American officials have said it’s just a security measure.
RÚV reported that the US embassy has admitted to engaging in what is known as a Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU), essentially extending security surveillance from beyond the building of the embassy itself and into the neighbourhood around it. Begun ten years ago, the operation saw a great revamping after late 2001.
SDUs are also conducted in Norway, Sweden and Finland, and authorities there have demanded explanations. The Norwegian media service Star City News reports that many Norwegians were outraged to learn of the practice, likening it to spying on private citizens.
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights revealed the practice in parliament yesterday, and has asked state police to look into whether or not the US embassy has been engaging in spying on Icelanders.
Embassy spokesperson Laura Gritz has emphasized though that SDUs are “neither secret nor spying. It is not used against a host country or its citizens. It is simply to watch for suspicious activity within the vicinity of the embassy and its employees.” She added that the embassy was fully willing to discuss the matter further with Icelandic authorities.
A Norwegian blogger has has added to this explanation in more detail, saying in part “the SDU will be stationed outside the embassy, working in plain clothes and will do its best not to be noticed or seen as having anything to do with the embassy. The members will normally be recruited from police or military intelligence, and are usually very experienced in their chosen field. They will actively follow, photograph, videotape and monitor persons that they deem to be deserving of that treatment.”
Icelandic MP Álfheiður Ingadóttir has submitted a number of questions that she wants investigated, among them whether or not private citizens in Iceland have been spied upon, if the Icelandic government has been aware of this, and what area is under surveillance, among other questions.



News
Pirates With Most Support Five Months Running

Pirates With Most Support Five Months Running

by

A new Gallup poll shows some record highs – and record lows – for Iceland’s parliamentary parties. Kjarninn reports that

News
But Is It Skyr?

But Is It Skyr?

by

A new “skyr” product is being produced overseas, and its ingredients call into question what defines “skyr”. Vísir reports that

News
Baltasar Kormákur & Ridley Scott Working On EVE Online TV Series

Baltasar Kormákur & Ridley Scott Working On EVE Online TV Series

by

Baltasar’s production company and legendary sci-fi director Ridley Scott are in talks to fund a pilot for a series two

News
Legendary Hotdog Stand Bæjarins Beztu Forced To Move

Legendary Hotdog Stand Bæjarins Beztu Forced To Move

by and

The latest casualty of the hotel construction boom is famous hotdog stand Bæjarins Beztu, as the restaurant has been forced

News
Refugee Rights Group Wants Iceland To Drop Dublin Regulation

Refugee Rights Group Wants Iceland To Drop Dublin Regulation

by

Ekki Fleiri Brottvísanir (“No More Deportations”) told Grapevine that Iceland could and should go a lot further where asylum seekers’

News
Pirate Party To Make Constitution, EU Referendum Main Focus

Pirate Party To Make Constitution, EU Referendum Main Focus

by

There are two main issues the Pirate Party wants to focus on this coming parliamentary term: changing the Constitution, and

Show Me More!