The state prosecutor’s office wants to investigate whether or not the US embassy violated Icelandic law by engaging in surveillance operations known as Surveillance Detection Units (SDUs).
As reported, the use of SDUs in Iceland would see the employment of plainclothes security guards focussing their attentions on the neighbourhood surrounding the embassy. It was reported that the private security firm Securitas had at one time been a client, performing duties which included searching the garbage bins of residents on the same street as the embassy.
Embassy officials explained that the operations were never secret, nor were ever aimed at “spying” on Icelandic citizens. Rather, SDUs look for suspicious behaviour within the neighbourhood of the embassy, and have been in relatively common practice since the embassy bombings of Kenya and Tanzania, in 1998.
The Ministry of Justice, none too happy with the SDUs – similar to controversy that arose in Norway over the practice – yesterday announced that it would conduct a formal investigation to see whether or not embassy staff broke Icelandic law by using SDUs here.
A Norwegian blogger explained in more detail what SDUs are, 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.”
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