An Icelandic businessman is offering to transport Edward Snowden to the island nation aboard a chartered jet if Iceland's government grants asylum to the man who exposed the National Security Agency's massive harvesting of Internet and phone records.
"Everything is ready on our side and the plane could take off tomorrow,'' DataCell executive Olafur Sigurvinsson told Iceland's Channel 2 television station, Agence France-Presse reports.
"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," he said. "It would be stupid to come here only to be extradited to the United States. In that case he'd be better off where he is."
Sigurvinsson said the jet is owned by a Chinese company and was chartered for $240,000, which was raised with donations to DataCell, a Web company that processes credit card payments to WikiLeaks. His Twitter page says he's the company's chief operating officer.
"We could fly Snowden over tomorrow if we get positive reaction from the Interior Ministry," Sigurvinsson told Reuters. "We need to get confirmation of asylum and that he will not be extradited to the U.S."
Snowden would be most secure in Iceland if the country gave him citizenship, according to his Icelandic advocates.
"We would most want him to get a citizenship as well [as asylum]," the businessman said. Birgitta Jonsdottir, a Pirate Party member of Iceland's 63-seat parliament, told Reuters she believes Snowden would need citizenship before being able to travel to Iceland.
There's precedent for granting citizenship to a political dissidents. In 2005, Iceland's parliament voted unanimously to grant citizenship to Bobby Fischer, a former chess champion who faced extradition to the U.S. for breaking sanctions against Yugoslavia by playing a game of chess there.
In lieu of a parliamentary vote to give Snowden citizenship, Iceland's interior ministry would presumably need to grant – or say it will grant – Snowden asylum before he would board the flight.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong before releasing top secret documents on NSA surveillance programs to the Guardian and the Washington Post. The revelations embarrassed President Barack Obama, and the Justice Department is considering what criminal charges the former Booz Allen Hamilton employee will face. Snowden expressed interest in seeking asylum in Iceland when he voluntarily revealed his identity June 9.
WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange told reporters Wednesday that the document-dumping group's leadership was "in touch with Mr. Snowden's legal team and are in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland," The New York Times reported.
Assange has spent a year holed up in Ecuador's London embassy after being granted asylum by the South American country. He sought asylum after losing a legal fight against extradition to Sweden, where authorities say they want to question him about two alleged sex crimes. Assange claims the allegations are part of a plot by the U.S. government to put him on trial for publishing a massive cache of classified documents allegedly provided by Bradley Manning.
Reuters reports that Iceland-based WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson had contacted two government officials on Snowden's behalf.
Shortly after Snowden came forward, Assange urged him to consider Latin America as a safe haven. "Looking at it from the surface, I would strongly advise him to go to Latin America," he said. "Latin America has shown in the past 10 years that it is really pushing forward in human rights. There's a long tradition of asylum."