WikiLeaks files show Norway unprepared for terror attack
Norway’s intelligence service had previously been criticised for its failure to keep track of suspected terror cells and the country was felt to be complacent about the prospect of a terror attack, secret cables from the WikiLeaks files reveal.
A memo written in 2009, describes the country’s security service as “in over its head” and adds “it simply cannot keep up.”
Separate cables state that the country felt “immune” from terrorism and that groups such as Al Qaeda were “not a direct threat”.
One memo describes how US authorities had to “press” their Norwegian counterparts to take terrorism seriously and says there was a feeling “that terrorism happens elsewhere, not in peaceful Norway.”
Talking about an attempt by the Police Security Service (PST) to track one particular suspected Al Qaeda terror cell, a cable written by the US Ambassador to Norway, Barry White, describes investigators as “committed, competent and co-operative, generally”.
But he goes on to describe how they refused the help of the UK authorities to put surveillance on a potential suspect and adds: “Not only will they not put their own resources on him…but they also just turned down the visiting UK intel service’s offer of two twelve-person surveillance teams.”
The cable goes on to say the UK and US intelligence services analysed coded conversation between terror suspects and decided it warranted surveillance.
But, says the cable, “PST instead found a way to interpret the same translated coded conversation in a rosier, less threatening light, an interpretation which makes little sense to the US or UK.”
The memo also reveals how, despite apparently having surveillance on the suspect, the PST lost track of bomb-making equipment which was being stored in an apartment after it was apparently removed without investigators noticing.
The PST then failed to track one suspect for 14 days because the investigator assigned to him was called away on another job.
The memo concludes: “The PST is in over its head…it simply cannot keep up.”
A second memo, written in 2007, is titled “Pakistani Norwegians ripe for radicalisation?”
It warns of the potential of Pakistani-Norwegian youths being radicalised and describes Norway as a “country that continues to feel immune from terrorism”.
The same memo adds: “The official police (PST) threat evaluation…states that international terror organisations are not a direct threat against Norway.
A memo written in 2008 shows how the US felt that Norway was not awake to the possibility of a potential terrorist attack. The cable reads: “We repeatedly press Norwegian authorities to take terrorism seriously.
“We will seek to build on this momentum to fight the still-prevalent feeling that terrorism happens elsewhere, not in peaceful Norway.”
And a cable written just last year adds: “The PST still viewed Denmark as more of a target than Norway, for reasons very specific to the cartoon controversy.”