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25-year-old Herbert Snorrason is not a regular recent graduate. He comes from Iceland, the European island country which came under international attention during the global financial crisis when its banking system collapsed and revealed gross neglect in the national financial sector. He is a student of history but has an interest in the digital age – and interest that led him to join one of the most important – or controversial – organizations in the last decade; the hybrid between news media and intelligence agency, Wikileaks.
In an interview with Toonari Post, Herbert Snorrason told our investigative reporters about his experience in Wikileaks and how it led to the creation of the upcoming leaking site Openleaks.
You used to work for Wikileaks – can you tell us how you got involved in this organisation?
Wikileaks published a document concerning an Icelandic bank in late July 2009. Shortly after that I got in touch with some people from Wikileaks because of a minor technical issue there. Then a few months later I invited those people to speak at a conference in Iceland [for the Icelandic Digital Freedom Society] that I was one of the organisers of and the people who arrived was Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg and that’s essentially how I got involved with Wikileaks.
What grabbed your attention about the Wikileaks project?
My attention was essentially because it is something that think needs to be done and when I saw that there was somebody doing it I was very interested and I had actually been following Wikileaks for a year and a half by the time that I got in touch with them.
We read that you claim to be an anarchist, is that why you got involved with your line of work?
I believe that organisations don’t really have a right to secrecy and I believe that the more open a society, a society where people have more information is a society where we can take more informed decisions and where we perhaps won’t need the gatekeepers that are currently in place as much
How would you describe the product that Wikileaks deliver [and it’s impact]?
I think that what Wikileaks is ultimately trying to deliver is change and whether Wikileaks is successful at that or not is something that will have to be decided later. It’s way too soon to say what the real results are or will be or have been.
Why did you leave the Wikileaks organization?
I left Wikileaks because I felt certain reforms were needed and it was made very clear to me that those reforms would not be made and there would not be any sort of accountability for the leadership of that organisation.
And from your shift from Wikileaks to Openleaks, what values are you taking with you and what values are you leaving behind?
That’s a pretty difficult question. I think it’s fair to say that we’re trying to continue with the ideals behind Wikileaks but trying to leave behind some problems of implementation. Which is not to say that we think we’ll be flawless but we think we can avoid some of the flaws that have plagued Wikileaks
Do you feel there’s any difficulties being implicated in projects like Openleaks [and Wikileaks]?
I don’t think there is any reason for the people who are involved to be worried. I can see why people would be but I myself don’t think there’s any reason to worry so… Look, I come from a country where intelligence consists of three people in the national commissioner’s basement. It’s not like it’s something that I’ve been used to worrying about so I think my perspective on what to worry about may be a little skewed.
How would you respond to the statement that leaking classified information is a weapon?
Well yes, information is a weapon that is unquestionable so if you look at it that way then why is the government hoarding or collecting such a great armoury of information on just about everyone so I mean, if they are accusing us of using information as a weapon then obviously that’s because they’re used to viewing information as a weapon so anyway you look at it, they’re doing more of it than we are.
We can predict that there are many expectations around the launch of Openleaks – How is the launch coming along?
Well, there is a bit of pressure. Mostly it’s that there are too many people interested for us to be able to help everyone which is a shame but we will have to start quite small and grow rather slowly so we will have to disappoint quite a few people unfortunately. My main worry is that we will not be allowed to grow slowly enough but we will see what happens.