Did Iceland Teen Call Secret White House Phone?
Icelandic Boy, 16, 'Wanted to ... Have a Chat, Invite Him to Iceland and See What He'd Say'
By FABIOLA ANTEZANA
LONDON, Dec. 8, 2007
When VÃfill Atlason, a 16-year-old high school student from Iceland, decided to call the White House, he could not imagine the kind of publicity it would bring.
Introducing himself as Ã“lafur Ragnar GrÃmsson, the actual president of Iceland, Atlason found what he believed to be President George W. Bush's allegedly secret telephone number and phoned, requesting a private meeting with him.
"I just wanted to talk to him, have a chat, invite him to Iceland and see what he'd say," VÃfill told ABC News.
A White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore insisted to ABC News that the young man did not dial the private number but instead dialled 202-456-1414, the main switchboard for the West Wing. But that was not the case. The student gave ABC News the number. It is indeed an extention off the White House switchboard and goes to a security command post office in the building next door to the White House.
VÃfill's mother, Harpa Hreinsdottir, a teacher at the local high school, said her son did, in fact, get through to a private phone.
"This was not a switchboard number of any kind," she told ABC News, "it was a secret number at the highest security level."
VÃfill claims he was passed on to several people, each of them quizzing him on President GrÃmsson's date of birth, where he grew up, who his parents were and the date he entered office.
"It was like passing through checkpoints," he said. "But I had Wikipedia and a few other sites open, so it was not so difficult really."
When he finally got through to President Bush's secretary, VÃfill alleges he was told to expect a call back from Bush.
"She told me the president was not available at the time, but that she would mark it in his schedule to call me back on Monday evening," he said.
Instead, the police showed up at his home in Akranes, a fishing town about 48 kilometers from Reykjavik, and took him to the local police station, where they questioned the 16-year-old for several hours.
"The police chief said they were under orders from U.S. officials to "find the leak" -- that I had to tell them where I had found the number," he said. "Otherwise, I would be banned from ever entering the United States."
VÃfill claims he cannot remember where he got the number.
"I just know I have had it for a few years," he told ABC. "I must have gotten it from a friend when I was about 11 or 12."
Atlason's mother Harpa, who was not home at the time, said she was shocked to find her son had been taken away by the police but could not quite bring herself to be angry with her son.
"He's very resourceful you know," she said. "He has become a bit of a hero in Iceland. Bush is very unpopular here."
VÃfill was eventually released into his parent's custody, and no charges have been brought against the high school student.
When ABC verified the number, it was the Secret Service Uniform Division, which handles security for the president.
"If the number were not top secret, why would the police have told me that I will be put on a no-fly list to America?" VÃfill asked.
"I don't see how calling the White House is a crime," he added. "But obviously, they took it very seriously."
The Secret Service told ABC News this was not its investigation.