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Viewing cable 07REYKJAVIK336, ICELANDIC TRAVELER DETAINED BY DHS IN NEW YORK CREATES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07REYKJAVIK336 2007-12-13 18:06 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0018
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0336 3471845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131845Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3511
INFO RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0358
RHMFIUU/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAORD/BICE ASAC JFK NEW YORK NY
RHMFIUU/HQ BICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000336 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/PPD AND EUR/NB; CA/VO/P AND CA/VO/F/P 
COPENHAGEN FOR DHS: KLUGMAN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: CVIS KHLS PREL KPAO IC
SUBJECT: ICELANDIC TRAVELER DETAINED BY DHS IN NEW YORK CREATES 
MEDIA FIRESTORM; FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS IN AMBASSADOR 
 
 
1.  Summary:  Erla Osk Arnardottir, an Icelandic women traveling to 
New York for holiday shopping, was detained in New York December 
9-10 by the Department of Homeland Security for a Visa Waiver 
Program violation.  She was returned to Iceland on the next 
available flight after spending the night in a jail-like detention 
facility and being transported to and from the airport in shackles 
and chains.  When she returned home, Ms. Arnardottir posted her 
unpleasant experiences on a local blog, which was immediately picked 
up by the media.  With the press railing for action, the Minister of 
Foreign Affairs called the Ambassador into her office today to ask 
for an official apology. (reported SEPTEL) End Summary. 
 
2.  Erla Osk Arnardottir left Keflavik Sunday evening December 9 in 
the first class cabin of a New York-bound flight.  Upon her arrival 
at JFK she proceeded to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) control 
where, after her documents were checked, she was removed to a 
secondary area.  CPB authorities told post that Ms. Arnardottir was 
denied entry under into the United States under the Visa Waiver 
Program because she had overstayed her visa by three weeks in 
December 1994.   Ms. Arnardottir claims that she had entered the 
United States several times under the VWP after the 1994 overstay 
without hinderance, and that she did not know and was never informed 
that she needed to apply for a visa to travel the U.S. 
 
3.  According to CBP authorities, contacted by the Embassy, Ms. 
Arnardottir was held in the secondary investigation area of JFK for 
several hours and then transferred to a temporary holding cell for 
two additional hours.  Since the next available return flight to 
Iceland was not until the evening of the next day (8:00 pm, December 
10), Ms. Arnardottir was then transfered to the custody of the 
Detentions and Removal Operations Office (DRO) of the Immigration 
and Custom Enforcement (ICE) for overnight detention.  According to 
Ms. Arnardottir, her legs were chained and hands cuffed before she 
was transported to a detention facility in New Jersey.  At the 
detention facility, Ms. Arnardottir reported that she was 
fingerprinted, photographed, medically examined, physically 
searched, asked highly personal questions and placed in a jail cell 
for the rest of the night.  Although promised the use of a phone and 
the opportunity to contact Icelandic consular officials, her 
subsequent requests to do so were denied.  The next day she was 
transported back to the airport embarkation area in chains and 
handcuffs, and not freed until she arrived at the Icelandair gate. 
 
4.  The day after her return to Iceland (December 11), Ms. 
Arnardottir posted her unpleasant experience on her blogg site, and 
within hours over 100 people had responded with words of 
encouragement (for her) and anger (towards the U.S.).  The Icelandic 
media picked up the story December 12 and asked the Embassy for 
comment.  Post drafted a press statement that was released to the 
media.  Our Consular Officer contacted post's DHS representative in 
Copenhagen and checked the Consular Data base to find out more 
information on the case. 
 
5.  On December 13, Iceland's paper of record, Morgunbladid, carried 
a front page headline and teaser, along with a full page article on 
Ms. Arnardottir's detention.  The paper also printed the Embassy's 
statement.  The paper's lead editorial, entitled "Police State?," 
harshly criticized the United States in scathing terms and called 
for the Icelandic Foreign Minister to demand an apology from 
Secretary Rice. 
 
SIPDIS 
 
6.  Post followed up with the DHS representative in Copenhagen today 
to identify CPB officials at JFK to contact to find out more 
information.  Post alerted Consular Affairs and the NB desk of the 
incident.  Post spoke with CBP officials in Washington and is trying 
to contact officials at the New Jersey detention center and 
officials from DRO. 
 
7.  The Foreign Minister called the Ambassador to the Ministry today 
to express outrage and ask for an official apology (SEPTEL).  Media 
interest in the matter continues to be intense.  We need to provide 
an official authoritative report to the GOI.  Post thanks US 
agencies for their help and seeks further input from pertinent 
authorities to get this information to GOI as quickly as possible. 
 
 
van Voorst