PST and newspaper argue over spying equipment

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An ongoing conflict over whether mobile phone spying equipment in the form of false base stations has been actively in use in Oslo flared up again this week between newspaper Aftenposten and police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste). PST has denied such spying has taken place while Aftenposten reports that its own experts claim otherwise.

Round Two started Wednesday with a six-page spread in Aftenposten detailing its experts’ findings that the false base stations (known as “IMSI catchers”) were in fact in place last autumn and able to monitor the mobile phone communications of everyone from Prime Minister Erna Solberg to financiers and ambassadors. That was followed by another five pages on Thursday reporting that the police themselves were using such equipment “every week” to track the communications of suspected criminals.

PST continues to deny their existence or usage, claiming that its investigation of Aftenposten’s initial reports late last year showed no signs of spying and that Aftenposten’s reports were based on incorrect readings and a lack of knowledge. PST’s denial comes despite massive amounts of material and data reported by Aftenposten that’s backed by the assessments of IT professionals and professors.

Local officials and politicians are uneasy and don’t know who to believe. “It seems like PST and (Aftenposten’s) external experts are on different planets in this case,” Hårek Elvenes, a Member of Parliament for the ruling Conservative Party who sits on the justice committee, told Aftenposten. “There’s too wide a gap between what PST believes is the situation and what the experts (tell Aftenposten). If this is all about surveillance in our own backyard, it’s quite serious.”

Hadia Tajik, head of the Parliament’s justice committee for the Labour Party, said she expects PST to thoroughly examine the new data presented by Aftenposten this week. “Our questions have not been answered in a satisfactory manner,” she said.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) suggested in an editorial Thursday that either Norwegians “have a security police that’s serving up lies or is totally incompetent” or that Aftenposten has reported sensational news that’s not rooted in reality. One of them must be wrong, DN wrote, expressing hope that the public will soon get an explanation.

newsinenglish.no staff