Norwegian authorities under scrutiny for terror alert methods
Questions arise about methods used to obtain information on possible attack
A committee with responsibility for investigating the secret police in Norway are examining the methods used by Politiets Sikkerhedstjeneste (PST) to gather the information that led them to issue the most comprehensive terror alert in recent memory.
The Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen said that there are question marks as to whether the information was gathered illegally. PST declined to comment beyond saying that the intelligence was gathered via tips through its usual foreign and domestic intelligence channels.
Eldbjørg Loewer, the head of the committee said that her group will be looking into the methodology that was used.
“We must examine the way in which information is obtained and if it happened within the legal framework,” she told Klassekampen.
Norwegian security authorities sounded the alarm last Thursday, saying that information received led them to believe that a militant group from Syria had travelled to Norway to engage in an attack “within a few days”. Authorities announced yesterday that the threat level is now being considered less serious – while warning that the situation could change again.
Too much information?
Experts in both Denmark and Norway have debated since the alert was announced whether it was the right decision to go public – especially in the absence of any specific information.
Critics of the decision say the warning only served to create fear in a public already on edge so close to the anniversary of the deadly attacks of 22 July 2011, while supporters argue that the public has a right to know if their safety could be in danger and deserved and explanation as to why armed police were appearing at airports and border crossings.
The former head of PET, Denmark’s national security police, Hans Joergen Bonnichsen, has previously gone on record as saying that he could not imagine involving the public if a similar threat had been levelled at Denmark while he was in charge.
“The thought would not even occur to me,” he told TV 2 News.
While stressing that he did not know the details of the Norwegian decision, Bonnichsen said that he would not have gone public with anything less than a “very specific threat”.
Norwegian authorities said that they continue to investigate a group connected to extremists that they say has left Syria.