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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Embattled PST boss won’t step down

Janne Kristiansen, head of Norway’s special police intelligence unit PST (Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste), is fending off calls for her resignation amidst strong criticism that she and her staff made too many mistakes before and after the July 22 terrorist attacks. She also has received support from the country’s police officers’ union.

PST boss Janne Kristiansen hopes to ride out the storm around her leadership of police intelligence before and after the terrorist attacks. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

The criticism literally has been coming from left, right and center, in terms of response from politicians both within the government and the opposition in Parliament. High-profile figures within the Socialist Left party (SV), the Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) have suggested or even demanded that Kristiansen resign.

They claim she and her staff failed to pick up warning signals that confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik had purchased chemicals in Poland that could be used in bombs, that she wasn’t humble enough in her immediate response to the attacks, and that she has selectively omitted to reveal information that could highlight PST’s failure to detect the danger Breivik posed.

Per Sandberg of the Progress Party, normally one of the police’s biggest supporters, went so far as to tell newspaper Dagsavisen that he thinks Kristiansen lacks the competence needed to head PST. Per Elvestuen of Venstre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that some of Kristiansen’s response to the terror attacks has been “unwise,” while Bård Vegar Solhjell, a former minister for government party SV, said he’s been “amazed” by how PST and Kristiansen herself have behaved in relation to the attacks.

Many are reacting to how Kristiansen suggested just a few days after the attacks that it would have been almost impossible to hone in on Breivik as a potential terrorist. She told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on July 25, for example, that “not even the (former East German security police) Stasi” could have stopped Breivik, but she has since apologized for that remark.

Kristiansen has also blamed, among other things, current regulations regarding personal privacy that prevented PST from storing information about Breivik in their registers. PST had received Breivik’s name from customs officials via an international anti-terror program called Global Shield earlier this year. Kristiansen has said PST checked him out but he was later cleared.

“We must be humble enough to see that we may have made mistakes and that we may have had the wrong priorities,” Kristiansen told several media outlets on Thursday. She prefers, though, to concentrate on “what we can learn from this” and sees no reason to step down.

“This is, of course, the biggest challenge a security chief can get and I will learn terribly much from it,” Kristiansen told newspaper Aftenposten. Now she just wants to get back to work, continue investigating the attacks and be better prepared for the threat of terrorism in the future.

The organization representing police officers told NRK on Friday morning that they’re standing behind Kristiansen and still have faith in her as PST chief. Justice Minister Knut Storberget, her ultimate boss, said simply that he still has confidence in everyone working in his sector. His ministry was among the hardest hit by Breivik’s bomb, with offices destroyed and staff fatalities.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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