The chief of the Østfold Police District says her team is well underway with its investigation of suspected illegal surveillance conducted by and for the US Embassy in Oslo. The state police’s Internal Affairs division is cooperating in the probe.
Østfold Police Chief Beate Gangås told reporters that investigators have visited the now-deserted offices where the US Embassy’s Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU) was based until moving a few months. The SDU has conducted surveillance for the past 10 years that, when revealed, caused a political uproar in Norway.
The embassy has claimed the US conducted its surveillance in cooperation with Norwegian authorities, but that’s disputed by government and bureaucratic authorities alike. The embassy also has claimed its surveillance was not secret, but no one, including the police, seems to have been told about it, knows where the SDU moved or whether it’s still operating.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that police believe the surveillance operation was moved outside of Oslo after its offices near the embassy were abandoned earlier this year.
“We presume that our investigation will establish where they are located (now), and which Norwegians have taken part in the operation,” Gangås told Aftenposten. “This is among the primary information we shall bring forward.”
She also referred to an investigation being carried out by Norway’s highest prosecuting authority, Riksadvokaten, which will determine whether Norwegians working for the embassy on the surveillance project have broken Norway’s laws against surveillance.
She stressed that the investigations aren’t aimed at embassy personnel who have diplomatic immunity.
Meanwhile, Jan Egil Preshus, leader of the police Internal Affairs division (Spesialenheten for politisaker), confirmed that his unit is cooperating in the investigations, with an eye to determining whether any police personnel who helped the embassy with its surveillance efforts also broke any laws.
Civilian surveillance in Norway is supposed to be strictly regulated and carried out only by the special police unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste). The political uproar over the embassy’s SDU program stems from the prospect of a foreign power carrying out surveillance on Norwegian territory. The embassy has defended its program because of the need to safeguard its embassies and its ambassador’s residences all over the world.