Prime Minister Erna Solberg said Tuesday that she wasn’t as surprised as other politicians seemed to be over the extent of US surveillance of phone conversations in Norway. She nonetheless was calling on US officials to explain themselves as a “dialogue” over what she called “illegal” surveillance continues.
“Friends aren’t supposed to spy on one another,” Solberg repeated after earlier criticizing the US for its extensive phone surveillance elsewhere in Europe and Asia.
“It’s legitimate to conduct intelligence gathering, but it should be goal-oriented and based on actual suspicions and threats,” Solberg told reporters in Oslo on Tuesday morning, after newspaper Dagbladet had reported that the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) had registered more than 30 million mobile phone conversations in Norway during a 30 period from December 2012 to January 2013.
The sheer volume of the surveillance has surprised many Norwegian politicians, including Solberg’s prececessor, Jens Stoltenberg. He was prime minister during the month involved, and it’s likely his phone calls along with those of his fellow government ministers were among those registered by the Americans. They reportedly didn’t listen in on the conversations, but recorded who called who, how long they talked and where the phones used were physically located.
Government and opposition politicians were calling on Solberg to demand an explanation, and some want an apology as well. Solberg said the Norwegian government already “has a dialogue going” with US authorities that started with the former government.
“It will be taken up again now, both by the justice minister and the foreign minister,” Solberg said. “We will clear up what’s been gathered in, and how.”
Both Telenor and Netcom, Norway’s biggest mobile phone operators, strongly deny they’ve granted any access to their customer records to the Americans. The police intelligence unit PST and military intelligence unit E-tjeneste also deny such cooperation with the US officials.
“E-tjeneste isn’t aware that NSA was gathering such information about Norwegian citizens and of course hasn’t been involved with such,” the intelligence agency’s boss, Lt Gen Kjeld Grandhagen, told Dagbladet.
Solberg wouldn’t speculate on how the NSA registered the 30 million calls, but flatly stated it “was illegal.” She said she had no idea whether her phone has been monitored as well. She, like Stoltenberg, said she is always careful about what she says on the phone regardless.