‘Attacks could have been prevented’

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UPDATED: A confidential report from the US Customs Service on the anti-terror program Global Shield suggests the terrorist attacks on Norway last summer could have been prevented, if Norway had stronger and better coordination between its own police and customs officials. Police intelligence unit PST could have registered information it received on Breivik from customs officials, if it had been made a priority.

Norway's bombed-out Justice Ministry after the terrorist attacks on July 22. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

Newspaper Bergens Tidende obtained a copy of the report, which notes how a chemist in Poland sent five packages to confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik in Norway. Delivery of the first package, along with foreign currency transactions tied to Breivik’s purchases, led to his name being reported to Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste). This was reportedly a result of monitoring by Global Shield and routine currency checks by Norway’s own customs service.

PST, however, did not pursue the matter. The four other packages from the Polish chemist contained 150 kilos of a powder that can be used to strengthen the power of bombs, reported Bergens Tidende. The packages were valued at NOK 16,000 (about USD 2700) but were never discovered.

The report on Global Shield’s operations suggests the packages could have been discovered and tracked, if there had been better cooperation between Norwegian customs and police authorities.

Bergens Tidende writes that the report will be presented to Global Shield’s board at a meeting in Brussels next month. It was written by US authorities who claimed that the bombing of Norway’s government headquarters in July shows that a stronger, more unified coalition of officials within the police and customs, equipped with the necessary judicial and communications tools, could have led to another result.

Highlighting the threat of chemicals
Global Shield’s goal has been to halt trading of 14 chemicals that can be used to produce bombs. Most of its seizures have taken place in Afghanistan. The report on its operations mentions only one example of a terrorist attack that was carried out even though authorities were tipped by Global Shield: The attack(s) on Norway on July 22.

“It’s been clear all along that police must have an active role in the Global Shield cooperation, but this can’t be forced on the participating countries by international organizations,” said program coordinator Ulrich Meiser of the international customs organization WCO. “Each individual country has responsibility for good communication between its own agencies.”

No one involved with Global Shield would comment on details of its project, but Meiser said one of its most important goals is to highlight the threat chemicals can pose in the hands of terrorists. Many are legal, but can also be deadly, and shipments should be tracked. Only a few actually are.

Not a priority
Geir Høiseth of Norway’s customs agency (Toll- og avgiftsdirektoratet) said he had nothing to add to the report, but has registered its contents. The Polish chemist in Wroclaw, Lukasz Mikus, has said he exchanged e-mails with Breivik and remembers his order because it was so large. It was legal, however, and Mikus isn’t charged in the terror case against Breivik.

Høiseth has said Norwegian authorities weren’t informed of the four other chemical shipments. Norwegian customs officials did check foreign currency conversion registers, though, and found a list of transactions between Mikus’ firm and customers in Norway. Among them was Breivik. Customs sent the list to PST, but PST didn’t investigate.

PST officials have been reluctant to comment on the matter, but chief Janne Kristiansen has earlier maintained that her unit wasn’t allowed to register information on persons who legally have paid for goods delivered to Norway. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Friday, however, that PST would have been able to register such tips, with information chief Martin Bernsen now conceding that PST can use such information for up to four months without declaring a goal or need for its registration, or its relevance. In a letter to the Justice Ministry in late October, Kristiansen wrote that following up tips from Global Shield on private import of chemicals was not a priority.

Several politicians have criticized PST in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Several believe PST should have made chemicals a priority, and looked into what Breivik was doing. Aftenposten reported that Kristiansen was traveling this week and unavailable for comment.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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