With a Reputable Encyclopedia, He Could Have Made It All the Way

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Prank calling the president:

When Vífill 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 Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the actual president of Iceland, Atlason found President George W. Bush's allegedly secret telephone number and phoned, requesting a private meeting with him….

Vífill claims he was passed on to several people, each of them quizzing him on President Grímsson'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."

He made it to Bush's secretary but not to the man himself. Police eventually showed up at Atlason's home and took him in for questioning, but he was subsequently released and has not been charged with anything.

"He's very resourceful you know," [Atlason's mother] said. "He has become a bit of a hero in Iceland. Bush is very unpopular here."

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  1. Arrested? I suppose impersonating the President of Iceland is a crime…? At least he wasn’t charged.

  2. Yeah, WTF did they arrest him for, making the White House look stupid? Oh wait…

    “He has become a bit of a hero in Iceland. Bush is very unpopular here.”

    See, this is what happens when you decommission foreign naval bases.

  3. Arrested?

    I’m not sure it was an arrest, actually. I just rephrased the post to reflect that.

  4. Now Prince Albert will never get out of that can.

  5. Actually the police just asked him a few questions, he was not arrested or “brought in”.

    Here this is considered a good joke and there will definitely not be any repercussions from this.

  6. JW, anon —

    Excellent to hear.


  7. V?fill claims he was passed on to several people, each of them quizzing him on President Gr?msson’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.

    I hope this was only because they were suspected a hoax from the beginning. I’d hate to think that they’d routinely make a foreign Head of State really go through a grilling before letting him/her talk to GWB.* It’d would put a definite damper on foreign relations if they did.

    *I assume this sort of call is usually set up in advance through secretaries.

  8. Aresen —

    I imagine they suspected something was up as soon as the kid didn’t know the number that I’d imagine every head of state’s secretary knows.

  9. I would assume that direct calls to POTUS would be common and suspicious and generally just directed to the Secret Service and/or CIA depending on the source of the call (oh right, he was probably on Skype so they didn’t know what the area code was).

    Is it not the case that contact btwn governments is generally handled through diplomatic channels? E.g. through embassies, consulates, departments of State and Foreigns affairs with maybe a couple of world leaders (Putin, Brown) having a more or less direct way of contacting POTUS…..

  10. You know what would’ve been funny? If GWB had taken the call while he was getting fellatio from one of his interns….

  11. “No, this is Vice President Cheney. President Bush can’t speak to you, right now.”

  12. People in Iceland have a sense of humor and dislike Bush? Perhaps I’ll move there when Hillary or Rudy become President.

  13. “Bush is very unpopular here”

    Is there a place on the planet where this does not apply?

  14. Captain Chaos – whatever you do, don’t move to Canada to avoid Rudy. Aresen, take note as well.

  15. While calling the Prez may be hard, in 1986 I was able to directly call the Lt. Governor of South Dakota.

  16. Glad to hear there’s at least one country that can still take a prank as a prank.

  17. Even if he had gotten through to the Prez, one wonders what the threat might be? Is there some magic death tone that can be used to assassinate someone via telephone? Perhaps Iran might sneak in a few nukes while Bush goes to chick if his refrigerator is still running?

  18. shecky

    Well, I understand that all of the telephone sanitizers were shipped off to another planet…

  19. “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?” V?fill asked.

    Hear, hear! Assuming this story has a shred of truth to it (it sounds like horseshit to me), the last America needs is another snotty teenager slouching around.

  20. He has become a bit of a hero in Iceland.

    Well, when you’re only other national hero is Bjork, you have to take what you can get…

    “My, how Scandinavian of me”

  21. DAMMIT. IT’S NOT SCANDINAVIA. FINLAND ISN’T EITHER.

  22. VM,

    Oh, I know about Iceland’s lack of Scandanavianness… It was just a quote from a Bjork song whose name I cannot recall right now.

  23. IT DOESN’T MATTER. BJORK IS A SILLY LEG BEFORE WICKET KICKED-OUT-OF-GREENLAND PERSON.

  24. Oops, sorry…

    Scandanavianness?

    That’s mine now, suckers!

  25. REGARDLESS.

    TAKTIX SHALL NOW BE DEPORTED TO

    (WAIT FOR IT)

    McAllen, TX

    (YOU HAD TO SEE THIS ONE COMING)

  26. Just like the French people sneaking into museums via sewers and fixing clocks, this prank might seem funny and harmless. But keep in mind that it gives hints to terrorists on how they can commit acts of terror.

  27. “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.”

    There you have it, folks. The no-fly lists aren’t just for keeping terrorists off planes, but making life difficult for people who don’t do as the US govt demands.

  28. This reminds me of when some spanish-language radio show in Miami called up Castro and played confusing recordings of Chauves

  29. avocado diaboli | December 10, 2007, 1:06pm | #

    Just like the French people sneaking into museums via sewers and fixing clocks, this prank might seem funny and harmless. But keep in mind that it gives hints to terrorists on how they can commit acts of terror.

    GWB is the only President I could think of who could be terrorized by a phone call.

  30. Hola URKOBOLD!

    Eet ees nice you send me to Mexico. I got a job weeth Ford putting bumpers on the cars. Ees nice, and warm here.

    Oh, and La Raza ees not coming to invade until Mr. Bush is out of office. He paid them to wait unteel HRC get elected.

    Adios!

  31. and next time you’re at the Tijuana Donkey Show, please give a shout out to DUNDEROOO!

  32. While calling the Prez may be hard, in 1986 I was able to directly call the Lt. Governor of South Dakota.

    In SD, does the Lt. Gov. double as a switchboard operator?

  33. You know what would’ve been funny? If GWB had taken the call while he was getting fellatio from one of his interns…

    You really think interns could get past the throngs of NRO/FauxNews guys kneeling in line?

  34. Caller: Yes, this is the president of Iceland. Can I please speak to president Bush.

    Secretary: And what is this in regards to?

    Caller: I wanted to ask him if he worships Howard Stern’s penis. Bababooy! Bababooy!

  35. You really think interns could get past the throngs of NRO/FauxNews guys kneeling in line?

    Easily! THEY’re all lined up to kiss his butt.

  36. “…it was a secret number at the highest security level.”

    Ok, perhaps this was a diplomatic line? A security agency line? Attempting to defraud the White House operator by impersonating an actual official of his counrty. We don’t know what the line he called actually is or what it is used for, but this could be analogous to prank calling 911. Not cool, not funny. The kid’s an insufferable brat, and when you read his mother’s take on it you can see how he got that way.

    “He’s very resourceful you know,” [Atlason’s mother] said. “He has become a bit of a hero in Iceland. Bush is very unpopular here.”

    So her reasoning is: You can become a hero by behaing like a total jerkass, as long as the person it is directed at is unpopular? That’s a bully’s and a coward’s logic.

  37. Jeez you’d think a reputable rag like Reason would get the story right. He called the White House switch board. He didn’t have any “secret” or direct number to the President. Try watching any of the cable news networks next time before you post a story.

  38. Jeez you’d think a reputable rag like Reason would get the story right. He called the White House switch board. He didn’t have any “secret” or direct number to the President. Try watching any of the cable news networks next time before you post a story.

    Er…if you’d read the story I linked to, it clearly says, “A White House official, who asked not to be identified, denied the young man had accessed a private number but instead dialled 202-456-1414, the main switchboard for the West Wing.” It also quotes the guy’s mom making the counterclaim that it was “a secret number at the highest security level.” It does not take a position on which version of events is true, and neither does my post, which quotes the story’s carefully phrased reference to an “allegedly secret telephone number” and otherwise leaves the issue alone.

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