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Pressure builds on intelligence chief

UPDATED: Janne Kristiansen, head of Norway’s police intelligence unit PST, has been called home from a lengthy business trip to the US, to respond to criticism over PST’s failure to follow up a tip about confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Kristiansen faces a lack of confidence from most of the political parties in parliament.

PST chief Janne Kristiansen needs to clarify herself before a parliamentary committee. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

A majority on the parliamentary committee studying Breivik’s July 22nd attacks wants to call her in for questioning. She has not responded because she’s been out of the country, but now newspaper Bergens Tidende reports she’s likely to be back in Norway within the next few days. She wasn’t due to return from her trip until next week.

“I would almost think that (someone from) PST itself would want to appear before the committee,” Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats, who leads the committee, told news bureau NTB. The committee now seems poised to hold a hearing on PST’s role before and after the terrorist attacks, and demand some answers.

Erna Solberg, head of the Conservative Party, has made it clear she has questions for Kristiansen. She’s not a member of the committee but said her party wants clarification from Kristiansen on a number of issues.

“There are differences in what PST has said in the Justice Minister’s report and what Janne Kristiansen has said earlier,” Solberg told NTB, noting that PST has said tips about Breivik’s purchase of the chemicals he used to make his bomb weren’t a priority, while Kristiansen has said PST didn’t follow up on them because PST wasn’t legally allowed to store such information.

The Socialist Left party (SV) has been among the most outspoken in criticizing Kristiansen and PST, while both the Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) have earlier said they want to call the PST boss into Parliament for questioning as well. Now the Labour Party, which leads Norway’s coalition government, has said it won’t stand in the way if the committee wants Kristiansen to appear at a hearing.

Labour officials including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg have previously said they wanted to wait for the full report on the emergency response to the terrorist attacks from the special state commission appointed to investigate them. Now, according to Jan Bøhler of Labour, “we don’t want to put up any obstacles to questions at a hearing.”

New justice minister breaks her silence
Labour’s Grete Faremo, the former defense minister who took over as justice minister on November 11, is now effectively Kristiansen’s boss and she told Bergens Tidende that “the PST chief has (our) confidence as long as the PST chief is sitting.” Faremo said she would see to it that the parliamentary committee gets the answers it seeks.

Kristiansen and PST have been reluctant to comment on the controversy around their intelligence gathering, or lack thereof, prior to the July 22nd attacks. On Monday, newspaper Aftenposten editorialized that Kristiansen has been “weakened” as PST chief. “Janne Kristiansen is once again in the center of a storm,” Aftenposten wrote. “Varying explanations of deficient follow-up of tips by PST … have created what is approaching a confidence crisis. We can’t rule out that PST did what could be expected of it … the problem is that there’s considerable doubt over that.”

On Tuesday, newspaper Dagsavisen called for Kristiansen’s resignation. “It was a mistake for the former justice minister to appoint lawyer Janne Kristiansen as PST chief,” Dagsavisen editorialized. “It will be a new mistake to keep her.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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