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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

New criticism and changes for PST

Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) was the target on Monday of new, sharp criticism from a government-appointed commission set up to evaluate its performance, not least after last year’s terrorist attacks. PST’s management came under fire for being too traditional and failing to detect overall trends regarding threats to national security.

Criticism from Kim Traavik (right) and his commission was sharp, but Justice Minister Grete Faremo said she was glad to get “good, concrete proposals” for changes at PST. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

The commission has been headed by longtime diplomat Kim Traavik, now Norway’s ambassador to Great Britain in London, where security threats are under constant evaluation. Traavik and his commission colleagues, appointed in April by then-new Justice Minister Grete Faremo, handed her their report with 50 proposals for improvement.

They concluded first and foremost that PST hasn’t stayed up-to-date on developments in overall threats to national security, and that the organization has been too hung up on individual cases while failing to see them as part of a bigger picture.

Traavik said this has hindered strategic changes and development of those in charge of national security at PST.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) also reported that PST, in the commission’s view, appears to be a “static, tradition-bound” organization, which isn’t always able to respond to the challenges it faces.

Organizational and technological development, along with development of management and competence, have been neglected, according to Traavik. As a result, PST is based on work processes that aren’t very effective.

Budgets not the problem
Faremo also asked for an assessment of PST as measured against its counterpart in Sweden (Säpo), which recently underwent a thorough reorganization. Kjell Vikström of Säpo has helped Traavik with the evaluation, and Traavik could report that PST operated with a budget that’s at least as high as those in other Nordic countries.

Ambassador Kim Traavik (right) handed over his commission’s report on PST to Justice Minister Grete Faremo on Monday. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

“PST’s budget has  grown every year the last five to six years and it doesn’t lie behind those in other Nordic countries, actually quite the the opposite,” Traavik said.

His commission recommended, among other things, changes in PST’s organization that would strengthen collection and use of information. The commission also recommended strengthening PST’s capacity for analysis and investigation. The number of PST offices outside Oslo should be reduced from 26 today to eight or 10, to help concentrate information gathering and investigation.

‘Good, concrete proposals’
The commission also proposed merging PST’s bodyguard services with those within the royal police escort service, along with a boost in staffing.

Faremo’s initial reaction to the commission report was positive, with her calling it “full of good, concrete proposals that we can use in making important changes.”

PST has received lots of criticism in the months following last year’s terrorist attacks, and seen heads roll at the top of the organization. Now it’s headed by new leaders who claim to be committed to trying to prevent terrorism, but who also have said that in an open, democratic society, it’s not possible to hinder all potential terrorists.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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