Norway to offer FBI more terror data

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Norwegian authorities are poised to offer more cooperation to US authorities, by sharing information with the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. The center, set up during the Bush Administration, features controversial data surveillance systems that among other things check airline passenger identities, and Norway earlier has been skeptical on the grounds of privacy issues.

Now, however, newspaper Aftenposten reports that Norway’s police intelligence unit PST is on the verge of signing an agreement with the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, to intensify the search for terrorist suspects and hinder potential terrorist activity. Just last week American authorities headed off an alleged terrorist attack on Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten .

Terror suspects in Norway can now land in the FBI’s database, which already contains the names of 400,000 persons either suspected or convicted of terrorist activity.

Norway and several other European countries have resisted cooperation in the database but the Norwegians now appear willing to supply data. “We have met with the Americans and an agreement is in the final phase,” PST spokesman Martin Bernsen told Aftenposten . “But it’s not final yet, so it’s a bit early to say very much.”

Georg Apenes, director of the state agency Datatilsynet that tries to regulate surveillance and preserve privacy, said he hadn’t been informed of the pending cooperation. He said it was “naive” to think Norwegian authorities would be granted access to the data without contributing as well.

The Terrorist Screening Center, based in northern Virginia, is used primarily by US border patrol, airport passport control, police and security agencies. All airline passenger lists are checked against the database’s lists of suspected terrorists.

“This will of course create challenges for protecting Norwegians’ privacy,” said Leif T Aanonsen of Datatilsynet. “We must assume that PST will operate within its bounds and that the Parliament will monitor this.”