Prime Minister Erna Solberg switched her standpoint on Tuesday and embraced her own military’s claim that the US wasn’t tracking millions of Norwegian phone calls after all. Just hours after calling such US surveillance “illegal,” Solberg accepted a Norwegian military intelligence chief’s explanation and said newspaper Dagbladet’s report on extensive surveillance in Norway was wrong.
“Now I think we all need to calm down a bit,” Solberg said after a day of anger, shock and confusion over the reported surveillance. Suddenly she was no longer heeding Dagbladet’s 12-page report on it Tuesday morning but rather the denial of Lt Gen Kjeld Grandhaugen that it was true.
Granshaugen had earlier told Dagbladet himself that the military inteligence unit E-tjenesten wasn’t aware that the US was registering Norwegians’ phone conversations and hadn’t been involved with such. Then he held a press conference, at which he said the document Dagbladet had published entitled “Norway, Last 30 days,” reflected phone calls Norwegian officials had traced in Afghanistan and shared with the US. He denied the US has conducted such surveillance against Norwegians.
“We have now gone through this and it’s confirmed,” Solberg told new bureau NTB. She added that the phone surveillance was part of efforts to keep Norwegian soldiers safe in Afghanistan.
“This is all part of an entirely legitimate job we do to secure military participation abroad and hinder attacks,” Solberg said. “It’s something we cooperate with the Americans on.”
Dagbladet’s editor-in-chief admitted Tuesday afternoon that “we may have misunderstood” the document leaked to the paper by American fugitive Edward Snowden. Glen Greenwald at The Guardian, which broke the Snowden story earlier this year, was standing by the story, though. He said the document, along with many others he’s handled from Snowden, does track phone surveillance against Norway.