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Anti-terror police fends off critics

The head of Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste) has struck back against a critical report from a commission appointed by the government in the wake of the July 22 terror attacks in 2011, claiming the report includes “unfounded accusations” and factual errors.

Marie Benedicte Bjørnland (right) was appointed as the new boss of PST last year by Justice Minister Grete Faremo (left), and now refutes a government commission's criticism of PST operations. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet
Marie Benedicte Bjørnland (right) was appointed as the new boss of PST last year by Justice Minister Grete Faremo (left), and now refutes a government commission’s criticism of PST operations. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

PST boss Marie Benedicte Bjørnland questioned this week what grounds the report and its conclusion were based upon, saying she does not agree with or recognize some of its descriptions and conclusions.

PST believes that a weakness in the commission’s report is that discussions are not sufficiently thorough before conclusions are drawn,” Bjørnland wrote in a letter to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, according to newspaper Aftenposten, adding that this means some of the recommendations in the report remain unfounded.

“There are also factual errors in the report, although we cannot see that these have directly affected the conclusions,” Bjørnland said.

50 proposals for improvement
Kim Traavik, Norway’s ambassador to Great Britain in London and a long-time diplomat, was appointed by Justice Minister Grete Faremo in April of last year to head the commission behind the report. The report, which included 50 proposals for improvement, was handed over to the minister in December last year.

PST received harsh criticism from the commission, with its management coming under fire for being too traditional, failing to stay up to date and failing to detect overall trends regarding threats to national security. They were also blamed for not seeing individual cases as part of the bigger picture.

When Faremo received the report, her initial reaction was positive and she told Aftenposten she would bring the concrete proposals into PST’s agenda for further improvement.

The head of PST suggests otherwise: Bjørnland wants the report to act merely as “part of a process,” meaning that the ministry should not lean on these conclusions alone when charting out a new course for PST.

Views and News from Norway/Aasa Christine Stoltz

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