Surveillance concerns spread

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The leader of the parliament’s justice committee is calling for an investigation into whether other embassies or foreign missions in Norway are conducting illegal surveillance, after the US Embassy confirmed carrying out its own surveillance for the past 10 years.

Per Sandberg of the conservative Progress Party is among officials from all of Norway’s political parties who are upset over the US Embassy’s surveillance program. TV2 broke the news last week that the embassy had hired former Norwegian police and military experts to conduct the surveillance, as part of its security efforts. As many as 200 Norwegian civilians are believed to have been included in an American register of alleged terror suspects.

The embassy’s program is now under investigation because of concerns it violated Norwegian law and was carried out without political approval. Norway’s foreign ministry has also posed several questions to US officials about the program, and newspaper Aftenposten reported that Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had a meeting with US Ambassador Barry White on Tuesday.

US officials have claimed their program was carried out in cooperation with Norwegian officials, but Norway’s top government ministers have said they weren’t aware of it. Aftenposten reported Wednesday that Norwegian officials were sent a list of all employees at the embassy last spring, in connection with other questions on employer taxes. It contained the names of the Norwegians working for the embassy’s Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU), but a foreign ministry spokeswoman said she didn’t think the SDU employees were specified.

Sandberg, meanwhile, told Aftenposten that he wants to know whether other embassies in Norway have also been conducting illegal surveillance on Norwegian soil. In Stockholm, for example, it’s emerged that the Israeli Embassy had conducted systematic surveillance rather like that carried out by the US Embassy.

“If they’re doing it in Sweden, what about Norway?” asked Sandberg, even though his party is among the biggest supporters of Israel in Norway. “We must go through all the embassies’ operations. What do we really know about other nations’ intelligence activities in Norway?”

There have been earlier concerns that some embassies spy on their own citizens in Norway, to control political opposition in their home countries.

Members of the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) are now waiting for a full report from Justice Minister Knut Storberget on the US Embassy’s activities in Oslo, much of which will be based on the investigations now underway.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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