WikiLeaks Airlines Is Now Boarding

WikiLeaks is determined to make itself a part of the Edward Snowden affair. So much so that the businessman who handles donations to the site now claims he has a chartered plane ready to fly the NSA leaker to Iceland, where he has said he would like to seek asylum.

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed that his legal team in Iceland had been serving as an intermediary between Snowden and the government. But in an email to BuzzFeed, Glenn Greenwald, one of the Guardian reporters to whom Snowden has been leaking NSA documents, said that while WikiLeaks  had offered to assist Snowden, no such arrangement was in place. A spokesperson for the Icelandic embassy in Washington told the New York Times that WikiLeaks had contacted the government but would not comment further.

The man behind the scheme to hire a chartered plane to ferry Snowden to Iceland is Olafur Sigurvinsson, the CEO of DataCell, the company that processes donations to WikiLeaks. Sigurvinsson claims that the plane was chartered with $240,000 in contributions, that it belongs to a Chinese firm, and that it is ready to go at a few hours' notice. 

Meanwhile, the Icelandic government sounds, shall we say, less than excited to have Snowden arrive on their shores. Earlier this week, Interior Minister Hanna Kristjansdottir said that her government didn't consider itself bound by a 2010 law that pledges safe haven for whistleblowers and journalists, and throughout the uproar over Snowden, Icelandic authorities have emphasized that Snowden has to be in the country to apply for asylum.

Regardless of whether Snowden decides to take up WikiLeaks' offer of a free ride to Iceland, the idea that he would gain asylum there is far from certain. "We have really done all we can do. We have a plane and all the logistics in place. Now we are only awaiting a response from the [Icelandic] government," Sigurvinsson told Agence France-Presse. "It would be stupid to come here only to be extradited to the United States," he added. Though Iceland has a history of supporting Internet freedom -- Assange cut the video for his first major leak, "Collateral Murder," while in Iceland -- but the current center-right government has said nothing to indicate that it would welcome Snowden with open arms.

The rest of us can only wait and hope that the too-good-to-be-true idea of a WikiLeaks airline isn't dead on arrival.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images


World's Most Controversial Buddhist Monk Responds to Time Cover

The July 1 cover of Time magazine for Asia has roused a heated response in Myanmar. Featuring a photo of Buddhist monk Wirathu with the headline "The Face of Buddhist Terror," the cover, pictured above, was used for editions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. (The U.S. edition led with "How Service Can Save Us.")

Wirathu has received his fair share of media coverage and visits from Western journalists in recent months. The Mandalay-based monk has garnered attention as a leading voice of the "969" movement, which advocates that Buddhists only do business with other Buddhists. Wirathu's anti-Muslim rhetoric (He told the Global Post yesterday that, "Muslims are like the African carp. They breed quickly and they are very violent and they eat their own kind.") has been identified as one inciting factor in the recent outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar, which has killed 250 and diplaced tens of thousands, according to the AP

Wirathu says he was "unfazed" by the cover, telling the AP that, "a genuine ruby will shine even if you try to sink it in mud," but some of his supporters have not been so blasé. A Facebook group called "We Boycott Time magazine for their choice of Wirathu as ‘Buddhist Terror'" formed in reaction to the article. The group's page asks members to change their profile pictures to an edited cover of Time which calls the magazine "the face of lying, unjust media."

Users have posted messages defending Buddhism: "We are not terrorist, we are peaceful people and hate terrorism," reads one. "For these reason, our Buddhist monks are trying to find ways to avoid from being happening again such kind of unnecessary conflict between different religions."

In a recent interview with the Myanmar Times, a state-run English language newspaper, Wirathu addressed his critics saying, "I really take pity on them. ... They are under the influence of media backed by the Arab world. Europeans and Americans are educated people, but sometimes certain illusions are created by the Arab media."

Time does not seem likely to apologize.